This Is How You Make a Restaurant-Quality Gourmet Burger at Home

by Anthony Hall on 7 May 2014 1 comment

The ingredients needed to make a restaurant-quality gourmet burger at home are not quite what you would think.

Yes, great beef and a great recipe are part of the formula. You also need an interesting array of quality spices and toppings. You need an artistic bent, and a flair for sauces can't hurt. But what is the secret to creating the John Q. Public Burger Extreme, the Biggest, Baddest, Most Brazen Burger of All Time, the Most Transcendent, Blue-Ribbon Ground-Breaking, Ground Beef, Mouth-Watering, Hand-Held Chuck Nugget?

Here is what you need to put it all together

A Recipe

Here are some links that will put some gourmet restaurant recipes at your fingertips, as well as some mid-range recipes and some simpler recipes for those without the inclination to go all out. That said, before you start swinging for the fences, here's what you should know about what all the great restaurant hamburgers have in common.

Transcendent Beef

Not just great beef — transcendent beef. You need customized ground beef. The greatest restaurants don't settle for ground up filet mignon, as terrific as that sounds. The top chefs aim for beef blends, such as "equal parts short rib and brisket with 20% fat." You need to elevate your game to make it in the burger big leagues. In the link above it's:

  • 6 oz sirloin
  • 5 oz brisket
  • 12 oz oxtail (which produces 5 oz of lean and fat)

All of which is ground at home, either in a food processor or the grinder attachment on your mixer. Can't grind it at home? Ask the butcher to do it, instead. And if oxtail is too much trouble, use boneless short rib.

Shape and Cook

Shape your patties by hand, and don't press and compact too firmly. In fact, you want to shape your patties gently. The fat in the beef needs room to roam. Whether to grill outside or fry in the skillet inside is up to you and the weather. The trick to avoiding sticking and messiness is not to fuss with your patties while heat and chemistry are at work. When they're ready, they'll release from grill or skillet with a gentle nudge.

Nose Clips and Cheese

We're talking stinky cheese: Stilton, Gruyere, Roquefort, Blue Cheese, Brie, Camembert, Feta. This can be folded into the patty, sculpted into the center, or used as a topping. But suffice it to say, if you suggest sliced American cheese at Gourmet Burger School, they make you run around the building three times without any clothes and then they don't let you back in. Meanwhile, remember that stinky cheese works like a condiment and a spice, so teasing out the right proportions is essential.

Taking Time

Many well-appreciated cooks can slap together an edible hamburgers in 20 minutes. And that includes shopping. Not so at the Tyler Florence Wayfare Tavern Le Grand, which requires a custom blend of ground prime rib, brisket, skirt steak, and tenderloin; Nueske's applewood smoked bacon; and Cowgirl Creamery's triple-cream Mt. Tam cheese. Estimated time to cook is reasonable, but it will take half a day to shop for the right cheese, beef, and spices.

Great Buns

Here's the one ingredient many restaurant-quality recipes agree on: Brioche burger buns. These are firm, delicious buns that can control even the most challenging burgers. They can also be made at home if you are looking for a fresh brioche roll that will wow the audience.

Only the Best Toppings

A friend of mine drives to a larger town, 20 minutes away, where she makes three stops just to get the stuff to make a chicken sandwich. Or, should I say, a life-altering chicken sandwich. So, when a gourmet burger recipe calls for applewood smoked bacon, a true foodie will go to the ends of the earth and back again to find what the recipe calls for. (And teaching a pig to smoke isn't easy, either.) Be willing to go the extra mile. That's what good chefs do.

You can go all kinds of directions here. Caramelized onions. Sauteed mushrooms. Ortega chiles. Foie gras. But classics are classic for a reason: a leaf of crisp iceberg lettuce, a thick slice of beefsteak tomato, and a few rounds of thinly sliced red onion are all worthwhile. (See also: Delicious New Ways to Top Your Burgers)

Saucy Sauces

French cooking, eat your heart out. Some burger sauces are for men with calluses on their tongues. Sauces for burgers range from subtle to creamy to flaming hot, but when you're talking baconnaise or shake shack spread, we're talking unapologetic, lip-smacking vegan repellant.

Let's narrow it down to the basic, sort of thousand island dressing "secret sauce" you might get at a hurry-up burger joint. The recipe's pretty easy: two parts mayo to one part ketchup. About a half-part sweet pickle relish and dashes each of vinegar and sugar to taste.

Don't Go It Alone

Ground beef scraped off a skillet or a grill is party food. Don't cook one alone. Don't eat one alone. Great company is the one absolute, irreversible ingredient for a terrific burger. The phone should be ringing. It helps if there are dogs underfoot and kids dashing around, working up an appetite. There should be potables poured and nothing much fancier than blue jeans allowed. Save the good wine for later. After all, you don't want to upstage the John Q Public Burger Extreme.

What's your recipe for a restaurant quality burger at home? Please share in comments!

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Marla Walters's picture

Aw, you made me so HUNGRY. :-)