Gail's post on Friday regarding our hunt for the Best Burger proposed a few essential factors for quality burgers. A recap of that list would read, "A Burger should be: 1. cheap, 2. chuck, 3. fresh ground, 4. filler-free, 5. juicy, 6. served with atmosphere, and 7. thick." That's a pretty tight list, to be sure, but not impossible to achieve. And one legendary burger shack, Hollywood's Le Tub, pretty much fulfills them all, save #2. Yes, Le Tub's award-winning 13-ounce burger is made with sirloin, not chuck.
But does that disqualify Le Tub's burger? Short answer? No. Read on to find out why, and gaze at the pictures for proof.
There are a variety of cuts that people use to grind for burgers, including short rib, round,
brisket, and sirloin. In fact, you'll often hear burger joints bragging that they use exclusively lean, ground sirloin in their patties, which is more of a marketing strategy aimed at folks who are looking for leaner choices. But a good burger should never be lean. If you want a light option, get a chicken sandwich. Just don't bastardize your burger.
So why do real burger luminaries choose chuck as their preferred cut of meat? The key factor in choosing which meat to use is fat content. Sirloin, as an example, is quite lean, usually clocking in at 10% fat by weight or
under. Chuck, on the other hand, dwarfs it at around 20%.
When that extra fat inside a burger made with chuck renders, it disperses a juicy payload
of water and oil throughout the meat. The end result is a juicier burger - or at least, that's the idea.
Let it be said: None of the above is worth a damn if you can't cook your hamburger right. You can still dry out a burger made with chuck, just like you can
still make a juicy, dripping beast that's crafted from a 10% fat
sirloin. And Le Tub is a good example of that. Their burger - a constant contender for Best Of, not just in South Florida, but all over America - is pure sirloin. Yet, it's amazingly juicy. You take a bite, and gobs of rendered fat drip down your chin and on to your plate. Personally, I think this has more to do with Le Tub's cooking method than what type of meat they use.
Le Tub uses an ancient-looking outdoor grill to cook its burgers. It has an open top, meaning there is never a cover to seal in heat and cook the burgers from any other angle than the bottom. It burns super hot, so the one side that is closest to the flame chars to a crisp, caramelizing the meat and sealing in juices. As far as I can tell, they flip the burger once, and they never press it, which is a huge burger no-no. On top of that, their patties are hugely thick, probably over an inch-and-a-half tall in the middle. For all those reasons, the burger at Le Tub takes a long time to cook. That, more than supposedly "rude" staff, is the real reason it takes a while to get your order at Le Tub. I think over the years, the people who work there have just grown sick of complainers asking when their epic, award-winning burger will be ready, all the while not realizing that good food just takes time. A great burger is always worth waiting for.
You might ask, what if Le Tub switched to chuck instead of sirloin? This leads me to my main problem with chuck: It has the perfect fat content, yes. But the flavor... well, something is not quite "beefy" enough about chuck to me. I've spent a lot of time making burgers at home, and chuck does always come out very juicy -- sometimes, it's even too fatty. But I've found that the beef flavor present is not always that great. Lately, I've switched to using eye of round and brisket, and I have to tell you, when cooked to a perfect medium rare, it blows away what I was doing with chuck, even at a lower fat content. The results were just meatier.
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As far as the Le Tub school is concerned, sirloin is here to stay. That said, I think there are some amendments to be made to that burger checklist: 8. High heat is a must. 9. A burger should never be cooked covered, nor should it be pressed. 10. The type of meat used (#2) should inform its juiciness (#5). If a joint can pull off #5 without maintaining #2, the burger can still reach great heights.
Most of all, you can't underestimate the important of #7 - the ambiance. Le Tub has every other burger place in South Florida slammed in that department, sirloin or no.