Celebrate National Hamburger Month: Make this juicy burger at home

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For Chef Benjamin Pruitt of Brattleburger in Brattleboro, Vt., one of the secrets to a great burger starts with the meat itself — an 80/20 percent ground chuck. And he should know — on a busy night the restaurant serves 400 to 500 burgers.

"It has plenty of fat to keep it juicy, " he said in a recent phone interview.

Executive Chef Tyson Milette of Public Eat + Drink in North Adams, Mass., also likes to start with local grass-fed beef, either 80/20 or 85/15.

"Any more is too much fat," he explained. "More fat, more smoke ... more charred taste."

In honor of National Hamburger Month (thank you, May!) we asked area chefs how to make the perfect burger at home. When it comes to size, it's up to the person making the burgers, but Pruitt said a 4- to 6-ounce burger is "a pretty good size." Milette prefers his burgers to be 8 ounces, ("the perfect thickness"), cooked medium rare to medium and in his opinion, all burgers need bacon and cheese.

The next step is to sear the meat on a flat-top or grill, Pruitt said. A perfect sear is when you can see the edges of the burger brown and caramelize.

At Brattleburger, the ground chuck, from nearby farms, is formed into balls prior to being cooked, and then "smashed" on the flat top with one-pound weights. Although Pruitt doesn't recommend smashing a burger on a grill, he said home cooks can purchase commercial meat weights or use a another flat-bottomed pan to push it down on a home flat-top pan.

When cooking the burger, flip it only once.

"Do not smash the patty after flipping it," Pruitt warned. "You'll lose all those juices that keep the burger moist." Cook each burger only a couple minutes on each side; thicker burgers may need a bit more time. He prefers his burgers to be medium to medium well done with the tiniest bit of pink inside.

"Make sure you have a clean grill for perfect char lines and don't ever press the burgers down with a spatula; you'll lose the juices," Milette said. "Keep any eye on it for flare-ups when cooking it. A little bit of flare-up is OK, but move the burger to another part of the grill if there are a lot."

Milette admitted a lot of creating the perfect burger is about finesse, which may take years of experience. "You use all five senses, and count intuition as the sixth."

When it comes to toppings, it's pretty much up to the individual, Pruitt said. Brattleburger serves its burgers with a special sauce that contains ketchup, mustard, pickles, relish and spices. On his own burgers, Pruitt prefers ketchup, mayonnaise, tomato, lettuce, red onion and a Vermont cheddar, a preference he developed after moving to Vermont a few years ago. He added that American cheese, yellow or white, is also good on a burger. A current special on Brattleburger's menu features goat cheese along with balsamic roasted tomatoes.

When it comes to the roll, Pruitt goes for potato bread rolls (which the restaurant also uses) or a good onion roll. "And always butter and then toast the roll," he said.

For something a bit cheesier than a regular cheeseburger, Pruitt suggested another recent special at the restaurant, a grilled cheese burger, in which a grilled cheese sandwich (made with rolls, but with the flat side on the outside) is pulled apart and the cooked burger inserted inside.

When Milette makes a burger for himself, he makes what he calls a Plain Jane basic burger with cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion and sometimes, jalapeno pepper, served on a brioche roll. "It's flaky and really buttery," he said.

But no special sauce or seasonings for Milette. "The only seasoning they need is salt and pepper. The meat should speak for itself," he said.

Double Bacon Cheddar Bomb

Courtesy of Benjamin Pruitt

Ingredients:

1 Buttered, Toasted Martin's Potato Roll

2 4oz All-Beef Burger Portions (Balled)

6 Slices of Cooked Bacon

Cup Shredded Cabot Cheddar Cheese

1 Leaf of Green Leaf Lettuce

Bratt Burger Sauce (Mayo, Mustard, Ketchup, Pickles, and Spices)

Directions:

You start by cooking off your bacon and setting it aside. Next, take your 4 oz beef balls and smash them with a burger press or another pan until they are half an inch thick, then place in a medium/high heated pan with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for a couple minutes on each side. When the burgers are almost done, take your cheese and add to the top of the burgers and let melt. After cheese has melted, place patties on your toasted Martin's Potato Roll, add bacon, add lettuce, and Bratt Sauce.


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