Thrill of the Grill
How to cook the perfect burger.
The best burger, some would say, is found not on an arbitrary magazine list but in your backyard: Is there anything more satisfying than that smell, that sizzle, that taste of chuck cooked to your exact specifications? Of course, grilling the perfect burger can be “as tricky as cooking a steak,” says chef Grady Spears, who, after years of handling all manner of meat for restaurants such as Reata, Chisholm Club, and Grady’s, should know. Spears, a co-founder of the popular Fort Worth burger joint Dutch’s—and a backyard griller himself—says it all starts with the patty: He advocates a combination of sirloin, for flavor, and chuck, for optimal juiciness. “Ask your butcher for a medium grind, and for chuck that’s 20 percent fat,” he instructs. “For a burger to be moist, you gotta have that fat.”
Spears seasons the meat with kosher salt, coarse-ground pepper, and a surprise ingredient: brown sugar. “It helps the meat caramelize, gives it a crispier texture, and adds color,” he says. Then he hand-presses the meat—the patties should be slightly wider than the buns, since they’ll shrink while cooking—sprinkles some additional kosher salt on one side, and throws them on a well-greased grill over medium-high heat. “It doesn’t matter whether you use gas or charcoal,” he says. “You’re not cooking the burgers long enough to really impart flavor. Just make sure the heat is even.”
Spears then cooks the burgers about four to six minutes per side—flipping only once—and allows them to rest for about three minutes. (The less the patties are handled, the juicier they’ll be.) Meanwhile, he butters and toasts the buns. “Don’t forget that butter,” Spears says, whose bun of choice comes from Houston’s Sweet Mesquite Bakery. “It’s what makes the burger.” Finally, he sets about customizing his creation. His favorite extras? Cheddar cheese, sweet pickles, vine-ripened tomatoes, Bibb lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, mustard, and mayonnaise. But the options, Spears points out, are personal and unlimited. “That’s the beauty of a burger,” he says. “You can’t go wrong, because it’s custom-built.”
Grady’s 3M Burgers
1 1/2 pounds coarse-ground chuck
1 1/2 pounds coarse-ground sirloin
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus some to taste
2 tablespoons coarse-ground pepper
4 tablespoons brown sugar
6 quality hamburger buns
Preheat grill to medium high and lightly grease the grate. In a mixing bowl, combine chuck, sirloin, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Mix well and divide into six patties. Sprinkle one side of each patty with more salt and place on grill, cooking 4 to 6 minutes per side. (If adding cheese, do so now and cook for another minute to melt.) Remove patties from grill and let rest for 3 minutes before serving. Serves 6.