Summer weekends call for backyard barbecues. Fall weekends call for tailgating. So as Labor Day weekend approaches, it's the perfect time to brush up on your burger building skills. Tim Love, chef and owner of The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth, Texas shares some of his expert tips for crafting the perfect burger at home, and it's easier than you think.
Finding a grind with the right meat/fat ratio is the key to a good burger and that rich, beefy flavor. Ask your butcher for 50% trimmed brisket and 50% prime tenderloin chain meat. (This is the side meat attached to the tenderloin often used as "tips"). Substitution option: 50% brisket and 50% untrimmed prime skirt.
Season your mix generously, using 1 tbsp coarse salt and 2 tsp cracked black pepper per pound of meat. That's all you need.
Be gentle. Gather seasoned meat into a ball and let it sit at room temperature for 4-5 minutes. This allows the meat juices to bind. If you have a large jar lid, use it as a mold by pressing the meat into it to create a perfectly round patty without handling the meat too much. This will also keep the edges from cracking because it applies consistent pressure throughout the patty.
Over a hot grill, the cooking time for a 1/3 lb. burger is two and a half minutes per side for medium. (Make any adjustment from that formula.) Add a slice of American cheese to the burger during the last minute of the second side flip and let it melt down into a dome, covering the burger.
It's important to never press down on your burger while it's cooking. It won't speed up the cooking process. All you'll do is you lose valuable juices. Spatulas were made for flipping, not pressing.
It might take a bit of a search to find the right bun because that squishy six-pack from the supermarket can't stand up to a good burger's juices. A good bun should be "substantial" but not overly-bready because then you lose the taste of the burger. Brioche or potato buns are two solid (and readily available) options.
Use a mixture of ketchup and mayo, in a 1-2 ratio (with some chopped pickles and onions or even some chopped jalapenos if you prefer a little "kick"). Spread on the top inside half of the bun and layer over your burger pile, pressing down lightly to seal the deal.