How to make a perfect hamburger, from patty to pickle

Read this cookbook: “A Burger to Believe In” by Chris Kronner with Paolo Lucchesi
The cover of "A Burger to Believe In" by Chris Kronner with Paolo Lucchesi

The cover of "A Burger to Believe In" by Chris Kronner with Paolo Lucchesi

By Wendell Brock

I know, I know: You’re probably wondering why I’m writing about a hamburger book the week after July 4.

Hold on, I can explain.

Some of us, you see, eat burgers more than once a year. Some of us are crazy for good fries, clever condiments, delicious drinks. Some of us (not necessarily me) are meat geeks, eager to learn about grain-vs. grass-fed; the environmental issues of raising cattle; the argument for eating dairy cows; why dry-aged beef is so deluxe.

Chris Kronner, the chef at Kronnerburger in Oakland, Calif., is all of the above. He's spent a decade developing the perfect hamburger. Now he's ready to share all his wisdom, and then some.

And so it is that he sprinkles his delightful book with thoughtful essays by experts, breaks down the elements of a truly fine burger and tells you how to make each component, from patty to pickle.

He’s a burger purist who writes with delicious humor and sarcasm. For example: If you are extremely lazy, “Just look at the photos and have burgers delivered.”

If you’re a “fervent acolyte,” “Start a farming commune. ... Grow wheat, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Raise a dairy herd and use its milk to make cheddar cheese. After five to twelve years, kill part of the herd and dry-age their carcasses. Harvest and mill the wheat to make flour for the buns. Build a forge. Fabricate a grill. Cook burgers for the rest of the cult.”

That’s kind of the long-form recipe for his famous Kronnerburger.

The short version: Grill 5 ounces of freshly ground, dry-aged grass-fed dairy beef over a wood fire. Serve on a pan de mie bun (preferably one that you bake yourself, but it’s OK to use store-bought). Use iceberg, tomato (only when in season!), charred red onion, dill pickles, cheddar mayo (that would be home-made mayo with aged sharp white cheddar whirred in at then end--a recipe that alone is worth the $30 price tag for this book if you ask me), and optional roasted bone marrow.

Along the way, Kronner tells you how to grind the beef, mold the patty and, if you really want to geek out, dry-age your own cow. (It requires a dedicated refrigerator fitted with an electric fan and may make your guests think you’ve gone all Jeffrey Dahmer.)

Kronner doesn’t stop with his world-famous burger, either.

He also includes instructions for a vegan Earth Burger, Breakfast Burger, Patty Melt, Crab Burger, Fried Crab Burger, Bar Tartine Burger (he used to work at the famous San Francisco restaurant), Lamb Burger, Pork Burger, Shrimp Burger, and the Rawburger. (Think tartare, and don't dare use "crappy supermarket ground beef").
When you aren't in the mood for a burger, or you want something fresh on the side, there are recipes for salads—wedges, tomato and oysters, okra and mushroom, radish and stone fruit Caesar, tuna salad, smoky potato salad, cauliflower and fava, and so on.

There are wonderful sounding cocktails, non-alcoholic drinks, desserts (from Bacon-Fat Brownies to Vegan Coconut Sorbet) and condiments galore.

In sum, Kronner not only gives us a perfect burger, but plenty of things to nosh on before, during, and après burger.

Why can’t every day be July 4? Why can’t every day mean onion rings and Cheddar Mayonnaise? With this book, it can.

“A Burger to Believe In” by Chris Kronner with Paolo Lucchesi (Ten Speed Press, $29.99) 

Wendell Brock is an Atlanta-based food and culture writer, frequent AJC contributor and winner of a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for journalism. Follow him on Twitter (@MrBrock) and Instagram (@WendellDavidBrock).


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