Layoffs at a major beef processing plant, a boom in U.S. imports of beef, and record high prices of fresh lean beef trimmings are some of the effects of the "pink slime" controversy—the use of ammonia hydroxide-treated beef trimmings as a burger additive, known as "lean, finely textured beef" (LFTB) in the beef industry. Read more from Reuters.
You love Pat LaFreida; we love Pat LaFreida (and if you don't know Pat, his new show on the Food Network, Meat Men, will make a fine introduction). He supplies stellar meat to some of the best restaurants in New York City and all around the country, and a good percentage of our favorite New York burgers start with his custom blends. So when Pat offered to take us on a burger crawl of the city to learn how some of our favorite burgers get made, the only questions were, "How many?" and, "When do we get started?"
We decided to focus on four burgers that AHT considers exemplary of different burger cooking styles. All the burgers in this series come from meat ground in Pat's plant, and are the result of painstaking testing, tasting, and conversation to develop the just the right balance of texture, flavor, and burger magic.
I don't know who it is that designated May as National Burger month, but I'd like to give them a big, sloppy, greasy, onion-scented, cheese-covered kiss on the mouth. Or perhaps just a hug is fine. What better excuse to celebrate our national sandwich (national food?) and look back at the dozens of well-tested burger recipes we have in our archives?
Here are 22 burger recipes that run the gamut form simple to complex, with representation from around the country, breaking regional borders, and indeed inter-species relations. Perhaps burgers are the key to world peace. Check out the individual recipes below, or click through the slideshow above for a bigger look at the goods.
350 Harbor Drive, Sausalito CA 94965 (map); 415-331-FISH; 331fish.com Cooking Method: Grilled Short Order: You could do a lot worse than this patty of beef served at a restaurant that specializes in fish. They just need a slightly less arid bun. Want Fries with That? They come with it and they're good enough Price: The Big Burger, with or without cheese, $14
Though it threatens my self-image as a true food geek, I have a difficult relationship with fish. I actually quite like the stuff when I order it, but it's as if a childhood aversion remains lodged somewhere in my brain, inducing a knee-jerk anticipation of an off-putting fishy funk that steers me towards other proteins when I contemplate a menu. The end result is that I only order seafood if I'm at a place where I'm sure it will be top quality.
This shouldn't be a problem at Fish*. The Sausalito restaurant specializes in serving up fresh, sustainable sea food. But even then, I'll admit I found myself a little pleased when I noticed that, for their non-piscine option, Fish offers up a hamburger made of Prather Ranch beef. Despite recognizing the incongruity of ordering beef at a restaurant named Fish, it didn't take much arm twisting for me to decide that I really needed to try this burger.
* They actually write the restaurant's name with a period (.) after the word fish. I have opted not to do that because, well, it's kind of a pain in the ass when it comes to writing clearly punctuated sentences.
Of course we love our mom & pops, and our favorite burger joints around the country are pretty much all independently owned, but there are certain times in life—overnight layovers, hungover Sunday mornings, all-day shopping trips at the outlets—that the only options around are the chains. Chain Reaction is here to help you decide when to go for the burger, and when you're better off sticking with the chicken fingers.
[Photographs: Erin Jackson]
Hero Certified Burgers
77 Wellesley St., Toronto ON (map)
28 locations in Ontario, plus more to come. Full list at heroburgers.com The Schtick: Chain serving 100 percent Heritage Angus beef burgers, sourced from a select group of farmers in Western Canada The Burger: A bland, mushy, cooked from frozen mess Want Fries With That? The poutine isn't bad, but I'd just stick with the shakes Setting: Brightly-lit, semi-comfortable fast casual restaurant that makes a big deal about the quality of their beef, but still serves lousy burgers Price: four-ounce Hero Burger, $4.99; six-ounce Hero Burger, $5.99; poutine, $4.99; chocolate shake, $3.99
A lot of things have changed in the (nearly) two years since I left Toronto. Massive skyscrapers and condo developments are everywhere, there's shiny new subway cars, and Hero Certified Burgers has emerged as the leading homegrown burger chain. I still remember when the first location opened in 2003 in the swanky Hazelton Lanes food court, where you could listen to a piano player while eating lunch and it felt natural to pay extra for a better-than-average burger. In those days, a burger cost $5 to $8, and the city was still getting used to the idea of "premium burgers." Other operators had tried the concept (and failed) but Hero had a winning formula: The burgers were a significant step up from fast food fare, while being reasonably priced and consistently good.
