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Memorial Day Burgers: Hard Rock Executive Chef Gideon Horowitz Gets Back to Basics

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Memorial Day is fast approaching, so what does this mean for food? Burgers. Lots and lots of thick and juicy burgers. And grilling them over an open flame, turning raw slabs of bovine muscle protein into delectable, denaturized eats.

It's all about the meat, the bun, and the grill. Everything else is lagniappe. Gideon Horowitz, executive chef at the Hard Rock Cafe in Miami, is here to offer some no-bullshit tips on building the best burger.

See also:

- Memorial Day Grilling in Miami

- Top Five Miami Parks For a Memorial Day Barbecue

Born and raised in Miami, Horowitz started his career in the restaurant industry at Giorgio's Bakery in Hollywood Beach 15 years ago at age 17. He moved to New York City one year later, where he achieved managerial success at the now-closed Jekyll and Hyde Club Restaurant and Bar on 57th and Sixth in Manhattan. The kitchen there was known for churning out steaks and burgers.

Then in 2003, Horowitz appeared in a starring role as a waiter on CNBC reality show The Restaurant, with celebrity chef Rocco Dispirito. He signed onto the Hard Rock team in 2010 and eventually ascended to executive chef status.

Horowitz is a marathon runner, biker and swimmer to combat the physical demand of restaurant life and the weight gain from sampling the food to ensure that it is just right.

But enough of that, it's burger time. Horowitz breaks the burger down to three components, nothing fancy, just the basics: the meat, the bun and the grill. Keep it simple.

New Times: The core of the burger is the meat. How do you flavor the ground beef?

Gideon Horowitz: For the seasoning, make sure you keep it simple -- a standard all-purpose seasoning will do. If that's not available, you can always stick to the basics: salt and pepper. Season the meat before you put it on the grill so it can lock in the flavors. Don't forget that the seasoning is meant to enhance the natural flavors of the meat, not overpower it.

No matter where you purchase your product from, as long as it's from a reputable store such as Publix or Winn-Dixie, most of it is going to give you enough quality. If a burger is over seasoned and not cooked to the right temperature, even the best quality beef will not taste good.

Which is better: gas or charcoal grills?

Grilling with gas will always guarantee that your heat is evenly distributed throughout your burger, however, there's something about charcoal that seems to really bring the flavors out when you're grilling.

What are your tips for using a rudimentary charcoal grill?

On a charcoal grill you want to make sure you give enough time for the charcoal to burn all the way through with your grill lit close so they are evenly distributing the same amount of heat. You can tell you are ready to cook when all the charcoals are white.

Remember: just because you don't see a flame doesn't mean you don't have enough heat! On the other hand, you want to make sure that there is minimal flame so your product doesn't burn on the outside before the center is cooked. Keep the charcoals spread evenly on the grill so you don't have the heat too close to the product you are cooking.

What do you recommend for buns?

A decent quality potato bun is a standard for burgers; it's what you do with the bread that's most important! Toasting the bun is the most important step and surprisingly, it's what most people skip. Most restaurants use a commercial grade bun toaster, but at home you can toast your bread on the grill for 30-45 seconds to make it crisp. The goal is to harden the inside portion of the bun so the juices of the burger don't seep into the bun easily making it soggy.

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