So THAT's How Restaurants Make Burgers Taste So Much Better

Chef assembling the buns with cheeseburgers in the restaurant kitchen, wearing a uniform
Chef assembling the buns with cheeseburgers in the restaurant kitchen, wearing a uniform Guillermo Spelucin via Getty Images

I’ve recently shared how restaurants make their salads taste so much better than you can make them at home.

But what about the less-veggie-heavy fare, like burgers?

As grilling season creeps closer and closer, I’ve been wondering just why it is that takeaway burgers, and burgers from restaurants, taste so much better than my DIY attempts.

Thankfully YouTuber and former chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant, @SenPaiKai9000, shared how it’s done

What are the chef’s tips?

According to @SenpaiKai9000′s YouTube Short, part of the secret lies in the meat itself.

“You can grind your own meat, but I actually think that the store-bought 80/20 ground chuck works better because fresh ground beef can be a little too loose and just fall apart,” he says.

Then, we get to the cooking method. @SenpaiKai9000 swears by a preheated, medium-heat cast iron skillet for indoor cooking, saying, “it retains heat really well.”

Once your meat is cooking, you can use a pounder or a heavy spatula to press it into the pan ― but you do need to press it INTO the pan, the chef says.

“It creates much better contact with the surface and your tools won’t stick to the ground beef” that way, he says.

“Smear the centre first and the edges a little to create that little lattice texture. Cook it ’til the burger’s like 75% done,” he added, revealing he’d placed sliced onions on the top side of the burger, “and then when you flip it it should look like a leather crust.”

After that, give it about 45 seconds on the other side before topping it with the pan-cooked onions and American cheese. “I like this on a potato roll with some butter and pickles,” he ends.

American cheese? Really?

If there’s one thing I would like food snobs enthusiasts to forget, it’s the idea that all American cheese is always bad. American cheese has its place, and that place is on a burger.

In case you think I’m some obstinate Philistine, science (sort of) has my back: the cheese contains sodium citrate, “an extremely common emulsifying salt that is used to keep the cheese creamy as it melts,” Serious Eats writes.

That makes it a uniquely good, stable melter; “It’s thanks to this little molecule that American cheese won’t break, instead staying glossy and gooey no matter how much you seem to heat it and cool it down.”

And Nick Philips of Sweet Cheeks Meats butchers told Food & Wine that its mild flavour actually does more of a service to good beef than its supposedly classier counterparts, like tangy Cheddar and pungent blue cheese, ever could.

“If you’re using good beef you want that flavour to shine, and processed [American] cheese is the perfect complement,” he said, making the case for the manufactured marvel alongside multiple chefs.

So there we have it ― the secret to restaurant-grade burgers is a good meat mix, a heavy press, perfect timing, and American cheese.