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Tips from a Pro: Make the Best Burger in Town

Summer means barbeque time, and there’s nothing better than grilling up a juicy burger. But if you want to learn how to make a hamburger the right way, you need to go straight to the source. Which means: Porter House Bar and Grill, the legendary steakhouse from Chef Michael Lomonaco on the fourth floor of The Shops at Columbus Circle. We caught up with Executive Chef Michael Ammirati to get his tips for making the perfect burger.

burger chef

plated burger

1. Choose your meat wisely. Use a course ground meat — not fine. The finer it is, the less you get of that mouthfeel. Fat content should be at least 80% lean to 20% fat. (Ours is probably 75/25.) Fat is the flavor and keeps the burger moist. The leaner you go, the less enjoyable it is for the palate.

2. Season the meat. We use kosher salt to season the burger meat. But be aware that salt brings out moisture, so you want to season at the absolute last minute. Otherwise, you won’t get a good char.

3. Use the right amount of salt. Use enough salt to cover the burger nicely — like a light covering of snow.

4. Cheese, please. Cabot white cheddar is a good Vermont cheese. When you order a burger at Porter House, this is the cheese that goes on it, unless you want something else. To melt the cheese, put it on the burger and then close the hood of the barbeque.

burger on grill

cheese on burger

5. Consider your grill. Charcoal is the best, but it is the biggest pain. You have to move the charcoal around and the heat dissipates really fast, whereas a propane grill will stay the same temperature. But the flavor of charcoal can’t be beat.

6. Keep it hot! You don’t cook a burger at a low temperature. Pre-heat the barbeque, which should be as hot as possible to get a char on the outside. Flames are fine and impart a lot of favor.

7. Don’t move it. Once you put the burger on the grill, keep it there. Don’t touch it, don’t do anything with it. Because if you move it at the beginning, you will rip off the char.

burger on warmer

plated burger from the top

8. Flip it! When you see bubbles on the bottom of the burger, flip it and rotate it a quarter or a half turn. This will give it a hatch mark.

9. Check the temperature. The way you can check to see if it’s medium or medium rare is by feel. Touch the burger. The softer it is, the less cooked it is. The firmer it is, the more cooked it is. The juices will also indicate if it’s not that well cooked. Once you get past medium, you’ll see less and less juice.

10. Top it off. Add whatever you want: fried eggs, foie gras, bacon, jalapeño, roasted peppers, avocado. For buns, potato rolls are good, especially Martin’s, which we use here. Ultimately, it’s your burger. Have it the way you want.

Want more? Watch a video of Executive Chef Michael Ammirati making Porter House Bar and Grill's delicious burger here.

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