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You may not be able to hop south to McCrady’s Tavern in Charleston, South Carolina when it opens today, but you can still get Sean Brock’s five rules to making the best cheeseburger at home.
“You have to put yourself in my shoes at the moment,” Sean Brock tells me over the phone as he’s cranking up the music and counting down the hours to opening McCrady’s Tavern in Charleston, South Carolina. “I spent a year developing the Husk burger so that, once we released it into the wild, we would never change and, hopefully, people would like it.”
Then along came the Tavern Burger, the meticulously tested project making its debut today when the restaurant officially opens in the former McCrady’s space. (McCrady’s will open later this year in the old Minero spot as a 22-seat, “extremely serious dining experience,” Brock assures.) “We went to the cheeseburger drawing board,” he says. And after rounds of R&D and one experiment that exploded with five feet of béarnaise splatter, Brock and his team made a new iconic burger: Martin’s potato roll brushed with country ham fat-infused Duke’s mayo and stuffed with a dry-aged patty oozing with béarnaise.
However, not all of us have methylcellulose or the patience to give our burgers the molten lava cake effect, so Brock is kind enough to share how to make a simple but perfectly satisfying cheeseburger at home.
The 5 Building Blocks of the Perfect Cheeseburger
1. The Bun: “You have to absolutely use Martin’s Potato Rolls,” Brock says. “There’s a complexity of sweetness, umami and dairy.” And don’t tear the top of the bun from the bottom. “I love that it’s not cut all the way through. That keeps your burger together,” he adds. “Nothing makes me more upset than a patty falling out of a bun.”
2. The Meat: This is not where your beach body diet should be followed. “You need high-quality meat that has some age on it,” Brock explains. “You don’t want any of that lean burger meat.”
3. The Cheese: “I used to think American cheese was the only one that should be on a cheeseburger, but these days I’m trying new things,” the chef shares. “I really love Gruyère and white cheddar, but it’s hard to beat American cheese.”
4. The Onions: Brock has mastered turning raw onions into something less harsh but still crisp. “We cut and rinse them in water and, then once you flip the burger, lay the onions on top of the patty to steam a little bit,” he says. “That way they still have a snap to them, but they’re not completely raw.”
5. The Condiment: “I like mixing mayonnaise and ketchup, but there has to be some sort of condiment there,” Brock explains. However, he’s not pushing his own preferences. “I think that should be left up to the person. Then a beer, depending on how you’re feeling.”