Build a Steak-ier Burger

Julia Bainbridge
Food Editor

Photo credit: Chelsea Elizabeth

Ryan Farr’s 4505 Burgers & BBQ may only be five weeks old, but the San Francisco chef has been selling his burger at area farmers’ markets, where it’s become quite a staple, for five years. “It’s just the best damn cheeseburger,” he says. Farr now serves the famous burger at his restaurant alongside barbecue, and lines of beef lovers now trail down Divisadero Street.

While Farr is lucky enough to have major quality control over his meat, butchering whole animals at 4505 Meats, he also has some useful tips for the home cook.

It’s all about the grind.“If I wasn’t going to have access to our beef, I would buy some chuck and short rib meat and I would ask the butcher ask to grind it for me,” says Farr. That grind should be coarse and should only be done once. “That way, it really makes it feel like you’re eating beef. It has a steak-y thing going on.” If you’re using a Kitchen Aid attachment, use the large grinder setting and make sure “the cube of meat is smaller than the hole of the grinder so you’re not having to jam the meat.” As for the fat ratio, Farr suggests 75% lean meat to 25% fat. Once you’ve formed patties, just salt the burger and then sear.

Thin is in. Farr’s patties use only 1/4 pound of beef. “It’s a good daytime burger,” he says, “You can have it and still go back to work.” Using parchment paper, he flattens each disc to about 3/4” thick and then sears each side on medium-high for about two minutes. Because the patties are thin, “you have to move pretty fast,” says Farr. Have your patties made and your cheese sliced so you can sear, flip, top with cheese, cook a little more, and move on. The benefit with thin patties is that you can add more if you want more without wasting if you don’t. “I like a big burger,” says Farr. “So if I want a 1/2 pound, I just do two patties as opposed to one patty. That way I get more sear on both sides and each patty has cheese, so I get more of that, too.”

Otherwise, keep it simple. When you have good, grass-fed beef, you don’t need much else. Farr serves his burger with crunchy iceberg lettuce, red onion “that’s been sliced just hours before use so it’s nice and sweet,” and a Thousand Island-style sauce he called “Sssshhhh” secret sauce. His team makes its own buns, but Farr says a store-bought brioche or potato bun—something that’s not too dense—would work well. Just be sure to toast both sides after brushing a bit of melted butter on each.

And a parting tip from Farr: You MUST spread whatever condiment you’re using all around the cut side of the tip bun. “You don’t just squirt it on there,” he says. “Every bite should have a little bit of sauce.” Preach!