For superjuicy burgers with a delicious sear, pros like Umami Burger's Adam Fleischman know a griddle beats a grill.

August 08, 2012

While burger experts debate everything from meat blends to beef-to-bun ratio, there's a growing consensus that the best cooking tool isn't a grill—it's a griddle. "You get a more even sear, and the fat bastes the burger instead of dripping through the grate," explains Adam Fleischman. He's the founder of Umami Burger, a Los Angeles chain that looks beyond ketchup and mustard to other flavor boosters, like "umami dust," a savory mix that includes ground kombu (a type of seaweed) and dried shiitake mushrooms.

To demonstrate the griddle's superiority, Fleischman shares two of his best burger recipes here. One is a classic eight-ounce patty topped with Stilton cheese and a port reduction; the other is a "smashed" burger, an old-school style that involves flattening a ball of ground meat on the griddle, then cooking it with onions and cheese. For the best results, Fleischman suggests cooking burgers on a griddle that's set atop a grill: "You get that smoky flavor, without losing the juices and the crisp sear."

An Ideal Burger

Bun Tender is better: Crusty buns make biting through a burger too difficult.

Toppings Go classic (pickles and onion slices) or creative (aioli or a Thousand Island–style dressing).

Beef Grind Fat content of 20 to 30 percent is critical. Ask a butcher for the right percentage.

Patty-to-Bun Ratio According to Fleischman, every bite should be half patty, half bun.

Perfect Smashed Burgers Technique

Press the loosely formed balls of meat into very flat patties on the griddle.

Place a handful of sliced onions on each patty, then flip.

The onions brown and steam as the cheese melts.

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