There are many schools of thought when it comes to the best way to make a burger.
Some people are fans of thick and juicy patties that extend beyond toasted crusty buns. Others are devotees of thin, seared burgers served on pillowy white bread buns.
For some folks, it’s all about how rare or how well done the burger is cooked. For others, it’s all about the toppings. Some favor the classic lineup of lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup and mustard; others insist everything goes, from mushrooms and bacon to lobster and foie gras.
“Hamburgers are so personal; it’s worse than pizza,” said George Ash, owner of Buns of Chapel Hill, which caters to those who favor thick and juicy.
To help you make a better burger, be it thick or thin, we turned to a burger-master who applies his MIT-trained mind to cooking: J. Kenji López-Alt, culinary director at Serious Eats website. López-Alt brings his scientific mind to better understand and explain what happens in the kitchen. He writes a series of blog posts called The Food Lab and has a two-book set of cookbooks, “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science,” coming out next year.
“For several years, I was extremely obsessed with burgers,” he said, explaining that his obsession was fueled by a taste of a Shake Shack burger, which made him realize “a burger doesn’t have to taste like every other burger out there.”
Just in time for Memorial Day weekend grilling, he shares his expertise on making two styles of burgers: a thick, juicy burger and the thin, crusty smashed burger, popularized by such chains as Five Guys, Smashburger and Shake Shack.
The smashed burger
“Smashed burgers are all about crust development,” López-Alt explains. “The more you brown a burger, the more meaty it tastes.”
To achieve that crusty burger, here are instructions based on López-Alt’s advice. My recipe testing notes are in parentheses:
The thick burger
For a thick burger, López-Alt said, freshly ground meat is a must. Here are his instructions, with my testing notes in parentheses:goo.gl/w61gXU