I'm a traditionalist. When I'm off the road not doing “research,” I keep my burgers simple. I do not pile them high with avocado, tomatoes and foie gras smears. I don't even use lettuce or (gasp!) ketchup. For me, it's all about the beef -- any added topping must enhance, not detract from, the beefiness of my burger.
I reach burger perfection at home by keeping things very simple. Using 80/20 ground chuck is the key to great burgers and I usually grind my own. If you don't have a grinder, find a good butcher. My relationship with my butcher is closer than that of my neighbors.
Buns are important, too. I never over-think the vehicle that will carry my burger. The ratio of bun-to-burger is in essence what makes the burger a burger, so I always consider the parameters. The patty should always fit the bun, never too small and never too large. I always use simple, white, squishy store-bought buns, or soft potato rolls if available. Toasting buns in a pan with a little butter is a must.
2-lbs. Freshly-ground chuck
8 White squishy buns (Arnold, Wonder, Martin's, etc.)
1 Vidalia onion, sliced paper-thin on a mandolin (onion slicer)
Place a well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. If the pan looks dry, add a tiny bit of canola or vegetable oil to lubricate and heat for a few minutes. Place your ground beef in a large mixing bowl. Do not add anything to the meat (that would be meatloaf). Using a salad or ice cream scooper (not your hands) grab a wad of beef a little larger than a golf ball and drop into the hot pan. Sprinkle liberally with salt then press flat with a very sturdy spatula with no holes. It is important that you press only once, into the shape of a patty, then leave it alone. Any more pressing will send precious juices out into the pan. Cook for approximately 1-minute and a half per side and you are done. It is that simple.
I like to sauté Vidalia onions to put on top and that's about it. Sometimes I also smash raw, thin-sliced onion in the patty at the beginning, a favorite of any burger joint in El Reno, OK.
George Motz is a well-traveled Emmy award-winning freelance filmmaker and photographer based in New York City. Over the past 18 years he has worked on numerous television commercials, feature films, music videos, promos and documentaries.
Motz lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and 2 children.