The key to a good food is freshness, said Todd Hiatt, owner of the Chase and Charli Mount Airy restaurant.
In addition, he puts some of his burgers on Kaiser rolls to make them even tastier and distinctive.
But one of his claims to fame —“No one else does it,” Hiatt said. — is the Skirt Burger that his executive chef, Bill Werner, serves customers.
“If you love cheese,” Hiatt said, “you’ll love this burger.”
One of the secrets to making this extremely cheesy burger is to grill the cheese separately, said Werner.
“And, when the cheese is crispy on the edges, it’s ready,” he confided.
Customers have a plethora of other choices as well, Werner said. Other burgers available include a mushroom and Swiss burger, pimento cheese burger, black and blue burger made with bacon and crumbles of bleu cheese, and a guacamole burger.
“Pretty much anything else (other than seafood, maybe) goes well with hamburger meat,” Werner said. He gets his unique burger ideas from many places — friends, food programs, customers, among the sources.
The real secret to making unique and tasty burgers is the seasoning, and not just salt and pepper, but other spices, such as garlic and other seasonings to taste.
Over at the Speedy Chef, Michael Farmer, one of the co-owners, doesn’t make burgers. Well, yes, the restaurant does offer burgers, but, technically, what they are mostly known for is the ground beef burgers, which really aren’t burgers in the truest sense. They are a ground beef mixture that is put on a bun, but isn’t a patty and rather just a looser meat mixture containing hamburger, flour, salt, pepper, and other ingredients. In fact, it’s somewhere between a sloppy Joe and a hamburger. He initially learned how to make this delectable concoction from his sister.
A second “secret” Werner confided is to make sure to cook the burger at a low and even temperature, or about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the burger won’t char on the outside and remain raw inside. “It will then cook thoroughly.”
“And flip the burger only once,” he added.
“There are only three in town that make a ground beef burger,” said Kim Collins, one of the managers of the Speedy Chef. “And the owner here makes the ground steak every day fresh himself … No one else has something else added into it. Most ground beef just has beef in it, as far as I know … And, we make everything fresh to order.”
Collins has learned in her years working at Speedy Chef that one trick to cooking a juicy regular burger or a succulent ground beef burger is to not squish the burger with a spatula.
“It squeezes all the juices out of it,” Collins explained.
A juicy cheeseburger with lots of juicy taste in it is The Dairy Center’s cheeseburger all the way. Freddy Hiatt, owner and chief cook, makes it with chili, slaw, pickles, a tomato, and cheese.
“I even make my own slaw and chili,” he said, “with fresh ingredients in everything.”
And he serves it on a golden yellow Ballpark bun grilled in butter.
But customers can add their own toppings, if they like.
And customers like. Yessirree.
“I drove by two good restaurants to get here today,” said Eddie Dearborn, a long-time customer at The Dairy Center. “I wouldn’t go to a chain if you paid me. I’d give $10 for one of these burgers.”
Here’s a burger that is brand new to the menu at the Rock City Diner that folks may want to try.
It’s called the Big and Cheesy, said Brent Williams, general manager, and it is made of a 9-ounce Angus beef patty, hand-patted, with 6 ounces of mac and cheese, 4 pieces of American cheese — three on the bottom and one on top, along with three pieces of bacon and served up on a Kaiser roll. In addition, it’s served with a side of barbecue sauce which is a great taste combo with the mac and cheese. All the produce is grown locally.
“I was looking for a new burger,” Williams said. That’s when he saw a lot of recipes made with mac and cheese and was inspired.
One of Williams’ secrets to making a tasty burger is not to over-season. Also, don’t overwork the meat. It’ll take the moisture out. And pay attention to the cooking temperature. Make sure the burger cooks to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit, so it won’t make you sick.
“It takes just a small amount of seasoning,” he said. About 1/4 teaspoon really is all you need. But the real “secret” is to buy the best beef to begin with that is made of roughly 80 percent protein and 20 percent fat.
“You must have some fat,” Williams said. “Most folks can’t stand a dry burger.”