The concept has remained consistent over the years. Burgers are available in three sizes (four, six, and eight ounces), and can be topped with 31 different toppings, including premium cheeses like Swiss Emmenthal and Fior di Latte, plus sauces like Horseradish Dijon, mango, and guacamole. About half of the toppings are free; others will run you an extra 79¢ to $1.29.
The chain has swelled to 28 locations, with two more in the works, but along the way, the quality has taken a nosedive.
112 East Main Street, Ramsey NJ 07446 (map); 201-934-0002; jerseyburgers.net Cooking Method: Flat Griddled Want Fries with That? Fries are generic crinkle cut; eh Price: Plain hamburger, 5-6oz, $4.49 Seating note: Two small round bar tables and counter—that's it
I've wanted to try Jersey Burgers in Ramsey, NJ, for a long time. Finally, I went for lunch a few weeks ago and ordered the Double Cheeseburger with raw onion and pickle. I asked for my burgers med-rare and for the first time in my life received my double beauty with two different temperatures: one patty was med-rare and one was well done. Very odd, no? If not for this and the very stale roll, this burger could have been a contender, as the meat tasted fresh and was very juicy despite the one well done patty. Although there is no excuse for serving a stale roll on a burger, I would give Jersey Burgers one more try.
In the kitchen at Rub BBQ. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]
Our friends at Rub BBQ in New York City are holding their second annual Burger Bash on May 20, when they'll be serving four off-the-menu burgers from award winning barbecue-ists from 12 to 2 p.m. The $44.95 ticket price includes a North African Lamb Burger, the Mac-N-Cheese burger, the Bacon Burger, and the Black and Blue Burger, along with two artisanal draft beers or fountain drinks and a choice of one small order of fries or onion strings.
You can buy tickets online or enter our contest to win one of two pairs of tickets. Just answer this question in the comments section below: What kind of burger would you most like Rub BBQ to make?
208 West 23rd Street, New York NY 10011 (map)
Contest will end and comments will close at 5 p.m. ET, Monday, May 14, 2012. One entry per community member. Two winners will be chosen at random. Winners are limited to anyone who can travel to Rub BBQ on Sunday, May 20, at noon. Standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.
This week Wendy's reported that their first-quarter sales of 2012 were lower than expected, at less than 1 percent sales growth in North American locations, partially due to the promotion of their mid-tier burger, the W. From Marketwatch:
Wendy's Co., which is in the midst of a menu make-over to regain its position a higher-quality fast-food chain, still saw its sales growth lag that of its rivals in the first quarter, while its profitability also declined.
Wendy's hoped its new "W" cheeseburger would boost sales and profit margins by becoming a signature hit, like McDonald's Big Mac or Burger King's Whopper. While the new burger was intended to prompt value-menu-guests to trade up to the higher-margin item, Wendy's found that higher-paying customers were downgrading to the W instead.
"The positioning of W clearly was not where it needed to be. As a result, we will not promote the W again nationally," said Chief Financial Officer Stephen Hare on a conference call.
In the meantime, Burger King's first-quarter sales in North American grew 4.2 percent, the first sales growth they've had in two years. From The Miami Herald:
The Miami-based fast-food chain on Wednesday reported first-quarter earnings that included same-store sales growth of 4.2 percent for North American restaurants. This sales growth, which is considered the best measure of a restaurant's health, also helped Burger King turn a profit for the quarter ending March 31. Burger King reported a net profit of $25 million for the quarter, compared with a loss of $5.9 million during the same period last year.
Burger King Chief Financial Officer Daniel Schwartz credited the improvement to strong sales of its "new original chicken sandwich and French fries,'' plus promotional programs. The company also has been cutting costs through restructuring and refinancing its debt.