The Ultimate Burger

Chef Bobby Flay says you can learn a lot about people on their hamburger orders.

"First of all, Harry orders two," said Flay, noting that one was buffalo, the other was beef. But then he orders a condiment that was not on the menu. "We have 15 condiments. He'd also like some horseradish," Flay jokes. Smith made no comment; he was too busy enjoying his burgers.

Julie Chen said she felt quite restricted by the selection. The menu was broken down by choice of meat, cheese and condiments. "I didn't see you were limiting us," she said. She started out ordering a turkey burger and then went the other direction, ordering beef.

"I started out healthy, turkey. Then I was 'Oh, he doesn't have American cheese.' Forget it. And oh, I love red onions," she said. To which Flay pointed out, "There are only five other cheeses that you could have ordered." But she wanted American. So she went for a Mexican-style burger instead.

Rene Syler ordered no bun; instead, she wanted all the fattening stuff. Her inspiration was the Atkins diet. She went for the turkey burger, Vidalia onions, pickles, lettuce, mustard, ketchup and only a little guacamole, she said. Only little is only relative. "It's like a turkey burger salad almost," Flay noted.

Hannah Storm, Flay said, is "pretty straight down the middle." She got a beef burger with cheddar and grilled Vidalia onions along with romaine lettuce, Dijon mustard, spicy ketchup and some guacamole. Hannah said, "My favorite is the Vidalia onions, which all folks down south love - nice and mild."

The one thing the anchors had in common was their comments on their hamburgers. "Excellent!" It was not surprising to Flay who says his burgers can make you weep with joy.

If, like Chef Flay, you want to make the same boast, here are his tips:
  • A perfect tasting, feeling, smelling hamburger is one made with ground chuck - and that chuck should be 80 percent lean to 20 percent fat. This grade of lean beef provides both flavor and juiciness without giving pause to those who are a little health conscious. Add some very fresh, quality ingredients, mix well before the meat hits the grill, and you're on your way to a fabulous dining experience.

  • Flay uses only salt and pepper to season. He reserves the additional flavor additives for the condiments du jour. When it comes to mixing in the salt and pepper, Flay says to turn the meat only once and avoid pressing it. Over-mixing causes the ground chuck to become tough.

  • When it's time for the grill, the key is to cook the burger 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

  • Since high-end ground chuck has such a strong flavor, all other condiments should be equally as fresh and flavorful. The best-quality aged-cheddar, or the best-quality Swiss cheese is what can easily turn the ultimate burger into the "ultimate cheeseburger." The rule with block cheese is that it should be sliced by hand on an "as needed" basis. This is preferable because it will help the cheese last longer.

  • As for the bread, hard rolls are not the way to go, so do not forget to get soft sesame seed rolls.

  • In finishing, the choice becomes one of personal preference. Flay recommends garnishing with one or all of the following: sweet onion and red onion, grilled or raw; Romaine lettuce, slices of beefsteak tomato, pickles, horseradish mustard or ketchup.

The following is his recipe:

The Ultimate Burger
Serves: 4

2 lbs ground chuck, 80/20 per cent
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound block of best quality aged cheddar, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
1/2 pound block of best quality Swiss cheese, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
Sweet onion and red onion, sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices
Grilled or raw 4 soft sesame seed rolls

Romaine lettuce
1 large ripe beefsteak tomato, cut into 4 slices
Pickles, optional
Horseradish mustard
Ketchup

Method:
  1. Place beef in a large bowl and lightly break up the meat with your fingers. Season with salt and pepper and gently mold into four 1/2 pound burgers.

  2. Place on grill and grill on one side until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.

  3. Carefully turn the burger over and continue grilling for 2-3 minutes for medium doneness. Garnish with any or all of the condiments.

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