Here's Bobby Flay's advice—don't cook your hamburgers without it!
• Buy beef with a bit of fat. “My cut of choice for burgers is ground chuck, preferably Certified Angus," Flay says. (Organic Angus beef is available from several online retailers.) Chuck is not pricey, but a higher cost doesn’t automatically lead to a better burger. "I like chuck because of its relatively high fat content: When you look for it in your market, check to see that it is listed as 80 percent lean, 20 percent fat," says Flay. Fat carries flavor and moisture. "So if you want a juicy, flavorful burger, chuck is definitely the way to go,” Flay says.
• Steal Bobby’s trick for shaping the best burgers. Says Flay: “When forming your burgers, try to mold the meat into uniform, fairly flat patties that are no more than ¾ inch thick. Don’t overwork, squeeze, or compress the meat as you shape it or you run the risk of ending up with dry, tough burgers." Once the patties are shaped, make a deep depression in the center of each burger with your thumb. "This does two things," Flay says. "One, it prevents flying saucer-shaped burgers—you know the ones I am talking about: all puffed up and bulging in the center. What’s the thing you want to do when you see one of those? Press it down with a spatula as it cooks." And that, he says, makes all the juices run out, leaving you with a compacted, dry hockey puck. Making the indentation in the patties helps keep your patty-pressing reflexes in check and ensures juicy, moist burgers. Secondly, "As the meat cooks and expands, the depression magically disappears, leaving you with beautifully shaped and cooked burgers.”
• Don’t go crazy with mix-ins. Flay keeps it simple: "I season my burgers with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and that’s it. Although I will occasionally crust the exterior of a burger with a spice rub, I never mix any spices, herbs, or condiments into the meat itself." Nor does he add ingredients such as onions or garlic, or fillers such as eggs or bread crumbs. "My reasoning for this is pretty simple: Do all of that and you’ll have a meatloaf." Nothing against meatloaf, of course, but it doesn't go as well with sparklers and watermelon. "What I’m talking about here is a burger, pure and simple.”
• Cook the burger to the perfect temp. If you're not set up for a cookout, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a great burger, Flay says. “You can make the perfect burger just about anywhere, inside or out." Grilling is a great way to feed a crowd, thanks to the large surface of the grill area, but it's not the only option. "My favorite way to cook a burger indoors is on cast iron, either in a skillet or grill pan, or on a griddle," Flay says. Wherever you cook, use a meat thermometer so you'll know just when to pull the patty off the heat. "To me, a perfect beef burger is pink and juicy in the middle and cooked somewhere between medium-rare and medium, which is an internal temperature of about 145 degrees F,” adds Flay.
• Finish up with the best burger accompaniments. We're not going to knock American cheese on America's birthday. But we're a melting pot country, so why not invite other cheeses to the party? Says Flay, “Personally, I am a cheese fanatic. I want cheese on my burger, and lots of it. I am almost always game for a cheeseburger made with American cheese—I just love how it melts—but there are other cheeses that can bring a lot more flavor to your burger, such as: blue, cheddar, feta, Fontina, Gruyere/Swiss, Manchego, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, provolone and queso fresco." Flay recommends a soft bun, sesame seeds optional. "I also think the taste and the texture of buns are best when lightly toasted,” he adds.