No one can say for certain when or where the first hamburger was served. Denizens of New Haven, Conn., Seymour, Wis., Hamburg, N.Y., and Athens, Texas, have all made claims of ownership dating back as early as the 1880s; other burger historians say that a Wichita, Kan., cook was the first to put a flat, griddle-cooked ground-beef patty inside a custom-purpose white-bread bun sometime around 1915. What cannot be disputed, however, is the hamburger’s place in the nation’s culture.
Through hard times and high times—and even health-conscious times—they’re distinctly, unmistakably American, the country’s best-loved food.
We canvassed chefs across the nation and collected recipes for five of the juiciest, sloppiest and tastiest burgers out there, from a beautifully trashy central Texan contender to a cheesy, double-stacked classic, to a red wine- and butter-basted Vegas beauty that’s all but guaranteed to get beefy goodness all over your lap.
The Schlow Burger
Radius chef Michael Schlow’s bar burger, slathered with lemon-horseradish mayo and stacked high with crispy caramelized onions, has become a Boston icon, and for good reason. Serves 4.
1 pound beef chuck
10 ounces brisket
10 ounces hanger steak
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
4 thick slices of good-quality cheddar cheese
4 hamburger buns
Lemon and horseradish mayo:
½ cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons prepared white horseradish
Juice of 1 lemon
2 large white onions, sliced thinly
2½ cups canola oil (or enough to cover onions)
WHAT TO DO:
1. Trim gristle from all the meat, cut into 1-inch cubes and chill well. Process through the fine (1/8-inch) plate of a well-chilled grinder.
2. In a large bowl, gently mix ground meat with olive oil, salt and plenty of black pepper, and form into four 9-ounce patties just slightly wider in diameter than buns. Refrigerate until ready to use, no more than 1 hour.
3.Meanwhile, combine onions and oil in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until the onions are deep golden brown. Remove onions and let drain and cool in a single layer on paper towels.
4. For the mayonnaise: Combine mayo, horseradish and lemon juice in a bowl and season with black pepper.
5. If using charcoal, prepare a fire on one side of the grill. If using gas, turn burners to high. Cook burgers on heated grill for 3 minutes per side, then move them away from the coals or to the top rack of your barbecue. If using gas, turn off and then cover each patty with a slice of cheese, close lid and cook for an additional 4 minutes, or until medium rare.
6. To assemble: Toast buns on grill if desired, and put a burger on each. Spread plenty of horseradish mayo on each patty; it should drip down the sides. Slather it on the top bun, too. Carefully mound one quarter of crispy onions on each patty, cover and serve.
The Hatch Chile Burger
The green chiles from Hatch, N.M., are famed for their depth of flavor and slow-building heat. At Bam’s Roadhouse Grill, in Lago Vista, Texas, they’re stuffed alongside crumbled bacon and cheddar cheese into half-pound, hickory grilled burgers for a gloopy, slow-burning and undeniably delicious central Texan treat. Serves 4.
2 pounds ground beef
¼ cup roasted, peeled and chopped Hatch green chiles (fresh or frozen)
4 strips bacon, cooked crisp, cooled and crumbled
4 slices processed cheddar cheese
4 honey wheat buns
WHAT TO DO:
1.Wrap 1 cup of hickory chips in two layers of foil and poke holes in foil so smoke can escape. Reserve. Heat gas or charcoal grill to medium high.
2. Meanwhile, season meat with salt, mix gently and form into eight 4-ounce patties, about 5 inches in diameter.
3. Place 4 patties on a work surface and spread one quarter of chiles and one quarter of bacon on each one, pressing them into the meat as you go. Be sure to leave a ¼-inch border free from fillings around the edge of each patty.
4. Cover chiles and bacon with cheese, cutting as necessary to fit, then place remaining patties on top of the dressed ones, pinching edges to seal in fillings. Once sealed, press each patty to even out thickness, then roll each patty like a wheel on work surface, to thicken the edges. Pinch together any holes.
5. When grill is hot, place hickory packet directly on coals, or under the grate on gas burner.
6. Make sure barbecue grate is clean, and brush with vegetable oil. Grill patties 3 minutes per side, or until they’ve reached desired doneness.
7. Serve on honey wheat buns with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles, if desired.
The 10 p.m. Burger
From Holeman & Finch Public House in Atlanta, chef Linton Hopkins’s take on the American favorite is as classic as burgers get, only better: double-stacked, griddle-seared beef patties gushing with cheese and a slap of onion. Serves 4.
1 pound grass-fed, grain-finished beef chuck
1 pound grass-fed, grain-finished brisket
Diamond Crystal kosher salt
4 processed American cheese slices
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
4 potato rolls
WHAT TO DO:
1.Trim any gristle from the beef, cut into 1-inch cubes and chill well. Grind through a well-chilled fine (1/8-inch) plate into a large bowl.
2. Gently form eight 4-ounce patties just slightly wider than the buns, and sprinkle the top side of each with a pinch of kosher salt, raining it from high above to coat each patty evenly.
3.Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat and sear patties in batches, in multiples of two (a large pan should fit four). After about 10 seconds, quickly flatten each patty with the back of a spatula. Flip after 2 minutes, season the opposite side with a pinch of kosher salt, and flatten with the spatula after about 10 seconds. Put a slice of cheese on half the patties, sliced onions and a cheese slice on the other half. Two minutes after flipping, remove from heat. (Each burger should get a total of 2 minutes per side.)
4. To assemble, place a patty with onion and cheese on a bun, then stack a patty with cheese over it. Cover and serve with bread-and-butter pickles, ketchup and mustard, if desired.
Char-Grilled Lamb Burger with Feta and Cumin Mayo
Chef April Bloomfield’s lamb burger has developed a fanatical following since The Breslin Bar & Dining Room opened in New York in 2009. The Breslin uses a custom blend done medium-rare, with the tang of feta and red onion, plus smoky, irresistible cumin-spiked mayo. Serves 4.
2 pounds ground lamb shoulder and leg, with about 20% fat (any good butcher can do this for you)
Diamond Crystal kosher salt
4 thin slices semifirm feta cheese (cut to cover patties)
4 thin slices red onion
Fresh ground pepper
Olive oil for drizzling
4 ciabatta buns (round ones are best, though square will also do)
5 egg yolks
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon toasted and ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
Squeeze of lemon juice
¾ cup olive oil
¾ cup grapeseed oil (or any neutral vegetable oil)
1 small garlic clove
WHAT TO DO:
1.For the cumin mayo: Combine egg yolks, mustard, cumin, salt and lemon juice in a food processor. Blend until mixed well and slowly stream in oil to create an emulsion. Once all the oil is added, finely grate the garlic and pulse a couple of times to incorporate. Set aside.
2. Gently form meat into four 8-ounce patties of even thickness. They should be slightly wider in diameter than the buns, ideally about 4½ inches.
3.Sprinkle both sides of each patty with a pinch of salt and grill over medium-hot coals for 3 minutes per side. Place patties on a cooler part of grill for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until medium-rare. Remove from heat to a warm place.
4. As burgers are resting, top each with a slice of feta and slice of onion and finish with ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
5. Meanwhile, toast buns on their outsides over the grill so you get a nice crunchy exterior and a soft, warm center.
6. Assemble burgers and serve with a side of cumin mayo.
House-Ground Steak Burger