What makes a great burger? We all have our own ideas. If you are a parrothead, you may think lettuce, tomato and Heinz 57 with french fried potatoes is paradise. But despite all of the various answers to the question of what makes the best burger, there is broad consensus among the "burger experts" when it comes to crafting America's iconic sandwich. Here at the Pickled Pig, we have perfected the art and are happy to share it for all to try. In the end, even if other restaurants learn our secrets, we think it will be a happier world if we all have better burgers!
1. The Beef Cuts. It amazes us that questions over the proper beef cuts do not come up more often when looking for the perfect burger. It is surprising as it should be common sense that the cuts of meat you use will have a huge impact on the taste and consistency of the burger. More often than not, a single cut such as chuck is utilized and the only question is over fat content. The reality is that each cut of meat adds a different taste profile, texture and consistency to the burger and finding the ideal cuts and ratios is key to crafting the best burger. For us, the trifecta is short rib, brisket and chuck used in specific ratios, which we keep close to the vest (we can't share all our secrets).
2. The Grind. The grind and forming of the burger also play a crucial role in the ultimate outcome. The goal here is what is called "granulation." To achieve this, the three cuts of beef we utilize are ground differently. Specifically, we grind two of the cuts together once, and then add the third cut to the mix and grind again (which ones get ground twice is another secret, but if you come in and ask, we'll probably tell you). The end result is that two of the cuts will have been ground twice and the third only once. This results in various texture in each patty that vastly improves the cooking process and ultimate result. Finally, you never want to mash and form all of the grind together to form a fully cohesive patty. Rather, you want to lay down the strands from the grind to form a horizontal column that can then be sliced into patties, leaving each grind visible when looking at any given patty from the top or bottom, thus creating the ultimate goal of "granulation." Keep in mind that the best granulated burger is loosely formed, as described, so it breaks apart a little more easily than the mashed together hockey puck or baseball we are sometimes served at less aspiring joints.
3. Cooking. There would be no greater sin than taking the perfect patty and ruining it during the cooking process. The common thought is that grilling makes the best burger; not true. To lock in the juice (read flavor) on a burger, the key is to sear the burger along with fat reserved before the grinding process at a high temperature for less than a minute on each side to create a crust that locks in all the juicy goodness. From there, you can continue to cook at a lower temperature to bring it up to the desired temperature.
4. The Bun. The second greatest sin would be putting the best cooked burger on a bun not worthy of such greatness. While you want a soft bun that absorbs the juices and flavor and does not create too much dense bread that detracts from the burger and topping flavor, it must also not be so delicate that it breaks apart while eating. To achieve this goal, The Pickled Pig uses a brioche-style, house made bun with a few twists that create a little more texture, firmness and sturdiness.
5. Size and Toppings. So here, we need to take into account some personal taste, as there is no golden rule in this area. At The Pickled Pig, we have two styles of burgers: our Crack Burger, which is so good its addictive, and our Specialty Burgers. The Crack Burger follows what we believe to be burger dogma. This burger uses two 4oz patties, made as previously described, and is always cooked through with only the following toppings: house made cheddar cheese melt, caramelized onions, pickles, shredded lettuce and piggy sauce...nothing more and nothing less, except for bacon upon request. Our specialty burgers are 8oz patties cooked to request with various specialty toppings as described on our menu.
There you have it...the perfect burger! Simply make, eat and repeat (and take the occasional statin as doctor recommended), or come in and let us do the work for you--statin not included!