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The All American Burger

Serves 4

This is it: the classic, the inspiration, and the burger I usually suggest people order if they are new to Black Tap. It’s based on the basic cheeseburger deluxe on the menu of every New York diner of my childhood—it’s griddled, never grilled, to medium, topped with two slices of American cheese and served on a Martin’s potato bun with lettuce, tomato, and raw onion (if you want it), all on a single plate with a side of french fries and a pickle.

2 pounds 20% lean ground beef

1½ tablespoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil

Four 4-inch potato buns

8 slices American cheese

4 tablespoons Special Sauce

Lettuce, tomato slices, pickle spears, for serving

  1. Place the ground beef in a large bowl and gently use your fingers to fluff the meat to loosen it (you don’t want to overhandle the meat). Set a 4½- to 5-inch metal ring (or make a “collar” by folding a long piece of aluminum foil into a 1-inch strip and taping it into a 4½- to 5-inch circle) on a plastic wrap–lined cutting board. Place one-quarter of the meat in the ring, using light pressure to create a perfectly even and not-too-packed ¾-inch-thick patty. Carefully remove the ring and repeat with the remaining beef to make 4 patties. Mix the salt and pepper together in a small bowl and use half of it to generously season the tops of the burger patties.
  2. Heat a cast-iron flat-top griddle or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Dip a folded paper towel in the oil and use it to grease the pan (you won’t use all the oil). With a spatula, carefully transfer the patties to the pan, seasoned-side down. Sprinkle the patties with the remaining salt and pepper mixture. Cook, without pressing down or moving the burgers, until the bottoms are browned, about 5 minutes. Flip the burgers over and continue to cook for 4½ to 5 minutes longer for medium-rare or 7 minutes for medium. (If, after flipping, there is a lot of rendered fat in the pan, carefully tilt the pan and spoon or pour it out—otherwise, the burgers will steam rather than sear.) Place 2 slices of the cheese on each patty, add 1 teaspoon water to the pan, and cover the pan immediately. Cook for 10 seconds (or a few seconds longer, if your pan is large), until the cheese has melted, then transfer the burgers to a plate.
  3. Pour off most of the fat from the pan and use a paper towel to wipe out the browned bits. (Alternatively, heat a second pan or griddle and grease it lightly with the remaining oil.) Open the buns and place the bottom halves cut-side down in the hot pan and cook until browned and toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the buns over to toast the other side, 30 seconds to 1 minute longer. Place each bun half on a plate, then repeat with the bun tops.
  4. Transfer each patty to a bottom bun half. Smear each bun top with 1 tablespoon of the Special Sauce. Add a tomato slice to the top of the burger and cover with lettuce, then place the top bun half on the burger and serve with a pickle.