Laurent Tourondel, who was named one of Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chefs in 1998, was born in France. But his U.S. empire—including BLT Steak, BLT Prime and BLT Fish—is focused on food that's all-American. He recently opened BLT Burger in New York City, with eight different kinds of burgers, including lamb merguez, salmon and vegetarian options. His favorite burger, however, is an all-beef version topped with classic American fixings. "Even when I was in Paris, I loved burgers the way they're done in America," he says. Here, his five tips for burger perfection.
1. Buy the proper meat
"For the best flavor in burgers, I like the ground meat to have 20 to 25 percent fat, and I combine different cuts of beef to get the ideal lean-to-fat ratio. I use sirloin, chuck, short ribs and brisket. I grind them on a medium setting—too fine and the burger will be too dense; too coarse and the burger will be too crumbly. Since most people don't have meat grinders, I tell them to have a butcher do it for them so the meat is fresh. The preground meat in the supermarket is usually packed too densely."
2. Form the patty
"I think a seven-ounce patty is the perfect size for one person, and it fits on the bread nicely. You want to make a patty that's compact enough that it won't fall apart. There's nothing worse than biting into a burger that falls all over the place. But don't pack the meat too much, because then the fat won't melt the way you want it to and the burger won't cook properly. And don't forget to season! I season the patties with salt and pepper right before I cook them."