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Bobby Flay shares his secrets to making the ultimate burger

Perfect your burgers with Bobby Flay's top 10 tips: How to melt cheese evenly, guarantee a juicy patty and more!
by Tracy Saelinger /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY Contributor

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Every summer, it seems, burger lovers vow that this will be the year they will perfect their burger-making skills and burger recipes. Well, listen up, burger lovers. It’s that time of year again, and to help jump-start summer grilling resolutions, chef Bobby Flay shared all of his burger secrets. Flay knows a thing or two about burgers, judging from the crowds at his Bobby’s Burger Palace restaurants.

Here are the chef’s tips to turning out the ultimate, show-stopping burger:

1. Use 80/20 ground chuck

An 80-percent lean, 20-percent fat ratio is Flay’s choice for burger patties, because of the relatively high fat content — it guarantees a juicy burger. The blend is not exactly diet-friendly, but the chef said it’s the worth the occasional splurge: “To me, if you’re going to eat a burger, it might as well taste good.”

2. Make a thumbprint in the middle of the patty

Using a thumb, make a deep depression in the center of each patty to keep the burger from puffing up and bulging in the center. Otherwise, “It plumps up like a football and people smash it down. That’s the last thing you want to do,” Flay said. This technique “fakes out the burger,” he said, and the patty ends up taking the exact shape you want.

3. Season with salt and pepper ONLY

Do sprinkle the outside of the burger liberally with salt and pepper. But do not season the meat mixture itself or add herbs, onions or garlic to it. "That is meatloaf,” Flay told TODAY Food. “We are making burgers."

4. Use canola oil, cast iron and high heat

Flay loves using cast iron for burgers. "Cast iron has excellent heat diffusion and retention and produces evenly cooked burgers with a really great crust," he said. Heat a cast-iron pan or griddle on high heat, he said, until it begins to slightly smoke. Then, add a few teaspoons of canola oil, which has a neutral flavor, put the burgers in the pan or on the griddle and do not touch them until it’s time to flip.

5. Flip once

Once a crust has formed on the bottom, which takes at least 3 minutes, use a metal spatula and them flip over. "Do not even start flipping the burger until a crust has formed or the meat will fall apart, and you will lose that perfect round shape," Flay told TODAY Food. Continue cooking until a crust has formed on the bottom once again, and the burger is cooked to your desired doneness, about 4 more minutes for medium, which is the chef’s preference.

6. Get the temperature just right

"To me, a perfect beef burger is pink and juicy in the middle and cooked somewhere between medium-rare and medium which is about an internal temperature of 145 degrees," said Flay.

Note that the USDA recommends cooking ground beef until it reaches an internal temperature of 160˚F for safety reasons. "For those who are very young or very old, pregnant or have compromised immune systems, they should definitely have their burgers cooked well-done," he added.

Here’s a cheat sheet to total approximate cooking times:

Rare: 6 minutes

Medium rare: 7 minutes

Medium: 8 minutes

Medium-well: 9 minutes

Well-done: 11 minutes

7. Don’t be afraid to mix cheeses

Flay recommended using a slice of American and a slice of white cheddar: "I’m not afraid to say I love American cheese."

8. Add water to melt the cheese

At this point, place two slices of cheese on each burger, add a few splashes of water and immediately cover the pan tightly. Cook until the cheese is completely melted, about 30 seconds. Building up that steam is the key to his genius trick: It completely and evenly melts and enrobes the patty in cheese every time. It drives the chef crazy when he’s eating out and a restaurant doesn’t melt the cheese: "In my restaurants, there is a sign in each kitchen that says: ‘Bobby Says Melt the Cheese Completely.’ It has to be melted to have the perfect cheeseburger."

9. Use a squishy bun

Flay recommended soft “squishy” buns, so there isn't a huge mouthful of bread with eat bite. “A burger is a sandwich and is meant to be eaten as such. Rolls tend to break up the burger and the next thing you know, you need a knife and fork. Burgers should never have to be eaten with a knife and fork. A soft bun molds itself around the contents,” he said. Flay loves the kind of with sesame seeds and toasts them lightly before placing the burger on the buns.

10. “Crunchify” the burger

“People are putting way too many things on their burgers — the whole burger thing has gotten out control,” Flay said. So he likes to keep things simple with classic toppings like dill pickles, lettuce and ketchup, but does highly recommend one key creative addition: potato chips. “One must always 'crunchify' a burger,” Flay said. “When eating a burger, there is nothing better than getting a mouthful of juicy burger and salty, crispy potato chips in one bite.”

This post was originally published on May 27, 2016.

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