How to Make the Perfect Burger (According to Joshua Applestone of Fleischer’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats in Kingston)

We asked Joshua Applestone of Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats in Kingston for tips on how to cook the perfect burger

So when it’s time to make your own burgers at home how do you know what kind of ground beef to use? Grass-fed? Grain-fed? An 80/20 mix? We decided to turn to the master of meat himself, Joshua Applestone of the now-famous Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats in Kingston. Applestone and his wife Jessica will be opening an outpost of their old-fashioned butcher shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn, this fall. They also have a new book (with co-author Alexandra Zissu): The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat: How to Buy, Cut, and Cook Great Beef, Lamb, Pork, Poultry, and More (Clarkson Potter/Publishers)

In the book, Applestone writes: “Ground beef should taste like earth, sun, and grass and feel good on your tongue. We give some away to new customers who come through the door. I tell them, ‘If this doesn’t taste like the best thing you have ever had, then don’t come back.’ It’s a risk, but it always works.”

The following excerpt includes Applestone’s tips on making the perfect patty:

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ground meat in frying pan

Our Daily Grind

Ground beef, ground meat, hamburger, or as my grandmother used to call it, chop meat, is all one and the same. Grind, as we call it, is a standard 80/20 mix at the shop — that’s an 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat ratio.

Most supermarket grind is far leaner than ours and often labeled with names rather than percentages: ground chuck, ground sirloin, and ground round. Although any cut of beef may be used for grind, the percentages are really what is being implied by these names: chuck is usually the standard 80/20 balance, while sirloin is a bit leaner, and round usually weighs in at 90 percent lean.

By law, the most fat that ground beef can contain if you buy it in a supermarket is 30 percent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create some brisket-short-rib grind at home that might top the scale at 40 percent fat. Fat is flavor and truly decadent burgers are made with a fatty grind. We personally prefer a 70/30 grind. But remember, the fattier the hamburger is, the harder it is to prevent flare-ups on your grill.

book cover

The Perfect Burger

If you like a flat top on your burger, use your thumb to make a divot in the middle of your patty. It will puff up as it cooks, giving you a nice surface on which to rest your (pastured) bacon, your heirloom tomato, and your local cheddar. Pressing the burger flat while cooking makes the juices run out — don’t do it. Kosher (or sea) salt liberally, then sear in a steel pan for two minutes per side, and transfer to a 325ËšF oven until it reaches your preferred doneness; check with a thermometer after three minutes in the oven. I like them bloody — I want it to look just spray-painted brown on the outside while still raw on the inside.

The USDA suggests that you cook your burger until the internal temperature reads 160ËšF. That’s because they want you to cook the sh*t out of it — literally! But remember, cooking does not destroy the prions that cause mad cow disease (nor does chemical disinfection or irradiation), and nothing can remove hormones and antibiotics.

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