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Two patty masters dish on what makes a great burger so great

Bun and Grind

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I bet you can't think of the last time you finished a burger, wadded up your napkin, sat back, and said "Meh." You're either ready for another or you're about to flip the table.

No? Just me? OK, OK, fine. This isn't about me. I think we can at least agree that we all know a good burger when we taste one.

But what makes them so good?

Who better to ask than the guys who quite literally make their bones by stuffing meat, cheese, veggies, and assorted ooey gooey elements between two pieces of bread — the local culinary minds that concoct boastful burgers?

Chef Brannon Florie, who has helped open nearly a dozen local joints, each with its own burger, balances flavor, restaurant concept, cost, and more when he's deciding what burger to put on the menu for table service versus what he's churning out at a brewery pop-up.

These days, he says, it's the thin, "smashed" style burgers like the ones he put together when he helped open Rarebit in 2012 that people are jonesing for.

"I personally like the smash burgers as well, they're just easier to eat. I like the crispy outside and the juicy inside," Florie says.

Brannon Florie - RUTA SMITH
  • Ruta Smith
  • Brannon Florie

The thin, juicy patties at Rarebit, Florie says, are chuck, brisket, and short rib. But his 100 percent grass-fed chuck burger at Sullivan's Island newcomer Pier 22 is one of the most popular items on the predominantly seafood menu. At on forty-one in Mt. Pleasant, Florie grinds a chuck-brisket blend.

The cuts of beef that go into your favorite burgers have a lot to do with the flavor says Ted Dombrowski, the top sirloin at Ted's Butcherblock on East Bay Street. (Sorry.)

"Burgers need both some fat content and marbling. If there's not enough fat, the burgers will be dry," he says. "If you don't add some well marbled cuts, it won't have rich beef flavor."

But don't go out and spring for that Kobe beef just yet.

"Customers sometimes tend to go overboard when they grind their own meat. They often think grinding the most expensive cuts will yield the best burger, but that is not always the case."

For Ted's popular Saturday burger special, you'll get a chuck-brisket blend on the grill. (But since it's a butcher shop, you'll probably also get some ribeye, strip, and tenderloin scraps thrown in for good measure. Not complaining.)

Dombrowski says he prefers grilled burgers, but if fire isn't available, head to the kitchen and get the job done quickly.

"If I can't grill, I love using a cast iron pan. You get an incredible sear and crust on the burger," he says. Florie agrees, preferring a fast flat-top over a grill.

"The pressed burgers are super quick, you got a hot grill, you sear it, and by the time you flip it it's almost done," Florie says.

But pay attention to the internal temp, Dombrowski warns, to avoid any table-flipping scenarios; ask your guests if they want it burned to a crisp or bloody as hell.

"You can use the best meat, but if it's not cooked the way you like, it's not going to matter."

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