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Gastronaut: Umami Burger & Smashed Burger

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

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

Building an Ideal Burger: The Bun

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

Building an Ideal Burger: Toppings
Toppings Go classic (pickles and onion slices) or creative (aioli or a Thousand Island–style dressing).
Building an Ideal Burger: The Beef Grind

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

Building an Ideal Burger: The Bun

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

Perfect Smashed Burgers Technique

Making Smashed Burgers: Smash
1. Smash
Press the loosely formed balls of meat into very flat patties on the griddle.
Making Smashed Burgers: Add Onion and Flip
2. Add Onion + Flip
Place a handful of sliced onions on each patty, then flip.
Making Smashed Burgers: Top with Cheddar
3. Top with Cheddar
The onions brown and steam as the cheese melts.

Terrific Burgers, Condiments & More:

Video Video: Burger Recipes and Tips

Published June 2011
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