Burger Tips From Boulevardier's Nathan Tate, For Those Of Us Who Don't Have a Grill

Categories: Cook This

When I compiled tips for grilling burgers this summer, I felt bad that I left out home cooks who don't have access to a grill. To make up for the shortcoming, I challenged chef Nathan Tate at Boulevardier to cook us up a burger like he might at home: no fancy wood-burning grills, just one man and a cast-iron skillet.

See also:
- Tips For The Best Burgers You'll Ever Grill At Home
- Tips For Making The Best Meatballs Ever With Julian Barsotti

The results are some great burger tips for those of us who are trapped in apartments or are otherwise lack flame.

Use a cast-iron skillet
Sure they can rust, but they're cheap as ground chuck and, when well-seasoned, pretty easy to care for. The real strength in iron is its ability to hold heat,and consequently impart a serious sear on anything that's lucky enough to land on its glossy black surface.

Season aggressively
Burgers can take a lot of salt. Note how much Tate uses in this video and follow suit. An aggressive pepper application won't hurt things either.

Preheat your skillet
Cast iron will hold a lot of residual heat but also takes a long time to come to temperature. Tate had his cast-iron skillet sitting on the heat before we even walked through the door to tape this video. Give your pan at least five minutes over medium to high heat at a minimum. When the butter hits the pan it should sizzle and instantly brown, just like in this video.

Use an absurd amount of butter
Rationalize this decision by promising yourself this is strictly a once-a-month sort of thing and maybe drink a smoothie the next day. Butter helps you achieve a sear. A butter bath will take that sear to the next level, reaching up into the nooks and crannies of the burger's surface. Watch as Tate flips the thing if you don't believe me. That's one well-browned patty.

Don't squish your burger!
Watch how gentle Tate is as he gingerly checks the bottom side for browning and then carefully flips it over. There's no squishing or manhandling or other beef abuse. That's how you keep the juice in the burger where it's supposed to be.

Make sure that cheese is melted
Cold stiff cheese can ruin a burger. Tate broke my "home kitchen" rules by using his salamander, but you can get the same effect by tossing your pan under your broiler, or covering the pan with a lid to melt the cheese with steam.

Toast the bun in butter as well
I mean why stop now? If your bun is soft and tender as it should be, and your burger is as juicy as it can be, you're going to need some help with the structural integrity of your bread. Toasting will help the bread stand up, and it also adds another dimension of flavor.

Dress your salad
Tate tosses the lettuce and onion in a lightly applied sherry vinaigrette before using them to top the burger. The extra acid makes the veg really pop so it stands out against all that fatty meat and cheese.

Incorporate as many of these tips as you can and you'll be on your way to some of the best home-cooked burgers you've ever made. You might not even miss your grill.

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Scott Strong
Scott Strong

OK, iron skillet involved. This is a legit video.

primi_timpano topcommenter

All that butter reminds me of the old Night Hawk chain in Texas. Their ground sirloin a and steaks were flooded with melted butter with a touch of lemon.


Good stuff. I very rarely cook my burgers on a grill. Too many variables and they can dry-out more easily. Heavy cast iron skillet is the way to go, for steaks too. Either a simple black one like granny had or the Le Creuset enameled one's are good too. I also have a great Le Creuset cast iron grill pan, I got at Marshall's for $30!


Butter is indeed a key. Cooking it in butter, then when flipped I put a pat of butter on top of the seared side and let it ooze down into the burger, giving it some moisture, fat, flavor during the remaining couple minutes of cooking.


Have honed a great secret sauce recipe. Good amount of mayo, some ketchup, plain yellow mustard, minced garlic, small diced dill pickles (or relish) and onion, garlic powder, a bit of soy or Worcestershire sauce, some siracha for bit of heat, red pepper places, dash of white vinegar, s&p. That might be it!


100% agree, the Whole Foods buttermilk buns are about the best money (or a normal person) can buy. Hold up beautifully, buttered and seared they really make the burger into a work of art.


"Toast the bun"...........tip is to put the bun on the hot cast iron skillet, leave some of the burger grease residue, toast both sides and bun inside !


Btw, most commercially available buns are not up to the task.....I use the Whole Foods buttermilk buns, or Thomas's english muffins !

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

I like how he pets the bun at the end, like he is saying good doggie to his hamburger bun

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Off topic, but read the Times review of Guy Fieri's new 500 seat Manhattan restaurant.  Pete Wells completely decimates it, with comments like, "The watermelon margarita tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde."


.gif of the year.

TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

 @CitizenKane I am a wholehearted proponent of the English muffin as a bun substitute and Thomas' brand are perfectly sized for this task.


All these years I thought I was the only one.



That's the most pornographic .gif I've seen this year.  /gif/ included. 


And I love it.

primi_timpano topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk @CitizenKane Ditto on the Thomas English muffins. It's hard to find a hanburger bun as good as this.

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