Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Celebrate Burger Month!

May is national burger month, and I do love a good burger.

I must admit, my husband, who has become quite the cook, made some righteous burgers last week.  He used 85% lean ground beef, which he seasoned liberally with salt, pepper and Worcestershire Sauce.  He packed the burgers loosely, using about 6 oz meat for each, and grilled them for about 4 minutes per side on a high flame.  If I hadn't married him already, I'd have done it on the spot.

As the mercury rises and grilling season moves into full swing,  it seemed an opportune time to check in on one of our favorite chefs for some hints on what makes a tasty burger.  Not that I feel improvement is necessary on hubby's work (I'm referring to the burgers, people) but it never hurts to get some professional advice.

Jack McDavid of the Down Home Diner is never shy about sharing his opinions, and he was happy to give us his take on burgers.

"You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The key to a great burger is great meat. We use 80% lean 20% fat freshly ground shoulder Pennsylvania beef from Halteman's right here in the Market. For a great hamburger, you need an open flame. This sears the outside and allows the fat to escape and caramelize on the meat, which adds a touch of sweetness. You also need a pinch of salt and some seasoning--most folks oversalt the meat in an attempt to add flavor. Meat lacks flavor if it is not top quality."  So we've come full circle.  The key to a good burger is good meat.

For turkey burgers, Jack suggests a different technique.  "Use a griddle.  You don't need an open flame, because you don't need to render fat in a turkey burger; they're low in fat and you'll dry them out.  You add some seasoning, and cook them slowly to preserve the moisture."   Full disclosure:  I am not a fan of turkey burgers, so I'll take Jack's word for it, but am unlikely to follow his advice.  When it comes to burgers, I'm a traditionalist.

Down Home Diner's Big Cheese Burger
We certainly enjoyed the Down Home Diner's burgers.  I took the traditional route with the Big Cheese, and Claire opted for the barbecue burger with bacon and fried onions.  I retained my membership in the clean plate club, C. left the bread and fries behind.  (I like her anyway, though.)  Other favorite burgers around town?   500 degrees for a quick and casual experience,  Butcher and Singer for a fancy lunch, and Good Dog Bar for something in between.

What's your favorite Philly burger joint?

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