Chef Michael Mina has similar philosophies on cooking and life—both are all about balance. For the award-winning chef, restaurateur and cookbook author, the key to a perfect dish is balancing the four basic flavor elements of spice, sweetness, acidity and richness.
We’ve collaborated with the San Francisco-based chef on an exclusive new collection of seasonings and small-batch relishes that are inspired by the creations he serves at his Santa Clara, CA-based restaurant, Bourbon Pub. It’s a gathering place where he puts his spin on classic pub fare—and that, of course, includes plenty of burgers.
Since he’s so well-known for capturing all-American favorites—heck, he even hosts a regular tailgate at football games!—we asked the chef where he stands on some very important burger issues like meat-to-fat ratios, the best way to determine doneness and more.
What’s your general philosophy when it comes to making burgers?
Michael Mina: I believe that a burger must have balance with the proper meat-to-bun ratio, textural contrast, cheese, and sauce to finish, of course.
What type of meat do you use when constructing a hamburger patty from scratch?
MM: A 75-25 meat-to-fat ratio is ideal; I like to make a blend of brisket, chuck and short rib. If you can, buy dry-aged meat; dry aging gives burgers a distinct flavor.
When forming patties, would you recommend packing the meat tightly?
MM: One pet peeve of mine is when burger meat gets worked too much. Burgers need to be packed—a large ring mold is best to help form their shape—but they should not be mixed.
What’s the best way to determine doneness for a burger?
MM: A meat thermometer is always the safest and smartest way to cook patties perfectly.
As important as the patty is, we can’t overlook the bun. What do you do to make it special? Do you warm it up in some way, or toast it on the grill?
MM: The bun is essential; it must be able to hold up to the juiciness of the burger. In my opinion, hamburger buns must always be brushed with butter, then toasted. Sesame seeds on top are always great as well.
You’ve just come out with a new line of Bourbon Pub spice blends and sauces. How do you put them to good use?
MM: The spice blends are best for dusting on the burgers before grilling. I like to then finish off my burgers with our flavorful sauces. Sounds pretty simple, I know, but sometimes simple is best.
What last words of advice do you have for anyone grilling a burger at home?
MM: Remember that balance is key! Sometimes too many toppings can ruin a burger.