Chefs' Secrets to Better Burgers

Make better burgers with tips from the pros.

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Think the best burgers are all about the beef?

Not necessarily.

James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project promotes healthy and more-sustainable cooking by blending beef with mushrooms to decrease the meat content of the patties. This summer, Miami’s The Pubbelly Restaurant Group is spreading the word by inviting local chefs to dream up their own spins on the concept.

While they were at it, we asked the pros to help improve the standard summer grill-out with their expert takes on better burgers:

Master the Moisture

Ingrid Hoffmann is a master of sneaking vegetables into her patties. “I like adding moisture to the patty by using shredded onions, zucchinis and mushrooms,” she says. “Creating a barrier on the bread with a good mayo or avocado-based sauce also helps the bread not get soggy.” Even her condiments are far from standard, as Hoffmann uses pulled pork, mushrooms and jicama slaw to spice up her combinations. And once burgers are on the brain, not even stormy weather can get in her way: “If bad weather prevents you from grilling outdoors, one of my tricks is to take a large-size Pyrex, line the bottom with a layer of bread bottoms, then do layers of meat, cheese and other desired ingredients, place the tops of bread buns last and bake in the oven; easy for a one-dish wonder.”

Flip Out

Jose Mendin, Founding Partner and Chef of The Pubbelly Restaurant Group recommends an 85-15 ratio of meat to fat. “I like to use fatty meats in my blend such as brisket, chuck and sirloin,” he says. “Flip once; that way, the juices stay in the middle of burger. If you flip the burger too many times, you will end up with a messy, dried-out burger.”

Steer Clear of the Smash

Lorena Garcia of Chica restaurant, who created a sweet chile-topped short rib burger, advises against smashing the meat. Don't press your burger on the grill,” she warns. “You will squeeze out all of the yummy goodness that keeps the burger moist.” For the best-possible cheeseburger, don’t be afraid to add water. “When adding cheese to your burger, add a bit of moisture with a spray of water, then cover.”

Form and Function

Miami native Michelle Bernstein used three types of mushrooms, as well as sirloin, brisket and oxtail in her onion ring-topped patty. Temperature, form and seasoning help ensure perfect patties. “Make sure the burgers are cold when they go on the grill or in a hot pan,” she advises. When it comes to forming them, Bernstein says to indent the top using your thumb. And you should wait until the patties are formed to season them, since you should “only season the outside, not the inside," Bernstein adds.

Janine Booth's Burger
All-Around Appeal

Known in New York City for her fried chicken, Root and Bone’s Janine Booth is no stranger to great burgers. Her all-around approach tackles temperature, form, fat and toppings.

  • Make sure your grill is super-hot and know where your hot spots are!
  • Don't squish your burger while it's grilling! This just pushes all of that juiciness out!
  • Whatever meat you are using, make sure the grind is composed of about 20% fat.
  • Burgers are great... But what makes them even better and juicier is the condiments you pair with them. Think outside the ketchup & mustard box into flavored aioli, relish, chutneys etc.

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