Kerry Simon

The chef shares lessons from his efforts to perfect the hamburger

According to superstar chef Kerry Simon, finding the perfect burger is a never-ending quest. After all, burger culture is not only quintessential America, it’s a very Vegas phenomenon at the moment. Every big-name chef on the Strip has to have a gourmet burger on the menu, it seems. And so how do you top the creations that Laurent Tourondel and Bradley Ogden have spent hours perfecting?

That didn’t stop Simon and his culinary teams at CatHouse in Luxor and Simon in Palms Place from trying—and trying some more. “We constantly fool around with different mixes, tastes and flavors,” Simon says.

He rediscovered his love for hamburger during an appearance on the Food Network’s Iron Chef, where it was the featured mystery ingredient. After besting chef Cat Cora, Simon added the championship creation to his menu. Dubbed the Simon Burger, it’s his way to take a serious approach to a not-so-serious food.

But consumers can be tougher judges than even those on Iron Chef, especially when it comes to the heralded hamburger. “People naturally gravitate to where they can find a good grilled burger,” Simon says. “In many cases places like White Castle and In-N-Out Burger have become an ingrained part of your life. We are always looking for how to improve. It’s part of our philosophy.”

His chief advice to home cooks: Perfection comes from experimentation, so play around with the cuts of meat used, as well as each cut’s content. Remember, the fattier the meat, the juicer the burger. Don’t be afraid to mix cuts in order to create the right balance of fat and flavor. The Simon Burger consists of 20 percent steak trimmings. The chef suggests using brisket, filet trimmings or prime sirloin in your mix (see your neighborhood butcher for options), and then cooking the patty to medium-rare.

Remember, the perfect burger is not meat alone, Simon says; the bun and toppings are equally important. He prefers a sesame brioche bun. And his final trick is to butter the bun and then cook it on a flat top until it caramelizes, to make it warm and chewy.

Simon Burger

Serves 4 people

  • 2 pounds coarse ground chuck, fortified with 20% steak trimmings
  • 4 each sesame brioche buns
  • Butter lettuce
  • 8 slices vine ripe tomatoes
  • 8 slices half sour dill pickles
  • 4 slices red onion
  • 4 tablespoons Russian dressing
  • Coarse gray salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons whipped butter
  • 4 slices of desired cheese

Pre-heat a grill or a cast-iron Griswold to medium-high. Divide the meat into 8-ounce portions, work the meat into a ball with clean hands coated with soda water and form into ¾-inch-thick patties, just slightly larger than the bun. Season the burgers with gray salt and black pepper, then lightly oil the grill or Griswold with salad oil.

Place the burgers on the grill for about 7 minutes on the first side, then flip and cook for an additional 5 minutes, adding the cheese 2 minutes later. Spread butter on the buns and toast, then add the Russian dressing to the bun and place the cooked burger on the toasted bun. Dress with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle.

Suggested Pairing

Chef Simon says the perfect beer to accompany the perfect burger is Stone IPA from San Diego. It’s light, herbaceous, aromatic and refreshing—a great complement to a juicy burger on a hot summer day.

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