Summer Eats: Grill Skill

How to Grill the Perfect Burger (Seriously)

Grain & Gristle's Ben Meyer spills the secrets to his unbeatably juicy burger.

By Benjamin Tepler June 19, 2018 Published in the July 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Thomas Teal

Pizza, ice cream, ramen—after the dust settles, Portland’s most debated superlative might really be “best burger.” For many, the crown belongs to Grain & Gristle, a pub from chef-owner Ben Meyer. The secret to Meyer’s unbeatably juicy, beefier-than-life burger? Really good meat.

The Beef

Meyer’s beef sourcing goes beyond a Portlandia trope. It’s pasture-raised, grain-free, grass-fed, whole-carcass beef from Cottage Grove chef-favorite Hawley Ranch. The clincher? It’s 30 to 35 percent fat. Most grocery stores top out at 20 percent, but any good butcher will happily grind you grass-fed, dry-aged beef with a higher fat-to-meat ratio.*

Meyer weighs his patties out to 5.5 oz (about a third of a pound) and shapes them using the lid from an old gallon-size Hellmann’s or Best Foods mayo jar; stick a piece of parchment paper inside the lid, add the meat, and press into another piece of parchment on the table.

The Bun

Meyer’s restaurants use brioche buns from Grano in Oregon City, but any sturdy, not-too-dense brioche bun will do. “It should have enough crust to stand up to the juices,” says Meyer, “disintegrating with your very last bite.”

The Toppings

  • Aioli: whisk 1 egg yolk in a small bowl until pale yellow. Slowly drizzle in 1 cup oil (3/4 cup olive, ¼ cup canola), whisking vigorously until emulsified. Whisk in 1 tsp kosher salt, one garlic clove, grated or minced, and the juice of 1 lemon, and refrigerate an hour before using.
  • Bread and butter pickles
  • Aged cheddar or blue cheese
  • Optional bacon or fried egg

The Grilling

Don’t start cooking until the coals are white-hot—you should only be able to hold your hand over the grate for 2–3 seconds. (Same goes for a gas grill.) Unless freshly ground, dry your patties beforehand. Salt well on both sides. Grill one side of the burger for 4 minutes, flip, and let cook another 3 minutes for rare, 4–5 for medium, and 5–6 for well. Pat it down once, but otherwise don’t press the burger into the grill: you’ll lose precious fat. Immediately place the burger onto an aioli-slicked bun so juices mingle into what Meyer calls “the magic sauce.”

*This primo beef (along with other Perfect Burger condiments) is available at Old Salt Marketplace (5027 NE 42nd Ave, 971-255-0167).

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