“The mindset of opulence and great living. No compromise on quality or level of excellence.” -Luxury defined by Chef Eric LeVine
When it comes to grilling and making a better burger, Chef Eric LeVine is our go-to guy. May is National Burger Month, and with summer barbecues and long holiday weekends just ahead, we asked Chef Eric if he would share with our readers some of his burger grilling secrets. This multi-award-winning chef, restaurateur and author has just launched this third cookbook, Burgers, Bowls, Jars – Season by Season. Perfect timing!
Who is Chef Eric?
While most kids were playing with action figures, Eric was in the kitchen, testing and tasting recipes. As a youngster growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Eric found excitement, challenges and passion in his favorite place – the kitchen. He studied at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and soon after graduation, worked under celebrity chef David Burke at the River Café. He credits this experience with sparking his creative artistry with food.
Food Art Magazine named Chef Eric one of the Top Ten Chefs. He was featured in Jezebel Magazine in the Top Twenty Chefs of Distinction. Catering Magazine, Cater Source Magazine and Chef Magazine all recognized him for his creative small plate creations and trend-setting approach. He has made numerous network appearances across NBC, ABC, Fox5 and The Food Network, where he became the 2011 Champion of “Chopped”, the network’s highest rated show.
Before we fire up the grill let’s take a few bites of burger history…
Who invented the burger?
“According to Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, the hamburger, a ground meat patty between two slices of bread, was first created in America in 1900 by Louis Lassen, a Danish immigrant, owner of Louis’ Lunch in New Haven.” 1 The American staple is eaten nearly 50 billion times each year!
White “Castle” making more sense?
In German, Burg means “castle”, “fortified settlement” or “fortified refuge” and is a widespread component of palace names.2 White Castle burgers have onions, so not my thing, but I always wondered about the name. Mystery solved.
Guinness World Records notes the largest hamburger weighed 1,164.2 kg (2,566 lb 9 oz) and was achieved by Wolfgang Leeb, Tom Reicheneder, Rudi Dietl, Josef Zellner, Hans Maurer and Christian Dischinger (all German) in Pilsting, Germany, on 9 July 2017.
The hamburger consisted of three meat patties, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, onions, hamburger sauce and a bun.
Chef Eric’s top three tips for grilling a better burger (and more):
- Have a hot clean grill.
- Season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.
- Allow the burger to rest after coming off the grill to allow juice to redistribute.
When cooking a burger, the chef says the ideal temperature “for beef no more than medium rare, and for god sake don’t push down on the burger, you’ll force out all those beautiful juices.” He’s struggles a bit when asked what his “go-to” burger is right now–and finally says: “That’s a hard one. Right now I’m really excited about the shrimp burger from my cookbook, Burgers, Bowls, Jars. My customers are loving it and it’s a great alternative protein.” He enjoys accompanying his burger with, “anything whiskey or bourbon as a cocktail.”
When he’s not grilling up his own burger creation, Chef Eric tells me his second-best burger is Emily’s in Brooklyn. “Wow so good!” Though I’ve not experienced Emily’s–yet. I did some research, thinking I might stop by while I’m in The Big Apple this summer. Unfortunately (for me), the Emily Brooklyn Burger is covered in caramelized onions. That’s a no-go for me (and they don’t do substitutions). However, if you’re looking for a burger served on a Tom Cat pretzel bun, made with Fleisher’s grass-fed dry-aged beef and topped with Grafton cheddar, caramelized onion and secret Emmy sauce, Chef Eric says it’s worth the trip!
(View video “Why Emily Has The Best Burger In NYC” courtesy of Legendary Eats at the end of this article.)
Condiments, influence and advice…
When it comes to condiments, I inquire as to which one would be Chef Eric’s only–if he were put into that unfortunate situation. His response–“pickles”–surprises me, but after consideration, I might agree. He explains: “Pickles isn’t a condiment, but so good. A nice crispy homemade pickle, that crack on the bite and acidity is just beautiful when made right.”
A hamburger may seem like an everyman’s meal, however this classically-trained chef’s work is influenced by his time spent studying with Chef Jean-Louis Le Massion from Le Petite Café in France. “I think every chef I worked for as a kid had massive influence on me in every way. The way I walk into my kitchen, my observation and critical thinking, my ability to manage the team, motivate and support them. I think in most European kitchens, the sense of pride and rage for order is probably the biggest take-away.”
His advice for aspiring chefs, “Stay focused on the craft. Don’t get blinded by fame or being too ‘outside the box’ until you are ready. Eat properly, get rest, laugh like a crazy person, be honest, dedicated and humble. Good things will come from hard work; there is no fast track to long-term success.”
Chef Eric has so much more to share about grilling burgers in his latest book, Burgers, Bowls, Jars – Season by Season, which includes more in-depth tips and recipes covering:
- Proper grilling techniques (indoor and outdoor)
- Provide burger patty recipes for both carnivores and vegetarians
- How to make the perfect patty
- Bold condiments (i.e. bacon onion marmalade, spicy garlic aioli, jalapeno bacon slaw)
- What toppings make the perfect bite
- Bun selection, why it matters
- Cooking a patty indoors (when you don’t have an outdoor grill)
Thank you, Chef Eric for sharing your burger grilling tips! What’s my favorite burger experience? UK’s Honest Burgers…check it out here.
To learn more about Chef Eric LeVine or buy a copy of his book Burgers, Bowls, Jars – Season by Season, visit chefericlevine.com or stop by Mr. Crabby’s.