Eating a wagyu hamburger should be a one-of-a-kind experience, a peak opportunity to enjoy the world’s greatest meat in handy burger form.
Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, through product sampling and just a general passion for grilling, I have grilled countless burgers with a wide spectrum of success. Here is my list of 5 well intentioned plans that will send you down the wrong path. Learn from my mistakes and experience the best burgers on planet earth.
1) Don't Overload on Ingredients
The first time I cooked a wagyu burger, I found the sharpest cheddar I could get my hands on. I caramelized some onions, sauteed mushrooms, dug out the brioche buns and dressed that thing up like it was heading to prom. I think I even found fancy ketchup and I don't mean the brand.
And it was … fine. Nothing really special, though.
Then I ate one of the patties without anything, and boom — it was amazing.
Adding a stack of other ingredients will hide the juicy, buttery taste of the wagyu. You’ll have a better experience if you let the burger be the star of the show.
If you must top it with all of your favorite stuff, do me the favor of at least trying half of it without. Savor the wagyu - it will change your mind so I don't have to.
2) Season It
I know, I know. I just told you not to overload on ingredients. But you still need to properly season your burger with salt and pepper. Doing that will accentuate the meat’s natural flavor.
Skip the table salt. You’ll be better off with kosher or sea salt for flavor. If you’ve got freshly ground pepper, use that. Season generously.
The best practice is to season your patties right before you put them on the grill. Otherwise, if you let it sit too long, the salt will draw out moisture and dissolve some of the protein, screwing up the meat’s texture.
3) Don't Go Super High on the Heat
Keeping your grill set to 300 or 350 degrees is plenty because the ideal wagyu burger is served medium-rare. Think low and slow (for a burger at least - not a pot roast). Holy Grail burgers are thick, eight ounce patties and too high of heat dries out the surface before you can heat up the middle. Med-rare takes heat all the way through, so don't start with a temp that will blast the outside before that happens.
And you do not want a well-done wagyu burger. After all, what makes wagyu special is the tender, succulent nature of the meat. Overcooking undermines the whole point.
4) Let It Thaw
You can’t just take wagyu from the freezer and hurry up the thawing process by leaving it on your kitchen counter for a few hours. You’re not making Hamburger Helper.
Instead, let the meat thaw inside your fridge for 48 hours, so it can soften while holding on to its moisture.
When you’re finally ready to cook, let the meat warm up to room temperature. That way, it will be more likely to cook evenly. Fifteen minutes outside of your refrigerator should be enough time.
Admittedly, this is the most controversial point on this list, at least among avid fans of beef. I've seen plenty of videos where cooking a frozen steak is the best, or not letting it come to room temperature is preferable or some other new idea. But I stand by this point for two reasons - first, if you thaw something prior to cooking it, you're more likely to make a plan for the meal. It becomes an intentional act and the whole experience just seems to flow smoother from there. Second, I really feel like the seasoning works better with thawed beef. I'm sure there is some amount of science in my feelings there (there is).
5) Stop Fidgeting
If it’s your first time grilling with wagyu, you might be a little overexcited, which in turn will tempt you to do stuff for the sake of doing stuff.
Like constantly flipping the burger. Nope. Flip it once.
Or maybe you like hearing the sizzle of the meat, so you keep pressing your spatula down on the patty. This is a fun way to make your burger dry and tasteless. Please note - this point ONLY works if you have the heat right on your grill. You put that patty on a screaming hot grate and you're bound to have to move it around thinking you've burnt it.
And remember to rest your burger after you remove it from the heat. Even after it leaves the grill, meat continues to cook with the heat it’s already absorbed.
Life’s Too Short for Boring Burgers
If you’ve invested time and money in wagyu beef, you deserve a hamburger that lives up to that reputation. Follow up these tips, and soon you’ll be biting into one of the best burgers you’ve ever tasted.