We won’t “steer” you wrong: How to build a better burger

LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 45. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.

There’s more to Bradds Family Farm than the delectable pork they produce. They also raise some of the finest beef in the state, and we’re proud to use their beef as often as possible, especially for our burgers. The most important part of buying local food is the connections you form—the relationships you build. Bobby Bradds is part of our family. We’ve been to his house and eaten his food, and his daughters came to our restaurant before their prom. Bobby is the embodiment of a principle that we believe in: Restaurants are nothing without the active participation of people who are passionate about growing, preparing and serving food.

Like any relationship worth having, ours is not always easy. We don’t just pick up a phone to place an order, then find an 18-wheeler dropping off all the beef we need. We have to plan it all out. Cows take 18 months to achieve market weight, and the abattoir takes almost a week to turn that into ground beef, so Bobby needs to know that we need beef two weeks before I even know. This extra effort and planning may be intimidating for a lot of chefs, but I think the guests who dine in our restaurants should be able to expect the best burger in town, and they deserve it.

Once Bobby provides the best possible quality meat for us to use in our burgers, we want to ensure our guests get the opportunity to enjoy the delicious flavors and varied textures in a well-crafted burger.

Where’s the beef?

Some people judge a burger by what’s on it, and some people judge the burger by the quality of the meat. In our opinion, you can put anything on a burger that your heart desires, but if the meat isn’t good, then what’s the point? We make our seven-ounce burgers with an 80/20 blend of lean/fat grass-fed beef, and we cook them on a griddle, seasoned simply with salt and pepper. The recipe is straightforward and consistent, and it makes for a fresh, juicy burger every time.

How to build a better burger:

Separate your layers. If you want more than two condiments, don’t put them directly on top of one another. For example, you don’t want fat on fat, so never put mayo on top of your cheese. Why? You lose the impact of each flavor: The name of the game is building flavor, not having them cancel each other out. Try putting one condiment on the bottom half of the bun and the other near the top half, either on top of the lettuce or tomato. Also, the tomato should be the cushion between your lettuce and your burger. It’s kind of amazing how different the juices and textures in a completed burger are!

Don’t skimp on the bun. At Lucky’s, we use a challah bun that’s made in New Jersey (we take this component seriously, and we’ve not found a sufficiently good local version), and it’s rich and fluffy — the perfect cradle for everything in between. If you can’t get your hands on any challah or brioche buns, buttermilk buns are also excellent. If you’re old school, it’s hard to go wrong with good ole-fashioned Martin’s potato rolls. Make sure you butter your buns, and toast them lightly on the grill before assembling your burger.

Hot tomatoes are good; wilted lettuce is bad. Remember this rule of thumb so you keep a nice texture in your burger. We prefer iceberg lettuce because of its that crunch, but use whatever you fancy. Just don’t put it on your burger until the last minute.

Ditch your main squeeze. Instead of always reaching for the trusty ole Heinz (which we still dig, by the way), think outside the bun, and check out our recipe for beet ketchup.

For more on the anatomy of a sandwich, check out my Southern Foodways Alliance post about our Ham & Havarti Sandwich here, and for some more tips on grilling, check out our summer grilling guide.

Here’s how we do it at L32:
Weigh out 7oz of ground beef, form into a ball. Place the burger ring (same diameter as hamburger bun) on a waxed sheet of paper. Press ground beef ball into ring, compressing to a uniform thickness. Season the burger with Kosher salt & black pepper and place on griddle. Season the second side. Butter the top and bottom of the burger bun with clarified butter and place face down on the flat top to toast. Toast the top and bottom of each piece. Once toasted, place buns on a plate. When the burger is seared well, flip it to sear the other side. When both sides have a hard sear, the burger should be about medium. Continue cooking to desired doneness. When the burger is ready, place it on the bottom bun, topped with the lettuce and tomato (when in season). We like to serve it with the onion and pickled okra on the side.

Want caramelized onions with that?

Caramelized Onions

  • 1 pound yellow onions
  • 1 tbsp canola oil

Remove the ends from the onions. Remove the peel and slice in half end to end. Cut onions into uniform ¼ inch thick slices. Heat oil in a sauté pan. Add onions and sauté until tender. Reduce heat and continue to cook until onions are caramelized to a golden brown. Pour off excess liquid. Makes about 2/3 cup

For more: See our current menu at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen and our Blog Recipe Index: http://lucky32southernkitchen.com/recipes/

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