Gift Guide: For Burger-Making Lovers
It's hard to get your burger game on without the right tools and raw materials for the job. We already gave you some of the basics in last year's guide, like a meat grinder, a slicer for your onions, and a custom steaming towel, but here are eight more gifts for the burger lover in your life. From the most devout worshippers at the holy church of ground cow flesh to the casual burger eater eager beaver, there's something here for all.
Plastic Squeeze Bottles ($7 for three)
Maybe this sounds vulgar, but burgers are just begging to be squirted on. Whether it's mustard, ketchup (please don't), In-n-Out-style burger spread, or even a batch of homemade mayonnaise in two minutes or less, the squirting and storage process becomes much easier when you've got a few handy squeeze bottles hanging around. They can all be yours (or your favorite burger lover's) for a couple bucks apiece.
Presto Cool Touch Tilt N' Drain Electric Griddle ($35)
There's nothing better than a cast iron or blue steel griddle or skillet for cooking burgers on a real live stovetop, but if you're the type who likes to entertain, it's nice to have an alternate large cooking surface for your burgers. Of all the electric portable griddles I've tried for under $100 or so (and it's a lot), the Presto Cool Touch Tilt N' Drain is the only one that heats up quickly and evenly enough to get the job done. Heck, I cooked 800 Telway-White Manna-Animal Style Mashup sliders at the Serious Eats Sandwichfest on one of these puppies.
They're also great for making breakfast for a crowd. Is it the greatest griddle in the world? Nope. But does it get the job done for a very reasonable price? You betcha.
A Stiff Spatula (under $10)
I still love my Due Buoi Wide Spatula to no end, but unfortunately, I can't find any online sources to order it. I picked mine up at Williams-Sonoma, so it's worth a look.
However, there are a number of readily available online options, such as this Square End Commercial Spatula. Key qualities to look for: a very stiff, firm head perfect for smashing your raw beef into the griddle to maximize contact and produce a perfectly browned crisp crust, along with a full tang—that is, the metal head should continue directly all the way to the top of the handle for optimal robustness.
Pat LaFrieda's Short Rib Blend Burgers ($21)
Nobody knows burgers like Pat LaFrieda, and starting this year, you can order their amazingly awesomely tasty burger blends online for home delivery. My favorite is the rich short rib blend, though you can also get an organic version, a brisket blend, or the original blend—the one that made LaFrieda a household name and put New York on the burger map.
Unicorn Magnum Pepper Mill ($38)
I've said it before and I'll say it again: A burger without pepper is like a bath without bubbles. And when I say pepper, I mean real, honest-to-goodness, freshly cracked from real-life whole peppercorns, not flavorless dust-from-a-can pre-ground stuff. Leave it on the shelves!
There are a lot of pepper mills on the market, some worth buying, some not. You want one with a large capacity, an adjustable grind size, and a 100 percent metal grinding mechanism for maximum lifespan. Peugeot may be the Cadillac of pepper mills, but the Unicorn Magnum is the Toyota Camry. It's not much to look at, but it works extremely well, rapidly pulverizing pepper and distributing it evenly over your food. I've had mine for over 5 years now in heavy use with not a single lapse in service. That's $40 well-spent in my book.
Commercial Salt Shaker ($10 for two)
I sure love my salt cellar, and there's nothing like pinching salt between your fingers to feel exactly how much you're using, but when you're working rapidly, don't want to get meaty fingers into the salt cellar, or need to season a lot of things FAST, you'd be well off to have a nice high-volume salt shaker. These Commercial Stainless Salt Shakers are the same ones you see in diners and drive-throughs all over the country where cooks use them to rapidly and evenly coat foods with a dusting of salt. I keep one up by my stove at all times.
Cast Iron or Blue Steel Skillet or Crepe Pan (Prices vary)
Cast iron or blue steel are the best surfaces for retaining high heat and getting a nice sear on your griddled patties. It's cheap, durable, and pretty good looking to boot. (See our guide to buying, seasoning, and caring for cast iron here.)
While the deep-walled cast iron skillet is the more common pan design, for burgers I actually prefer the shallow slope-sided crepe pans which give you a little more leverage when smashing and scraping up patties.
Potato Rolls (Prices vary)
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.