Clubhouse Eats: The 4 keys to making a perfect burger, according to a golf resort’s executive chef

Wagyu burger

The Wagyu Burger at the Park Hyatt Aviara.

Courtesy Park Hyatt Aviara

At the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, in Carlsbad, which reopened this month after a $50-million transformation, pretty much everything is new and improved.

The rooms, lobby and swimming pools have all been renovated. Expansive meeting spaces have been added. A Topgolf Swing Suite has been installed as an indoor complement to the property’s impeccably kept Arnold Palmer course.

And more.

How thorough are the upgrades?

Even the burger is better than ever.

No standard-issue ground beef patty on a bun, it’s made with 100 percent Japanese Wagyu, a prized, supremely fatty variety of beef.

Wagyu is so marbled, it’s tender and juicy in most any preparation, but that doesn’t mean a Wagyu burger doesn’t call for care.

The same is true for any burger, no matter what kind of beef you’re using, says Park Hyatt Aviara Executive Chef Pierre Albaladejo, who shares these pointers for preparing a great hamburger at home.

The Bell Burger and the Grand Bell Burger at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club go great with a Moscow mule.

Clubhouse Eats: Pine Needles’ burgers are just as famous as the Lodge’s late owner

By: Josh Sens

Flip more than once

Albaladejo says he’s sees it often at backyard barbecues: burgers that are left to grill too long on one side, so that they’re cooked three-quarters through, then flipped and grilled briefly on the other before serving. The result is an overcooked patty that’s unevenly charred, lacking the crusty sear it needs to seal in flavors. At the Park Hyatt Aviara, Albaladejo forms his ground beef into six-ounce patties and cooks them for roughly five minutes (he suggests six minutes for burgers made with conventional ground beef) flipping them four times along the way, so that each side gets two searing sessions. “When you flip it more often, it cooks more evenly,” Albaladejo says. “You get that even crust on the outside, and inside it’s a beautiful medium-rare.”

Make the burger fit the bun

When you eat a burger, you want both beef and bun in every bite. Sounds simple enough. But how many times have you chomped down on a home-cooked burger, only to wind up with a mouthful of bread? To ensure equal billing for each component, Albaladejo says, remember to shape patties that are just a fraction larger than whatever buns you’re using. The burger will shrink just a bit while cooking, so the patty and the bun will be evenly matched. Balance in the universe, restored.

Serve right away

Leaving meat to rest allows time for the juices to settle, and it’s a fine idea with steaks and other cuts. But not with a burger, Albaladejo says, as the juices will mostly just seep out of the patty, leaving you with a drier result than you deserve. “I want to serve it pretty much right off the grill, so that it’s hot and juicy and delicious as it should be,” Albaladejo says.  

Easy on the seasoning

The better the meat, the less seasoning you need. With his Wagyu, Albaladejo uses salt and pepper, nothing more. His suggestion: buy good-quality meat, and do the same. “I just want that pure beef flavor to come through in the meat,” he says. “You can add other elements with the accouterments.”

Speaking of accouterments, at Pacific Point, the lobby lounge at the Park Hyatt Aviara, Albaladejo serves his Wagyu beef burger on a brioche bun, with spicy aioli, onion shiitake compote, Boursin cheese sauce, hydroponic watercress and yuzu pickles.

What, you were expecting ketchup, lettuce and American cheese?

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A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.