Build a Better Burger: Tips from a World Burger Champion
SOURCE THE BEST INGREDIENTS
The breed as well as the cuts used to make ground beef will affect how beefy a burger will taste and the moisture retained once cooked. Snake River Farms American Wagyu ground beef is a blend of Wagyu and high quality American breeds, making it really beefy with a great fat to meat ratio. This means the burgers are juicy and flavorful.
Choose buns that are soft, but dense enough to hold up to the burger and toppings. Look for 2- to 2 ½-inch buns for sliders and 4- to 4 ½-inch buns for full-size burgers. Buns are a personal preference, just keep the bun-to-burger ratio in mind. For most burgers, I prefer brioche or challah buns with their slightly sweet eggy flavor, great texture and golden crust. I also like potato rolls for sliders.
Mayonnaise & Greens
Real mayonnaise has a higher fat content than the juice dripping from the burger. Applying a thin layer on the toasted bottom bun repels the juice from the burger so the bottom bun is less likely to get soggy. Placing your favorite lettuce or fresh greens on top of the mayo and under the burger adds another layer to catch the juice dripping from the burger.
The sky is the limit! After the burger has been flipped, place cooked or hot toppings directly on the burger followed by the cheese. Place cold toppings like sliced tomatoes on the burger while plating, and sauces under the toasted top bun.
Keep the meat very cold and handle it as little as possible. Use 3 ounces shaped into a 3-inch patty for sliders, and 7-8 ounces shaped to a 5-inch patty for full-size burgers (the burgers will shrink while cooking, so they'll end up the same diameter as the buns). Form loose balls, then shape in advance and refrigerate until ready to cook so they are cold when they go on the grill.
Season each burger with plenty of coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper on each side right before placing on the grill.
Cook burgers on a grill or on cast iron set at 425 degrees. When the burger has cooked halfway up the sides and has released itself from the grill (approximately 4 minutes with sliders, 5-6 minutes with full-size burgers), it's time to flip. Only flip once, and immediately top with hot or cooked toppings and/or cheese. Close the lid for 3-4 more minutes. The burgers are ready when the cheese has melted and the burger has released itself from the grill. It's important to leave the burgers alone so they develop a great sear, which adds an incredible amount of flavor and a steak-like texture. Snake River Farms burgers are best when cooked to medium with a hot, pink center.
Guacamole burger with roasted jalapenos, queso Oaxaca and pico de gallo
Let burgers rest for a couple minutes on a cooling rack before putting them on buns. This reduces the risk of a soggy bun. Use the time to toast the buns on the grill while the burgers rest. Then assemble the burgers and serve.
About Jason Stucki
Jason is a chef, restaurateur, World Burger Champion and Grand Champion BBQ Pitmaster. He grew up on a farm in southern Utah raising cattle, pigs, goats, and chickens as well as fruit and vegetable crops. His family cooked all of their meals on a wood burning stove and ate what the land provided. They opened an organic restaurant and bakery in the 80's in Moab, Utah where Jason worked.
Over the past 13 years, Jason has owned restaurants and bars as well as catered large-scale events and festivals. His past projects include Lucky 13 Bar & Grill, Zocalo Mexican Bistro, Lucky 13 Smokehouse, and The Trolley Wing Company.
Jason now works as a consultant and enjoys cooking competitively as well as teaching barbecue, grilling, and live-fire cooking classes. Jason has won many awards and is currently competing nationally on the professional BBQ circuit