Burger Mania

In homage to Americans’ favorite sandwich, we asked Chef Jorel Pierce of the TAG Restaurant Group to grill us up some of the best versions. Photography by Paul Miller

6 Steps to a Perfect Burger

1. Choose meat that is 20 to 25 percent fat.

2. Look for a 3/8 or 3/16 grind. What’s most important is that the blades are sharp so you’re shearing the beef, not squashing it. Always use a cold grinder.

3. Keep the seasonings simple: just salt and fresh, cracked black pepper.

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4. Don’t oil the grill ahead of time. Set the temp at 400-450°; the meat should sizzle when it hits the pan (if you are unsure of the temp, throw a drop of canola oil onto the pan; it should sizzle and smoke right away).

5. Ideally, flip the burger only once—at most, three times.

6. After removing the burger from the heat source, don’t let it sit too long—the burger will get cold and the sear will soften.

How much beef?

Sliders: Use 2 oz. beef each
Classic cheeseburger:Use 4 oz. beef
G&G burger: Use 8 oz. beef


Salmon Burger From TAG Burger Bar
Serves 6

2 lb. fresh Atlantic salmon
Zest of 1 lemon
1 c. heavy whipping cream, ice cold
3 Tbsp. fresh, chopped dill

First, check that the pin bones have been removed from the salmon. Next, remove skin by placing filet skin side down on a clean cutting board. Place your knife where the skin meets the flesh, basically parallel but angled slightly down. Gently slice between the skin and flesh until there is enough exposed skin to hold on to; then begin carefully slicing the skin from the filet while drawing the knife back and forth. Once skin is removed, dice two-thirds of the salmon into cubes the size of playing dice; store in refrigerator. Place the remaining salmon (as cold as possible!) in a food processor with the (ice-cold) cream and the lemon zest.

Process on high for one to two minutes. Next, evenly combine the diced salmon, dill, and salmon mousse in mixing bowl. Separate into 6 equal patties 5.5 to 6 oz. each; keep chilled until ready to grill. To cook, preheat grill or griddle to 450° F. Lightly oil cooking surface.

Remove patties from refrigerator, season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper, and place onto grill. Allow to sear before flipping. (If they look like they’re getting some color and starting to pick up some caramelization don’t panic—that’s the good stuff.)

Buttermilk Cream Cheese

6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 oz. buttermilk, at room temperature

Stir together until mixture achieves a slightly thick but saucy consistency. Chill and reserve cold.


12 slices of vine-ripened tomato, gently salt-and-peppered
2 c. fresh arugula
1–2 ripe Hass avocadoes, halved, pitted, and sliced
1 bottle Cholula Hot Sauce or your favorite spicy condiment
6 buns, toasted

Assemble the burger from the bottom: Toasted bottom bun, avocado slices, a nice bed of arugula, two seasoned tomato slices, the seared salmon patty, 1.5 Tbsp. of Buttermilk Cream Cheese, a dash of hot sauce, and the toasted top bun.

Parsnip Falafel Burger
Serves 6

1 peeled, rough-chopped parsnip
4 garlic cloves
3 medium shallots, peeled and rough chopped
2 oz. parsley, with stems
3 oz. cilantro with stems
10 medium scallions, whole, roots removed
4 whole, fresh eggs
1 c. chickpea flour
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. coriander, cracked
1 tsp. cumin, ground

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and purée until there are no pieces larger than a rice grain. Remove, place into a clean container, and refrigerate. When ready to cook, separate into six equal patties 4 inches across and an inch thick. Preheat a pot with frying oil to 350°F. Test one small piece of falafel by packing tightly by hand, deep-frying for four minutes, and tasting. If good, proceed by turning up your heat a touch, frying up your patties (no more than three at a time), then dialing stove back to 350 degrees. Once cooked, remove from fryer and season with salt.

Lemon Garlic Yogurt

1 clove peeled garlic
1 tsp. salt
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 c. whole-fat Greek yogurt (the thickest you can find)

Roughly chop the garlic clove and sprinkle the salt over the minced garlic. Squish the garlic with the salt by repeatedly pressing with the flat side of your knife until you’ve created a paste. Add, along with the lemon zest and juice, to the yogurt; stir to combine. Chill and reserve cold until plating.

Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms

1 pt. of shiitake mushrooms, sliced ¼ inch thick
2 oz. neutral cooking oil (canola, grapeseed, or a canola-olive oil blend) Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Preheat a large skillet to medium; add oil and then shiitakes. Allow shiitakes to caramelize before salting. (Adding salt to mushrooms too early can draw out water from them and inhibit your ability to get that nice toasty caramelized edge.) Once you have achieved a good color and general tenderness, season and reserve warm or at room temperature.


18 cucumber ribbons. (Lay a cucumber flat on a cutting board and peel with your vegetable peeler the entire length to yield long, wide strips.)
2 c. fresh, washed red oak lettuce
6 buns, toasted in a buttered skillet

Atop your toasted bottom bun, add about 2 Tbsp. Lemon Garlic Yogurt. Top with parsnip falafel, a bit of red oak lettuce, a handful of room-temperature seared shiitakes, three to four curled ribbons of fresh, sliced cucumber, a touch more of the yogurt and then the top bun.

Serve them with…

House Pickles from TAG Burger Bar, Madison

10 pickling cucumbers (Kirby is best)
2 oz. fresh dill
½ c. halved garlic cloves
½ c. dried parsley leaves
½ c. coriander seeds, whole
¼ c. black peppercorns
¼ c. red chili flakes
3/4 c. salt
1 c. sugar
1 gallon white distilled vinegar
1 gallon cold water

Scrub cucumbers gently and remove any areas of bruising. Quarter all cleaned cucumbers lengthwise. Place dill, garlic, parsley, coriander, peppercorns, and chili flake in a large piece of cheese cloth and tie closed with butcher’s twine to create a spice sachet. Toss cucumbers in sugar and salt and store overnight with spice sachet in a large enamel, glass, or plastic pickling vessel. After the cucumbers have had 24 hours to cure, pour the vinegar and water over them and stir to combine. Allow pickles to brine under refrigeration for at least 3 days, ideally up to 7 days.

TAG Sauce
Yields 1 cup (enough for 6 burgers)

3/4 c. of your favorite mayo
2 Tbsp. ketchup
2 Tbsp. pickles, chopped finely
1 tsp. your favorite hot sauce

Combine ingredients in a cup or jar.