May is National Burger Month—yesss—which means it’s time to brush up on your grilling skills. We talked to award-winning chef and restaurateur Eric LeVine, owner of two gastropub-influenced restaurants in New Jersey—Paragon Tap & Table and Morris Tap & Grill—to get his pro opinion on what goes into making the all-time perfect burger.
He gave us eight insider secrets on taking your meat and vegetarian burger game up a notch, from making your own patties to which toppings will create the best flavorbomb possible.
Don’t make this common grilling mistake.
“It drives me crazy when people push the burger down. Pushing down on the burger presses out all the natural juices. Then people ask why their burgers were so dried out.”
Omnivores, try this secret tip before lighting up.
“Baste the burger with bacon fat for extra flavor and moisture.”
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Don’t treat all meats, tofu, and veggies the same.
“For chicken, use a medium flame and light oil. When it comes to steak, season the meat with some salt and pepper while you cook—a small step, but it makes a difference and brings out the meat’s natural zest. If you’re cooking tofu, light oil before grilling, and don’t be shy with your seasoning, since tofu is naturally very dense and bland. When grilling veggies like asparagus, peppers, and more, use a low flame, light oil, and kosher salt and white pepper for the best results.”
Here’s how to make a perfect meat or vegetarian patty.
“Meat-lovers should use a triple blend of short loin, chuck, and brisket with an 80/20 meat-to-fat ratio. When making a veggie burger patty, potato or sweet potato is the best ingredient to help bind and hold it all together.”
If you only use one topping, use this.
“Kimchi is ideal; its acidity really helps cut through the fat of the burger and adds a nice contrast.”
Want to skip the bun? Here’s what to use instead.
“Iceberg lettuce makes for a great sandwich bun for the burgers, since it has volume, crispness, and crunch. Find small heads and split in half to make a ‘bun.'”
Here’s the ultimate meat-lovers’ topping combo:
“Top a medium-rare grilled patty with pork slab, blue cheese, fried onions, and chipotle slaw on a brioche bun. It rules.”
Vegetarians, this is the Holy Grail of veggie burger recipes.
“Make a patty using black and white beans, steel-cut oats, caramelized mushrooms and onions, roasted red peppers, and potato. Top that with pickled scallions, red onions, egg-free roasted garlic aioli, and toasted chia seeds, all served on multigrain roll.”