A Burger Buff on Grilling Perfection

A Burger Buff on Grilling Perfection
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A Burger Buff on Grilling Perfection

Award-winning home cook and burger expert Erin Evenson shares her tips to brilliant burger making.

Image Courtesy of Sutter Home

Where to Start

When looking for inspiration for your burger, Evenson offers two great places to start. First, check out ingredients and flavors unique to your region. While the flavors may seem standard to you, many regional flavors are quite exotic and fun. Second, if you are constantly being asked to bring a particular dish to friends' houses, you can often utilize that dish or a component of that dish in a burger. "If you have this amazing cornbread, think about making a burger on it or think about stuffing a burger with [it]."

Image Credit: Getty Images

Trial and Error

Creating a unique burger or flavor combination in general all boils down to trial and error, according to Evenson. When she created her acclaimed burger, she worked on one component at a time, experimenting with ingredients and proportions until she got it right. For Evenson, the watercress salad proved to be the most challenging component. She went back time and time again to that Thai restaurant in Queens to examine the flavors in order to create it on her own.

Image Courtesy of Sutter Home

Don’t Neglect the Bun

“There are so many ways in which you can construct [a burger], and there are so many different components you can use for [it],” explains Evenson, who finds that an often-overlooked component is the bun. She recalls two burger successes at Build a Better Burger – one made on a pretzel roll and one made in pita. “Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to the bread product because sometimes that can make a good burger great,” she says.

Image Credit: Foodcollection/Getty Images

Cook with Love

Evenson believes that one of the biggest tricks to making a burger great has nothing to do with technique. “You have to be in a good place and enjoy cooking,” she asserts. “If you are in a nasty mood, it is going to taste bad. It is just one of those things that comes through. As long as you are cooking with love, you are off to a good start.”

Image Credit: MM Productions/Corbis

Use Your Grill for Flavor

Turn your grill up high in order to get the smokiest flavor and great grill marks. “One of the first things you should do when you are getting ready to make a burger is get that grill going because you want it to be as hot as possible,” says Evenson.

Get Well-Prepped

Nothing is worse than burgers getting cold as you chop up your veggie toppings or as you heat your buns. Evenson recommends having all vegetables prepped ahead of time and toasting your buns while the patties are resting.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Plan Two Days Ahead

Most burger components can be prepared at least two days in advance of burger making. For Evenson’s award-winning burger, everything can be done ahead of time except grilling the burger and making the watercress salad.

Take Basic Precautions

“Having really good oven mitts that truly protect you from heat is very critical because you can get a lot of flair-ups very easily, and the last thing you want to do, by instinct, is grab something that is very hot,” says Evenson. Every grilling guru should also have a long, flexible spatula, hot pads and a wire brush to clean his/her grill.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Hit the Right Temperature

One of the biggest mistakes grillers make is not having their grill at the appropriate temperature. “If you don’t have the proper heat for what you are cooking on the grill, you are definitely going to overcook it,” says Evenson. “After time, you just know instinctively, but you need to know the science of how things cook.”


Renowned home cook Erin Evenson remembers her parents foraging for watercress when she was young. She grew up thinking there was nothing better than that fresh watercress, until she moved to New York City, stumbled across a Thai restaurant in Queens with an unbelievable crispy watercress salad and fell in love with it. "It totally changed my perception of watercress," recalls Evenson.

The Brooklyn-based cook used these two experiences with watercress as inspiration in forming her caramelized green curry burger with crispy watercress salad, roasted cashews, and minted basil aioli that took top honors at this year's Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest. "I wanted something that paid homage to New York City and my family," says Evenson of the burger she created.

Her recipe (available here) takes two hours to create but, she assures, can be brought down to less than one hour by integrating some store-bought, premade ingredients. For instance, she advises cooks to buy a premade curry paste and simply add a bit of coconut milk and lime juice to replace her homemade curry component.

Check out the slideshow above to read Evenson's advice for creating unbelievable burgers at home.

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