Michelin star chef challenges BBQ tradition, says not to grill hamburgers

According to top chef David Chang, it's a mistake to grill hamburger patties. However, a competing chef goes against him: "Never take advice from a chef with two Michelin stars."

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

As the barbecue season officially opens, it might be time to reconsider the way we cook our hamburgers. A leading chef with two Michelin stars believes that grilling a hamburger, whether on a barbecue or not, impairs its taste and texture.

David Chang, whose flagship restaurant in New York, Momofuku Ko, has two Michelin stars, argues that making hamburger patties this way is simply a "marketing lie." Instead, he suggests cooking the meatballs in a regular pan or griddle pan.

On his podcast, The David Chang Show, the 45-year-old chef stated, "Grills suck for burgers. We have assumed as a culture that in summer, we eat a burger and it’s grilled. I actually think the grill is a horrible thing for the burger… I think this viewpoint could get me in trouble."

According to Chang, using a griddle pan is the best option, leaving less to clean up afterward. "A juicy burger is going to turn into a guaranteed grease fire [on a barbecue], why use it? This whole idea of imparting flavor from the grill, the only flavor that’s being imparted is the carbonized crap that’s on it. You would need to cook a burger over charcoal for 12 hours to get that smoky flavor.

The chef also noted that many people enjoy grilling simply for its nostalgic appeal. The idea of being surrounded by friends and good food enhances the eating experience. However, when focusing solely on taste, the burger falls short.

 Hamburger: Is it healthy, or is it junk food? (Illustrative) (credit: PIXABAY)
Hamburger: Is it healthy, or is it junk food? (Illustrative) (credit: PIXABAY)

Chang agreed that certain foods, such as chicken, chicken thighs, pork, lamb chops, and seafood, are indeed delicious on a barbecue. He even admitted that vegetables like corn taste "quite nice" when cooked over an open flame.

Getting into trouble: British chef lashes out at Chang's burger grill criticism

Chang said he was worried his views could bring him trouble. And trouble it did bring. Chef Colin Robertson responded with a scathing review published in the British Sun.

Robertson wrote, "Years of Colin's Annual Summer BBQ and FOUR (count 'em!) years as Burger Station Chief at the North Harringay Primary School summer fair has schooled me well in the art of the backyard burger. Last Saturday I served 250 burgers to hungry families for £4.50 a pop. Complaints, there were none. Because what makes the perfect burger is exactly what deluded Dave decries."

He added, "The whole point of a barbecued burger is to let it touch the flames – 'gimme that grease fire,' squeals the meat as you press it on. Boffins call it the Maillard reaction — a chemical reaction between the protein and sugars that give meat its delicious brown crunch.... As the flames lick the meat adding the smoky taste it reminds you: You're not in McDonald's now. Besides, one man’s 'carbonized crap' is another’s charred champion."