It is important to use prime grade beef because, due to its intense marbling, less external fat is required in the the blend, thus concentrating the beef flavor. I generally use fresh prime ground chuck, but if you want to go all out, have your butcher grind up a combination of dry aged ribeye, skirt steak and brisket.
If your butcher won’t grind up small portions, you can get a grinder at Academy Sports (yes, Academy Sports) for around $20.
The beef—from grinding or chopping to the formation of the patty—is worked as little as possible. I make sure it is at room temperature, apply Himalayan Pink salt and fresh ground black pepper, then press a gentle circle in the middle of the patty to prevent shriveling. The result is an extremely fluffy burger that retains its juices. The cast iron skillet is not searing hot as one might assume—the Black Label produces such a thick crust that it can be difficult to achieve even a rare internal temperature without completely burning the outside when cooking on high heat.
Grapeseed Oil, chosen for its neutral flavor, is used in the skillet to prevent the patty from sticking until it develops a crust. The patty is gently placed in the skillet and pressed down with just enough pressure to ensure complete contact with the cooking surface. Clarified butter is drizzled on top of the patty and copious amounts of Himalayan pink salt and ground black pepper are added throughout the cooking process. Once the patty has developed a decent crust it is gingerly turned over every 30 seconds (yes, every 30 seconds), treated more like a delicate piece of fish than a hamburger. When it is cooked to order, it is left to rest like a steak to allow the juices to redistribute within the patty. While the burger lounges, the previously caramelized onions are griddled in the beef juices to a deep char. This only takes a moment before they are placed on the burger to rest while the bun is prepared.
Now the focus shifts to the supporting ingredients. The Black Label needs a very special bun. A Challah roll is perfect with its tan crust and creamy, eggy interior — a Kaiser roll will do if you can’t find the Challah roll. I buy them a day in advance so the bun can harden slightly overnight, allowing it to become more robust. It is then cut ahead of time to allow the open face to become slightly stale and better stand up to the torrents of juice that the Black Label patty gushes.
The onions remain on the burger. While I don’t usually order my burgers with cooked onions, the ones here are quite special and are far more involved that your average fried onion. They are sautéed slowly ahead of time in clarified butter to the point where they just begin to caramelize but still retain a bit of snap.
The bun is toasted in the oven until a crunchy ring is burnished onto its outer circumference. The patty and onion stack is then placed in the skillet for a minute or so to bring the exterior temperature up before being placed on the bun.
The finished burger looks so simple, completely belying the rigorous preparation involved in bringing it to table. Although the bun might appear too large, it is so light and airy that as it compresses and conforms around the plump patty, the beef—to—bun ratio is actually spot on. The acridity of the onions balances the subtle sweetness of the bun, allowing the flavor of the beef to be fully realized. The Black Label is simply perfect—tender, succulent, and brimming with a flavor that is intoxicating.
Try it and let me know what you think!!