Summer is burger season, and not having a grill is no reason to keep letting Shake Shack do all the work.
To get you ready for Labor Day, we talked to Jamie Schweid, executive vice president at Schweid & Sons, a fourth-generation New York City ground beef empire that claims to sell nothing less than “the very best burger.”
Like any good businessman, he makes sure his product lives up to its reputation. That means Schweid, 36, still spends plenty of time standing over a fire, and he gave us some tips on how to make the most of your meat, wherever you’re cooking it.
The right beef
Opinions on the right cut of beef for a burger vary, which is why Schweid & Sons produces three different kinds: chuck brisket, USDA prime chuck and a butcher’s blend of chuck round and sirloin. Finding what works for you is the kind of science experiment you’ll be happy to repeat.
• DON’T skimp on fat. The minimum proportion you want is 20 percent, but 25 percent is even better. Remember, that’s where the flavor (and moisture) are.
• DO go for grass-fed beef if you’re looking for something a little different. Schweid says the meat is gamier: “If you took both burgers, side-by-side with nothing on them, you’d definitely be able to taste the difference.”
Burgers vs. meatloaf
As far as seasoning, Schweid calls himself a purist and doesn’t hold with mixing pork or breadcrumbs into the patties. “It has to do also with the meat that’s used; if you’re using great quality ground beef, you really want to let the meat do all the talking,” he says. “You don’t want to add too much to that ground beef because then you’re no longer in the realm of burgers — you’re making meatloaf.”
• DON’T overwork the meat, which is the other downside of mixing a lot of things into the burger; it’ll lose juice and change texture (this goes for when it’s on the heat, too — never flatten it with the spatula!)
• DO get some kosher salt on both sides of the burger before throwing it onto the skillet or grill. This will help get that nice, crispy crust you’re looking for.