’Tis the season to get a cooler going and throw some meat over the coals. All across the nation, Americans are getting ready to fire up the Weber for Labor Day. Take a cue from these burger masters from around the country to elevate your grill game.
SAN FRANCISCO - WESBURGER
Wes Rowe is something of a legend in the San Francisco burger world. The Texas native started a burger pop-up in 2013 that earned a cult following, leading to the opening of his brick and mortar WesBurger n’ More in 2015. While the man knows his way around a restaurant, he’s also comfortable wielding a spatula in a backyard. “I love cooking outdoors over a grill, with the smokey flavors infusing into your meat,” Rowe says. His trick to keeping his burgers fatty is to cook them on a flat, cast iron surface versus directly over flame. “This allows to you to get a way better/faster crust on the burger,” he says. “Just throw that cast iron on your Weber grill.” Have Wes’ Best of Both Worlds Burger with a light lager or sour cider, like one from 101 Ciders.
NEW YORK - LE RIVAGE
It’s not every day that you see a burger on an English muffin, but that’s just how Le Rivage chef and owner Paul Denamiel does things in Hell’s Kitchen. “I use the sandwich-size English muffins because I have an old-style grill, and they cook well on it,” Denamiel says. “I can grill the outside and toast the inside, giving it a crisp center and bun-like softness on the outside.” Despite the “English” touch, this burger is French as hell with béchamel, Maille cornichons and dijon mustard, and Emmental. To add an extra je ne sais quoi, down this burger with a Kronenbourg 1664.
LOUISVILLE - MILKWOOD
At MilkWood, chef Edward Lee nods to his Korean heritage with his pork burger by dressing it with kimchi, havarti, and a house-made remoulade. “Pork and kimchi pair classically in Korean cuisine,” Lee says. “Turns out it works perfectly in a burger as well. The sauce brings it all together and cools down the heat.” Cooking with pork is a different ballgame than making a beef burger. “It is really important to work with the meat as cold as possible,” Lee says. “Keep in in the fridge right up until the minute you need to cook it. Pork is fattier than beef so watch it as you cook. It may cook faster than beef. Make the patties a little larger than the bun you are using because pork is fatty and it will shrink in the pan more than beef.” On the side, Lee recommends complementing the burger with dishes like watermelon and fried peanuts tossed with fresh mint and olive oil, collards cooked down with kimchi, and succotash.
DETROIT - TOWNHOUSE
“It’s one part science, one part chemistry, and one part passion,” says Townhouse owner Jeremy Sasson of the 10-ounce Townhouse burger. The restaurant dry-ages steaks for 28 days to make its beloved patties that get wedged between Plugra butter brioche buns. Whether or not you understand the science of dry-aging at home, you can play with the chemistry of the toppings, or follow Sasson’s lead by going with year-old aged Vermont cheddar, and sweet bourbon-glazed onions.
NASHVILLE - LE SEL
In Tennessee, Le Sel executive chef Brian Lea keeps things simple with Le Burger. Bear Creek beef beautifully comes together with Gruyère and caramelized onions. At the French brasserie and at home, Lea is all about the little details. He considers toasting the inside of the bun mandatory, and makes sure he’s working with the right ingredients. “High-quality beef makes a huge difference in flavor, and allows you to cook the burger to a nice medium temperature for optimal juiciness,” Lea says. His major grilling takeaway comes down to heat. “I like to cook my burgers two ways, either on the grill for the nice smokey flavor and char that it imparts, or in a cast iron pan to get a really good sear,” Lea says. “Either way, the key is high heat.”
OKLAHOMA CITY - MARY EDDY’S
Out on the range, chef Jason Campbell serves seasonally driven American fare at Mary Eddy’s, including a dank burger with fresh local mustard greens, aged cheddar, pickled onions and lemon Duke’s (Duke’s mayonnaise infused with lemon zest and juice). “Our farmer came in and had these amazing mustard greens,” Campbell says of the burger’s origin story. “It just clicked that their boldness would go great with the meat we chose.” Campbell opts for a higher fat burger with 75/25 ground beef. “We don’t use brisket or short rib—which is tasty but not as juicy as a mixture of ground beef,” he says. “Your fingers should glisten from the juice of it.”
Best of Both Worlds Burger
by Wes Rowe, WesBurger n’ More, San Francisco.While I love cooking outdoors over a grill, with the smokey flavors infusing into your meat. For burgers, since I like them very fatty, I prefer them cooked over a flat cast iron surface. That doesn’t mean you have to cook them inside, especially because you can probably get your grill much hotter than your in home stove. This allows to you to get a way better/faster crust on the burger. Just throw that cast iron on your Weber grill.
• 2 pounds ground beef brisket (ask your butcher to do this, aim for 70/30)
• 2 medium yellow or white onions
• 3 tbsp. salted butter
• 6 thick slices of American cheese
• Dill pickles
• Yellow mustard
• 6 soft white buns big enough to hold up to a 1/3-pound burger
• Cast iron skillet
• Mesquite charcoal, regular charcoal and wood chips, or logs of oak or mesquite wood if you are a real badass
Start fire. Once lit, place pan on the grill and add sliced onions and butter. Caramelize the onions while the fire and pan heat up. Stir frequently to keep from burning and periodically splash a with ¼ cup of water to deglaze the pan. Once onions are dark brown, remove from pan.
Once pan is hot (500 degrees, if you have a thermometer) loosely pat the brisket into six evenly weighted patties, each slightly bigger in circumference than your buns. Generously salt on both sides and place three at a time in the pan. Cover grill for two minutes to allow smokey flavor to marry with meat. Depending on pan temperature, burgers will cook approximately 3.5 minutes per side to medium rare.
Once you flip the burger, top with a slice of cheese, and then stack top bun on cheese and bottom bun on the top of that to steam the buns. Cover grill again for two minutes.
One minute before removing burgers, take bottom buns off and dress with mustard, pickle slices, and caramelized onions.