Secrets of the Char-Broiled Burger Joints
I live in the suburbs of Washington, DC and am working with a Los Angeles-born neighbor to clone the awesome burgers served at those independent char-broiled burger joints, many of which have "Super Burgers" in the name of the establishment. One place (now closed) that I used to frequent on visits out there was called Andy's Super Burgers on the corner of Slauson/Mulberry and Santa Fe Springs in Whittier. Another favorite was Douglas Burger.
While I can obtain foodservice buns and condiments, I have not been able to recreate that char-broiled flavor using a gas grill, charcoal grill, liquid smoke, etc. There is something missing. One possibility is that they are buying flavored burger patties. Another possibility is that they are using a industrial food ingredient called "grill flavor". Of course, it could also be technique. Anyone have any insights into the meat they buy, the temperatures they cook at, etc?
Thanks for all your replies; they all included things we hadn't considered. Certainly one would get specs of really tasty charred crud included with the burger, though it probably was no older than the last health inspection. I always scrupulously clean my cooking equipment, probably a big mistake.
In concert with trying to clone these burgers, we also sample burgers from any restaurants we find claiming to serve charbroiled hamburgers. The problem is that we don't have any of those joints with that big sign out front that includes the words 'char-broiled'. A photo of one can even be seen in the Ember Glo/Midco corporate brochure. Mostly we have the giant chain burger joints and 'gourmet' burger joints featuring burgers costing $10 and thicker than the thin ones served in Southern California. We did find a burger that was close in one branch of a widely scattered franchised chain called Flamers. We managed to ID the grill used as a MagiKitch'n but did not notice if they used a ceramic hearth as used by the Ember Glo grill.
Long before the media coverage of pink slime I switched to using Certified Angus Beef (CAB) because I knew something was 'wrong' with supermarket beef but couldn't figure out what was funny about it. I once had a pink slime batch I could smell the ammonia content in it. It must have had an overdose. I could never buy CAB lower than 80% lean but considering how cheap those char grilled burgers were until about 4 years ago, Westsidegal must be right about them using higher fat content beef.
I will keep an eye on ebay to see if any of those Ember Glo grills turn up cheap.
Thanks for all your help and suggestions.
Yes, I have had those up in NJ, better than what we get here. There was this really great diner on Route 4 that was torn down in 1997 that had the best burger and fries combo I ever had.
Also, I originally posted this question in the Los Angeles forum. For those having trouble following my original post, please note I was referring to burger joint locations in Southern California.
1) try getting meat with a higher fat content.
if that doesn't do it
2) try mixing in some lard or ground pork fat to your meat mixture.
most hamburger joints use much more fat than home cooks use.
also, maybe the "pink slime" that was used was in some way different that what you are getting in DC. ( now, of course, everyone is saying that they are no longer going to be using this stuff. . . . .)