Category Archives: meat

The Burger 

Well, I’m back from my long sabbatical of blog writing. I’ve been busy with my Executive Chef position at Showcase Live. I was thinking about what would be a good return topic? I went with my favorite food subject; the burger.

The original hamburger was called the hamburger sandwich. It was created at the beginning of the 20th century when Americans went to work in the large factories and needed quick and easy food. No one is exactly sure who created it. Louis Lunch in New Haven CT has put in the claim as the first. I have been there and it’s a very small cool place. They cook their burgers vertically in the original cast iron grill and serve it between two pieces of toast. They only allow cheese, tomato, and onion on their sandwiches. No ketchup or mustard is allowed!

In the Boston area where I live, the best high-end burger is at Craigie On Main. This French inspired restaurant makes a VERY limited amount each day. When they are gone, that’s it! It’s a secret what goes into Chef Tony Maws burgers, but they are fucking awesome!

In the fast casual category, my favorite is Shake Shack. They make amazing burgers, crinkle fries, and shakes. Next on my list is Five Guys. The burgers are always juicy and you can get tons of condiments on them.

The West Coast has In-N-Out. They are what McDonalds and Burger King wish they could be. When I go out to visit my brother in L.A., I always drive thru In-N-Out for a Double-Double.

My least favorite is Smashburger. I have tried so hard to like them. We have one right around the corner from my house and my wife likes their burgers. They smash their meat onto the griddle, hence the name. This goes against everything I was taught about making a good burger. Smashing them makes the meat tough and they lose the juice. It also doesn’t help their cause when they screw up my order every single time I’ve been there. On the positive side, they have good chocolate shakes!

Of course making burgers at home is always a good choice. Make sure you use nothing higher than 80% lean. Use 75% lean if you can get it. If the ground beef is too lean, it will not be as juicy and will taste different. Fat has flavor! Don’t mess with it too much. Just form it into the desired size patty and leave it alone. Don’t mix seasoning into the meat. Put all the seasonings on the outside of the burger. Try not to mess with it during the cooking process. Flip it over only once. Don’t press down or smash it! Keep the burger simple. I like mine on grilled bread (not buns) with cheese, onion, and ketchup.


The Search For The Perfect Burger

Grass fed beef burger with cheddar cheese, mushrooms, and onions. Served with homemade french fries.

One of my favorite foods is the burger! If done right, it’s the perfect meal for your palate.  There is nothing like tender, juicy meat surrounded by the add-ons placed between the perfect bun.  I am always in search for the perfect burger.  The sad part is that I am disappointed more often than satisfied. The best burger I ever had was years ago at a restaurant in Providence RI in the Brown University area.  I can’t remember the name but I do remember the burger.  It was so juicy, that it got all over my new tie and white shirt.  I didn’t care because it was so awesome! I wish I could remember the name of the place.

There are several reasons why many restaurants don’t get it right.  Most of the time it starts with the beef.  To make a juicy burger  you need to start with a higher fat percentage.  It pisses me off when a store only sells 85% lean or higher.  Some stores will sell 80% but most don’t sell  70 or 75% which is better for a juicy burger.  Sometimes at home I will re-grind the burger  meat with other cuts to bump up the fat percentage. I know high fat burgers are bad for you, but you don’t eat a burger for health!

The other issue with ground beef is the handling of the  meat.  Don’t mess with it too much.  The more you handle, mix, pat, and touch the  meat, the tougher, less juicy it will be.  I never mix other ingredients into the ground meat.  If you want to do that, than make a  meatloaf.  Just quickly make your burger  paddy and stop.  Sprinkle with salt &  pepper or other seasons on the outside of the burger before cooking.

If you want other flavors, surround the  burger with them. For those who want to make a stuffed burger like a “Juicy Lucy”, the same applies.  Make two burgers, place the stuffed ingredients on top of one and top with the other burger. Again, less handling is best!

After you get the juicy burger perfected then you can dress them up with “other stuff”. This is where your food creativity comes in.  I believe you can add almost any combination of stuff to make it special.  Caramelized  onions, bacon, and mushrooms always work. But don’t stifle your creative food  side. Try adding really unique ingredients to the sandwich. The key is to bump  up the flavors that pair well with the meat.

Spiedies Are Mad Good!


Unless you are from the Binghamton NY area, you may have never heard of the Spiedie.  I was first introduced to them way back in the mid 1980’s while marketing a touring show in Binghamton. My introduction came when the local billboard company owner took me to a bar.  He ordered up a batch of Spiedies to go along with our round of beer.  The server brought out a plate of skewered meat along with a plate of white Italian bread.  After just one bite, I was hooked and I still am today.

What exactly is a Spiedie?  It is cubed meat usually lamb, pork, or chicken that is marinated up to 24 hours in a special marinade that resembles Italian salad dressing but has a very unique taste.  After the marinade bath, they are placed on skewers and grilled on a charcoal grill.  Traditionally the skewered meat is then placed on top of a bread slice.  The skewer is then pulled away leaving the meat in the bread making a one slice of bread sandwich.  You can also put the meat in a sub roll or even place on a salad.

There are only two companies (that I know of) that makes the Spiedie marinade.  They are Salamida Original State Fair Spiedie Sauce or Lupo’s Spiedies Both marinades are really good and both taste slightly different.  Whenever I am in upstate NY heading to Saratoga or Lake George, I make sure I stop at the grocery store to stock up.  Both companies also sell their marinades online. 

Once you have your first Spiedie sandwich you will want to make them a regular part of your grilling menu!