Why are restaurant burgers better than the ones you grill at home?

Over the weekend, the weather in Chicago finally moved away from freezing. As temperatures continued to climb into the mid 80’s, all the grills in the park across the street from me were in constant use. Every time I go out, I see a new set of groups huddled around the grates, smoking with charcoal and snapping tongs. Most make burgers, and I can’t wait to hang out with them.

Related: Can We Learn to Love Ancient (and More Sustainable) Beef?

That said, as mundane as burgers are, sometimes it’s hard to make a homemade version that compares to the restaurant variety. That’s why Home and kitchen tool Food put together this list of 5 tips for making better burgers at home.

Get ready to impress your family and friends when it’s your turn behind the grill this summer. No commercial kitchen needed.

Make sure you’re buying the right meat (and treating it right)

Sometimes when making burgers at home, you open your mouth in anticipation of a juicy, umami-filled bite, but end up disappointed when you chew. The pancake is tasteless and maybe a little crispy. Which give? It’s probably the quality of the meat used.

It’s no secret that for our personal health and that of our planet, eating less meat is a better choice. Part of that means buying better meat from more reputable suppliers when you choose to put it on your grocery list. Do a little research to see if any farmers markets or local butcher shops in your area sell beef from organic producers in your area. It may be a little more expensive than the supermarket variety, but it will be worth it.

Note that grass-fed beef tends to have a more “mineral” taste, which people tend to associate with beef flavor, while grain-fed beef is sweeter and has a little more marbling. . Go with your personal preference. Be sure to buy a blend that is at least 25% fat, especially if you’re cooking rare or medium-rare burgers. After all, fat is flavor.

One of the most common mistakes made when cooking burgers (and I’m definitely guilty of it!) is overworking the patty. Think of it like bread dough, sort of. While it can be satisfying to really get your hands dirty and bang into the ground meat mixture, it can dry out the burger.

To that end, try to avoid those pre-formed patties at the supermarket. Instead, form your own patties at home – making sure to season well with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder if you’re feeling spicy. Then, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook.

Placing chilled meat directly on a flaming grill or hot skillet, then pressing down quickly with a spatula allows the patties to sear nicely while locking in moisture.

Invest in a few simple tools

Instead of grilling burgers directly on grills, most restaurants use a flat-top griddle because they’re great for batch cooking and maintaining a consistent temperature. You can mimic this at home by using a heavy, flat-bottomed cast iron skillet and heating it either on the grill or on the stovetop.

In addition, a good metal spatula really works wonders. Instead of the flat plastic or silicone varieties that you can use to lift hot cookies off a baking sheet, get something with a sharp metal edge. This helps flip the patties without losing the nice caramelized bits you got from grabbing them.

Melt your cheese the right way

Another benefit of using a cast iron skillet to make burgers is that it can actually help you melt your cheese the right way. You might wonder how many ways there are to melt cheese, but think about what happens when you place a cold slice of cheese on top of a mostly grilled burger. It never quite achieves that creamy, melt-in-your-mouth consistency.

Instead, once your burger is almost fully cooked, put your cheese on it, add some water to the pan, and cover it with a lid. Steam from the water hitting the hot pan is captured under the lid and quickly melts the cheese.

Toast those buns

It’s a simple tip, but it makes a big difference. Add a quick spread of butter, non-dairy butter, or a little oil to your burger buns, then toast them in the same pan where you made your burgers. Once they’re golden and just a little crispy, they’re ready to remove from the heat.

When it comes to toppings, balance is key

You have a delicious patty, perfectly melted cheese and a toasted bun. Now it’s time to add some toppings. When I make burgers at home, I like to keep it simple: slices of tomato, shredded iceberg lettuce, a few slices of pickle, white onion and homemade burger sauce. Whatever you do, keep the idea of ​​balance in mind.

You might want something refreshing and acidic to resist the greasy cheese and burger, like sliced ​​avocado or a bit of giardiniera. Or you might want to play up the caramelized notes of the beef by topping your burger with smoky barbecue sauce or brown sugar bacon. Take note of the topping combinations of your favorite restaurant burgers and use them as a template to experiment with at home.

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