SALAMI AND TOMATO BURGERS
FROM INTERNET RESEARCH
2 ounces or 8 thin slices salami
1 1/4 pounds of lean ground chuck
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Canola oil (to be used for the grill)
6 ounces of fresh mozzarella, sliced
4 rolls, split, your choosing
1/2 cup of sun-dried tomato pesto
2 cups of arugula
Heat oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange the salami in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool. Heat the grill to medium-high. Form the beef into four ¾-inch-thick patties. Use your fingers to make a shallow well in the top of each patty. (Cook’s Note: This will prevent over-plumping during cooking.) Season with a total of ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Oil the grill and cook the patties with the wells facing up for 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 155-degrees Fahrenheit for medium, then cook 4 to 5 minutes more. Top the burgers with the mozzarella during the last 3 minutes of cooking. Dividing evenly, spread the rolls with the tomato pesto. Form the sandwiches stacking all the ingredients one on top of the other.
SAUSAGE, SPICY MAYO AND ONION BURGER
FROM INTERNET RESEARCH
3/4 cup of mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Cajun or Creole seasoning blend
1/4 teaspoon of hot pepper sauce
1/2 pound of sausage, cut into scant 1/4-inch cubes
3/4 cup of pecans, toasted, chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef
1 1/2 pounds of onions, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons of olive oil (plus more for brushing grill rack)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon of golden brown sugar
6 large hamburger buns, split
8 ounces of crumbled blue cheese
12 pickled okra pods, halved lengthwise
3 cups of watercress tops
Mix all ingredients in small bowl. Cover and chill. (Chef’s Note: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.)
Toss the first 4 ingredients in large bowl. Add the beef. Blend gently. Shape the mixture into six 1/2-inch-thick patties. Transfer the patties to a small baking sheet. (Chef’s Note: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
Prepare the barbecue (medium-high heat). Toss the onions and the next 3 ingredients in a large skillet. Place the skillet on the grill. Cook until the onions are golden, stirring often, about 25 minutes. Remove from grill; season with salt and pepper. Brush the grill rack with olive oil. Grill the buns, cut side down, until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer the buns to work surface. Grill the burgers until brown on bottom, about 3 minutes. Turn over; sprinkle with cheese. Grill until the burgers are cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes for medium. Place some onions, then the burger, on each bun bottom. Top each with the okra and the watercress. Spread the mayonnaise on cut side of bun tops; place on burgers. Serve with the remaining mayonnaise.
CHEESE RANCH SLIDERS
FROM INTERNET RESEARCH
½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese optional
¼ cup of Classic Cheese Ranch Dressing
1 pound of ground turkey
⅓ cup of breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons of canola oil
8 slider rolls
1 packet (1 ounce) of Original Ranch® Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
Sliced red onion
Preheat the grill or grill pan over medium heat. In a large bowl, combine the ranch dressing and seasoning mix, 2 Tablespoons of the cheese ranch, ground turkey and breadcrumbs, and mix well with hands. Shape the meat into eight mini burgers. Oil the grill grate with a paper towel soaked in canola oil. Grill the burgers about 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. If adding cheese, top each slider with 1 Tablespoon of cheese after it is flipped. Spread the remaining cheese ranch on the slider or dinner rolls, top with turkey slider, lettuce, tomato and red onion and serve immediately.
FROM INTERNET RESEARCH
2 pounds of ground beef
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
8 ounces blue cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes, or any cheese of your choice
8 ounces mozzarella, cut into 1-inch cubes, or any different cheese flavor of your choice
4 hamburger buns
Mix the ground beef, salt and pepper in a large bowl and form the mixture into 8 equal-size balls. Press a cube of desired cheese into the center of each ball and cover completely with meat. Form the balls into hamburger patties, about 1/4-inch thick. Grill the burgers until desired doneness. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles as desired on a toasted bun. (Chef’s Note: Serving suggestions: Lettuce, sliced tomatoes, grilled sweet onions, and/or sliced pickles, etc.)
Lucie R. Willsie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at LucieR.Willsie.