Brent Hart is a genuine, people first criminal defense attorney and all around solid human being. He’s the type of guy that catches house spiders to let them outside and you might find him helping an old lady cross the street every once in a while. The saying “he wouldn’t hurt a fly” is applicable here. Although when it comes to burgers, Brent will grill a burger so good, it’ll bring a tear to your eye. We were fortunate enough to have Brent for an interview where he breaks down his secrets to grilling the perfect burger and also provides a list of his top three burger joints in Seattle. Enjoy the interview!
Noah: What does a good burger look like to you? What makes it stand out?
Brent: I think a good burger can come in many different forms. For me, you want to see a good combination of quality beef, a light bun, generously seasoned with a good quality sear–usually over high heat. For thicker burgers, I like a higher fat content beef that has been cooked long enough for the fat to render a bit, but not so overcooked that the meat is dry. For me, a rare burger is gross because the fat never renders, and it doesn’t taste as good. I like a higher fat content usually at medium well. Bacon and good cheese never hurt. Charcoal is ideal – but at the very least you want a burger that has been seared properly.
N: What are your top 3 burger spots in Seattle and why?
B: At first I’d have to put 8oz Burger and Co. followed by Quinn’s on Capitol Hill. They are both spots where you can find meat that’s seasoned perfectly… it’s never disappointing. The Swinery in West Seattle comes in at third. They’re a high-end butcher that does a really good burger. They are kind of pricey, but the burgers are big enough to split with another person. I’d also have to add Dicks as an honorable mention (because if I didn’t say Dicks in Seattle, I would probably be accused of not being from Seattle). It doesn’t really follow any of my indicators of a good burger above, but it still is super good. Maybe it’s because it tastes like a weekend in my high school days like a billion years ago.
N: If you had one tip for someone in pursuit of grilling up the best burger, what would it be?
B: Get a charcoal grill. Ideally a Weber. Get a charcoal chimney so you don’t have to use lighter fluid. I like to use a burger at 20% fat content and cook at high heat (usually a full chimney worth of charcoal). Bank charcoal on one half of grill, so there is one hot side and one cool side. Generously season burgers with a coarse salt (such as kosher salt) and maybe a little bit of pepper. No annoying fillers like breadcrumbs, eggs, tea or milk. Cook long enough over direct flame until there is a good sear (usually about five-seven minutes per side), but check. You can tell when there is a good sear when burger naturally releases from grill grate. If using cheese/bacon put lay on top at this time. Cover grill (with both vents open). If burgers are starting to burn on bottom or flames are getting too high, move burgers to cool side of grill and cover grill if burgers still aren’t done. I usually keep a squirt bottle of water next to grill in case you get flare ups (which happen with higher fat content burgers). I personally believe that the best buns at the grocery store are the cheapest buns–the grocery store white buns. Other buns are too big and dense typically. I will sometimes marinate some red onion or shallot in white vinegar (it will only take 30 minutes if onion/shallot are cut thin) for an interesting topping.