They’re hearty. Tasty. Portable. Occasionally sloppy. Burgers—they get a lot of play time when patio season rolls around. But before you go back to the same dog-eared burger recipe this summer, take some time to get to know what’s out there. Here are pro tips from top-rated Thumbtack chefs for building a burger that won’t put you to sleep (unless we’re counting food comas). Read on and get hungry.
Your Best-Ever Burger
Chef and Thumbtack Top Pro Luke Keller doesn’t make burgers every night. But if he did, he would make this one. According to Luke, every non-boring burger needs…
“Good ingredients make all the difference. Think fresh tomatoes, fresh lettuce, fresh ground meat,” Luke explains. And in the summer that’s not hard to do. The world is full of bounty, or so we’ve been told.
Don’t overlook your buns. According to Luke, people often do. And the mistake is fatal. “It doesn’t matter how quality your meat is—a really killer artisanal bun makes the burger,” Luke told us.
Meat, Meat, and More Meat
Beef is great. But beef (fed on a healthy green pasture), veal and bison? That’s a trifecta of legendary (and filling) proportions. Try one part of each for a burger as rich as your Uncle George’s knock-knock jokes.
For those burger purists out there, Luke has this suggestion: venison. “Venison burgers have so much more flavor and are so much more robust than traditional beef. That said, since venison is naturally very lean it can get pretty dry. Luckily, the fix is easy. Try adding a little pork fat into the mix for added moisture and richness. It’s fantastic.”
“Truffle salt and an over-easy egg add to the richness and flavor of a burger,” says Luke. So before you abandon your grill, think of using that cooking time to your advantage. “As the burger is resting, fry an egg and season it with truffle salt. You want the yolk to run and permeate rich eggy goodness over everything. It’s a great flavor combination.”
Your Best-Ever Lemonade
The burger’s half gone and you’re starting to fade. Keep the food coma at bay with this easy recipe from Will Franklin of Seattle Bartending Co. in Seattle, Washington.
- 1 cup cucumber juice (blend and strain approx. 1 lb of peeled cucumbers)
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup cane simple syrup (or to taste)
- 2 cups cold water
- Cucumber wheels to garnish
Burger Secrets of the Pros
There’s no such thing as the “best” burger—but these tips will get you pretty close. Here’s how pro chefs pick their burger-making ingredients and tools.
The Skillet Rule
“It’s simple,” explains Brandon Ivey, a private chef in West Hollywood, California. “Use a cast iron skillet to caramelize your meat to perfection. You want to start at high heat and put the meat in without overcrowding the pan. Once everything is in, take the heat down to medium.”
An Aioli Finish
Another Brandon Ivey standby? Aioli. “My favorite thing to put on a burger is a roasted garlic aioli. It’s simple, but kicks it up a notch. Plus it’s one of those flavors that appeals to a lot of different palates,” he says.
Keep it Simple
Don’t overdo it, warns Theresa Whitman of T.R.W In Home Cooking in Frederick, Maryland. “Don’t overwork the meat. Season it simply with salt and pepper over an open flame. It’s how you finish the burger that takes it to another level.”
“Once the burger is cooked, I top it off with a touch of chilled brown butter that has been steeped with garlic, a pinch of brown sugar, and herbs such as rosemary or thyme,” says Theresa.
Relish the Burger
And Theresa really knows how to finish a burger. “I like to finish more indulgent burgers off with what I would loosely call a creamy relish made of minced oven-roasted tomatoes, horseradish, grated smoked cheddar, chives, crème fraîche and chopped crispy bacon,” Theresa told us. If you’re wondering ‘where’s the green stuff?’ worry not. “Add a touch of arugula and it’s perfect.”
Sip something fresh with that burger. Try these summer drink recipes from Top Pros.