NYCWFF: Four Burger Myths Busted by Celebrity Butcher Pat LaFrieda

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Burger Myths Busted!

If you’ve sunk your teeth into a juicy burger at a top restaurant in America, there’s a good chance you’ve savored a Pat LaFrieda burger. The third-generation meat purveyor supplies meat to 1,500 active restaurants across the country—from the BLT group in New York to Prime 112 in Miami to Wynn and Encore in Vegas. And on Oct. 16, Pat LaFrieda Meats presents one of the 2015 New York City Wine & Food Festival’s marquee events—Blue Moon Burger Bash—where 40 chefs compete for best burger bragging rights. So, what’s the craziest burger Pat has seen at Burger Bashes past? “Doritos on top of a burger. That’s an amateur move I’ve seen some celebrity chefs do,” LaFrieda says. “If you want to win Burger Bash, keep it simple.” Here are four other mistaken ideas people have when it comes to the American classic.

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Myth #1: Burgers are BAD

You don’t need to wait till cheat day to bite into a burger. “I know a lot of professional bodybuilders, and they’re always requesting burger meat,” LaFrieda says.”A good quality burger is an amazing source of protein we’re all looking for. Much of the fat in an 80/20 (80% lean) burger renders out in the cooking process.” Besides, it’s really all the accoutrements, he says, like mayo, aioli, and other toppings, that pile on the calories and fat.

LaFrieda’s burger blend of choice? Brisket and boneless short rib. “Brisket has a sweet profile. It’s also a braising meat, a slow-cooked meat, so it actually holds up to the grinding procedure; there’s still some bite to a burger when you use cuts like that,” he says. “And boneless short rib is very similar to brisket texture-wise, but flavor-wise, it does have a denser, ‘more beefy’ flavor than any other part of the animal.”

Still insist on a healthier option? Try a flank steak burger. “Flank steak is 95% lean. If you grind flank steak, it’s too lean to make a burger unless you sear both sides without overcooking it. For a 1/8-inch smashed burger, that means a 550-degree surface cooking temperature with a quick flip, 50 seconds per side.”

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Myth #2: Bring Burgers to Room Temp

Chefs swear by bringing a burger to room temperature before cooking it, but LaFreida prefers to go from fridge to grate. “Staph grows on meat when it sits out,” he says. “When you sear the outside of meat, staph is the only pathogen you cannot kill with heat, so you have a greater chance of getting food poisoning.”

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Myth #3: Salt and Pepper BEFORE Grilling

“Salting a burger before is great, but pepper after,” he says. “Pepper tends to taste bitter once cooked.” LaFrieda’s idea of a perfect burger entails American cheese, arugula, sliced grape tomatoes on top of a potato roll.

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Myh #4: Resting a Burger Redistributes Juices

“That’s B.S.,” LaFrieda says, bluntly. “The reason you rest a burger is to take the exterior temp to meet the interior temp. That’s when you’ll get that one color from top to bottom. If chefs were correct, why do they rest a burger on an open grate with a fat trap underneath it.” And don’t rest for longer than 3-5 minutes (vs. the 10 that some chefs recommend). “I still want my burger warm!”

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