RACHEL MARTIN, host:
There aren't too many guys who love talking about food more than Dan Pashman and Mark Garrison. The two run a wildly popular blog and podcast called The Sporkful. And in honor of Memorial Day weekend, we've asked them to share the secret to the perfect hamburger.
Dan and Mark are in our New York bureau. Hey, guys.
Mr. DAN PASHMAN (Blogger, The Sporkful): Hello, Rachel.
Mr. MARK GARRISON (Blogger, The Sporkful): Hi, Rachel.
MARTIN: So for people who haven't heard of the Sporkful; just to clarify, you two are not chefs, right? You're essentially professional foodies.
Mr. PASHMAN: We don't accept the moniker foodie. In fact, that term implies a certain amount of pretention and expertise. And we like to appeal more to the universal audience, which is eaters, because we all eat and we all enjoy eating.
MARTIN: So, you two, what do you think about when you're setting out to construct that quintessential American cuisine, the perfect burger?
Mr. GARRISON: Well, start with the meat. So you really just need good meat: 20, 25 percent fat content.
Mr. PASHMAN: I actually disagree with Mark's fat ratio statement there. But you know, Rachel, for me to really illustrate what I'm talking about, I kind of feel like we got to get out of this studio and actually find ourselves a grill.
Mark and I used to work at NPR. I know the studio pretty well. I think that there's a wormhole in here somewhere. Mark and I can transport ourselves. Hang on. Mark, stay close by. This is going to be intense.
MARTIN: What's going on?
Mr. PASHMAN: Where is it? It's right about, yeah, here.
(Soundbite of sound effects)
Mr. PASHMAN: All right, Rachel. We cracked open some beers. We have lit the grill. We're going to throw some burgers on.
MARTIN: Wait. This is so unfair. So I'm still in the studio in Washington, but you guys found a grill? Where are you?
Mr. PASHMAN: We have transported ourselves to a grill in a backyard in Brooklyn. You may even hear some sirens in the background. And we'll grill a burger for you, even though you're not going to get to eat it.
MARTIN: OK. Sounds good. So we're constructing the perfect burger, and you were talking about the meat-to-fat ratio. What do you mean by that?
Mr. PASHMAN: Well, you know, you don't want a burger that's going to be too lean, because remember that when you heat fat, the flames from the grill will leap up and they will kiss and smooch and embrace your meat, and you want that to happen to a point. But if your meat has too much fat, the flames will become too aggressive in their smooching and your meat will end up dry.
MARTIN: So what kind of meat are you guys using today?
Mr. PASHMAN: Mark said 75 to 80 percent; I'd say 82.5 is your sweet spot. So if you got half 80 and half 85 and mix it, that's a home run.
Mr. GARRISON: But I think one thing about Dan, you know, he's talking about percentages - these are good things to think about. But if you don't want to deal with that, go to your butcher, ask them for their favorite mix, 'cause they'll have, you know, different concoctions; how much chuck do they use, how much skirt steak do they use, various things that you can put in there. So we're talking about beef, and that's what we have going here.
MARTIN: So, you guys are actually...
Mr. PASHMAN: Hey, Rachel. I got to interrupt for a second. I think we got to flip the burgers. Hang on one sec.
Mr. GARRISON: Yeah. We're yacking, but we don't want to burn these guys. And the key is to flip it just once 'cause every flip can lose juice. And you want to sear that flavor in there and keep it going.
MARTIN: So I'm a big cheese fan, so I can like any kind of cheese on my burger. How do you guys feel about cheese and other high-profile more luxury toppings, shall we say?
Mr. PASHMAN: Well, I think you certainly can have a lot of fun with more elaborate cheeses. I love smoked gouda. I've been meaning to experiment by taking some ricotta cheese and mixing pesto in it and spreading that on a burger 'cause that could be very exciting.
But there's also absolutely nothing wrong with good, old-fashioned American cheese. And what I do, Rachel, is I melt the cheese on top of the burger on the grill. Then, when I remove it from the grill, I put the bottom bun on top of the cheese, flip the burger and put the top bun on what was the bottom. That points the cheese tongue-ward and therefore accentuates cheesy goodness.
MARTIN: So, you know, it's Memorial Day weekend. It's a special weekend, long weekend. What if I really want to up my game? Can you give me two or three maybe surprising toppings that I can put on this burger to really, you know, shake people up a little bit?
Mr. GARRISON: I'll throw you a couple of surprises that you can also do on the grill, and this also can help your vegetarian friends who maybe do not want to have the...
MARTIN: Oh, yeah. Them.
Mr. GARRISON: ...these great burgers that we're making like that. One thing that I learned when I was Argentina is if you take a big, like, thick, like, three-quarter-inch slab of provolone cheese, put some olive oil, oregano and some red pepper flakes on that and put that on the grill, you can melt that. And that's like a wonderful appetizer before, because you get, like, all the smoky flavor of the grill.
The other thing you can do - and this is kind of a nice party trick if you want to, you know, show someone something they haven't seen before - tell them you're going to barbeque an egg.
Mr. GARRISON: Take a bell pepper, cut it in half, then crack the egg into it. Throw all that on the grill. Not only do you get, like, a delicious over-medium kind of egg that has all the great flavors of the coals and the smoke, but then you also have it served inside a grilled bell pepper, which is also pretty awesome.
MARTIN: You know, I love that idea. It opens up a whole realm of breakfast barbequing, breakfast grilling.
Mr. GARRISON: No. The grill can be used 24 hours a day. Like, we don't have wait until the afternoon or anything like that. Like, you can have wonderful things on the grill anytime you like.
Mr. PASHMAN: Yeah. Let's keep in mind that man subsisted for quite a long time cooking with nothing but open flames.
MARTIN: OK. So you guys are getting your burgers off the grill right now.
Mr. GARRISON: Yeah. These guys are coming off the grill. We've got nice grill marks on both sides, looking good.
Mr. GARRISON: We did go with the sesame toasted bun this time.
MARTIN: Good call.
Mr. PASHMAN: All right.
Mr. GARRISON: All right, Rachel.
Mr. PASHMAN: We're digging in, Rachel.
Mr. GARRISON: Pardon us while we take a bite.
MARTIN: You're about to take a bite of the finished product. How's it taste?
Mr. GARRISON: Mm. Very nice.
Mr. PASHMAN: It's juicy.
MARTIN: It's good? Dan Pashman and Mark Garrison. They're the guys behind the Sporkful podcast and blog, which you can check out at sporkful.com.
Thanks a lot, guys.
Mr. GARRISON: Happy weekend, Rachel.
Mr. PASHMAN: Bye. Thank you.
And for Saturday, that's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.
Remember, you can hear the best of this program on our podcast. Subscribe or listen at iTunes or at npr.org/weekendatc. We post a new episode every Sunday night. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night.
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