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Recipes worthy of a burger whisperer

Whether you like your burgers stripped-down and lean, basted in butter or super-sized, there's a recipe here you'll want to save.

Whether you like your burgers stripped-down and lean, basted in butter or super-sized, there's a recipe here you'll want to save.

Our opinionated experts also share their strong, sometimes conflicting opinions on how to make the best burger.

Let's start with Josh Ozersky, who has strong feelings about low-fat hamburgers.

"A lean burger is an abominable object," says Ozersky, author of "The Hamburger: A History." "Everything that is valuable in the meat lies in the fat. The way I think of it is, the fat is the meat and meat is the vegetable."

The prevailing wisdom in traditional burger making is using an 80 percent lean ground beef.

This fatty variety of meat creates a sublime patty that oozes meaty juice with each bite.

Low-fat varieties too often result in patties that are lean, but lousy.

"You can go 90/10, but it doesn't have the same sort of bite to it, and doesn't make a great burger," says Frank Proto, executive chef at Landmarc, a New York bistro.

He also isn't impressed by most efforts to add fillers or other ingredients to moisten lean beef.

"You put that stuff in and it's not only a binder but also an extender. Does it make the texture any better? Yeah, but it starts to taste like a meatloaf," he says.

Ozersky says the best way to make a lean burger is to make a smaller burger.

A quarter-pound patty of 80 percent lean beef has 290 calories and 23 grams of fat. The half pounders served at most restaurants pack 580 calories and 46 grams of fat.

Not willing to downsize? Cut 85 percent beef with lean ground buffalo, ostrich or emu. A half-pound burger made from a 1-to-1 ratio of 85 percent beef agd buffalo, for example, sports 450 calories and 30 grams of fat.

Here's how to do it:


1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef

1 pound ground buffalo

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat a grill to medium-high.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Form the mixture into 4 patties.

When the grill is ready, coat the grates with cooking spray or rub them with an oil-soaked paper towel held by tongs. Grill the burgers for 5 to 8 minutes per side, depending on desired doneness. Serves 4.

Bobby Flay obviously isn't counting the calories for this recipe, which bastes burgers in garlic butter. If you like, add fresh herbs or Worcestershire sauce to the butter to boost the flavor even more.


12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

4 cloves garlic

1/2 small shallot, chopped

3 tablespoons chopped fresh

flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt and ground black

pepper, to taste

1 1/2 pounds 80 percent lean

ground chuck

4 hamburger buns, split

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

In a food processor, combine the butter, garlic, shallot and parsley. Process until smooth, then season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the butter mixture to a bowl, then cover and set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. The butter will keep in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before using.

Heat a gas grill to high or burn coals in a charcoal grill until they glow bright orange and ash over.

Divide the meat into 4 portions. Loosely form each portion into a 3/4-inch patty and make a deep depression in the center with your thumb. Season both sides of each burger with salt and pepper.

Brush the cut sides of each bun with about 1/2 tablespoon of the butter.

Brush the burgers with the oil. Grill the burgers, brushing them every 30 seconds with the remaining garlic butter, until golden brown and slightly charred on the bottoms, about 3 minutes.

Flip the burgers and cook until golden brown and slightly charred on the second side, about 4 minutes more for medium rare, or until cooked to desired doneness. Meanwhile, toast the buns. When the burgers are done, serve immediately on the buns. Serves 4.

Source: "Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries and Shakes" (Clarkson Potter, $25.95)

John Torode, author of the recent cookbook "Beef and Other Bovine Matters," has several tips for turning out the perfect moist burger, even when cooked to well done.

First off, don't use salt, he insists. It dries out the patty.

Instead, Torode seasons with Chinese oyster sauce. He also refrigerates the burger mixture before grilling, which he says helps the burgers stay moist and bind together during cooking.

At his London restaurant, Smiths of Smithfield, Torode serves these massive burgers topped with broiled bacon and a slice of cheddar cheese. The burgers are broiled until the cheese melts and are served on toasted buns with mayonnaise.


3 pounds ground chuck

2 medium red onions, diced

Large handful fresh flat-leaf

parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 egg yolk

In a large bowl, mix together the beef, onions and parsley. Add the oyster sauce, ketchup and egg yolk. Mix well, kneading the mixture until thoroughly combined. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions, roll each into a ball, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When ready to cook, heat the grill on high for 10 minutes with the lid closed. Alternatively, heat a cast-iron grill pan or broiler pan over medium. Do not add oil to the pan.

Place the burgers on the grill or in the pan and leave for a few minutes until the edges start to color. Use a spatula to turn the burgers and brown on the other side, about 5 minutes.

Turn the burgers again. If grilling, move them to the side or to a cooler spot on the grill. If using a pan, reduce the heat. Let the burgers cook for another 15 minutes for well done, or to desired doneness. Serves 6.

Source: John Torode's "Beef and other Bovine Matters" (The Taunton Press, $34.95)