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The Dos and Don’ts of Competing in Westchester’s Burger & Beer Blast

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Photo by Sabrina Sucato

Westchester County’s leading chefs, restaurateurs, and beverage specialists impart their knowledge for making our Burger & Beer Blast their own.

By Dave Zucker, Julia Paino, and Sam Joffe

We’re officially underway with our grandest, most fun-filled event of the year: Westchester Magazine’s Wine & Food Festival. With that comes our long-awaited, always exhilarating, beef-centric cook-off known as the Burger & Beer Blast.

Have you ever considered what goes into a great burger? Well, besides ground beef. We have. Operating under the assumption that knowledge is power (at least at the grill, anyway), we stole a moment with our Burger & Beer Blast competitors to find out what makes a terrific burger. Read up on their collective knowledge, then get hungry for the Thursday event!

 

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Burger & Beer Blast Dos and Don’ts:

Do: Be economical. Pack the most amount of flavor into the least amount of ingredients. If not, you’re wasting your time.

Don’t: Disturb your burger. Everyone wants to be the star of the show, flipping burgers high in the air and jiggling them on the grill to hear that sizzle, but the more that burger moves, the more of its precious juices will be lost. Don’t pound it, smash it, or perform aerial maneuvers. Let your burger rest, and only flip it once.

Do: Keep it simple. Black truffle oil, aged gouda, and other highfalutin ingredients have their place, but the only thing a good burger needs is fresh ground meat and a light seasoning.

Don’t: Use a machine. You might be drawn to the convenience and novelty of a burger press to form your patties, but your hands are the best burger-forming machine you could ask for. A hand-packed burger will always be juicier, plus you’ll be able to perfectly tailor the size and shape of your burgers to your own specifications.

 

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Do: Use high quality meat. It goes without saying, but you can really taste the difference. The meat is the star of the show, and you won’t be able to cover up a subpar patty with condiments. This year, vendors can use beef provided by Piccinini Bros., a top meat delivery service that dates back to 1922.

Don’t: Mix salt into your ground beef. Salt will suck the moisture right out of your burger and ruin the texture. Only apply salt once the patties have been formed, right before they go on the grill.

 

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Do: Find the right grill. Propane or charcoal, flattop or grated, no two grills are alike. Hot spots and cold spots can keep a chef guessing, so it’s important to know your equipment. A nice sear on the outside can make or break a burger, and no one wants to eat an overcooked patty.

Do: Love what you do. Cooking is a joy and you should take as much pleasure in making a burger as eating it.

Don’t: Forget the napkins! 

Check out all the competitors and their burger innovations on Thursday, June 9, at Wine & Food Fest’s Burger & Beer Blast, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Kensico Dam in Valhalla. Tickets and more information for all our Wine & Food Fest events can be found here.


 

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