Six Tips For Better Burgers at Your Cookout

Carlstadt burger makers Schweid and Sons share a century of meat know-how.

Carlstadt-based Schweid & Sons has been specializing in chopped beef for 40 years (to say nothing of their century of experience as butchers). So listen when they suggest that 90/10 ground beef may not be your best bet for summer cookouts.

Ground beef labeled 90/10 means it is 90 percent lean, 10 percent fat.

“Consumers feel that it is lean and supposed to be good for you,” says executive vice president Jamie Schweid, 36, who runs the company with his father, David, and older brother, Brad.

From left, Brad, David and Jamie Schweid, makers of premium ground beef.

From left, Brad, David and Jamie Schweid, makers of premium ground beef.

What you get less of in a 90/10 grind, Schweid says, is flavor and moisture. At supermarkets you can find 85/15 or even 80/20 ground beef. The Schweids sell burgers that are 80/20 and even 75/25, which they regard as optimum for a great-tasting, juicy, cookout burger.

For years, the Schweids sold their ground beef exclusively to restaurants (including Taphaus in Jersey City and the Barn in Wyckoff). Last year they decided to sell at supermarkets as well. Now their patties are available at Shop-Rite, Kings and Balducci’s markets. Each package contains four 5.3-ounce patties, priced between $7.50 and $9, depending on the store.

Schweid notes that while supermarkets identify the lean/fat ratio on each package, many do not identify the particular cuts of meat used in the blend. Schweid’s burgers are made from Certified Angus Beef, employing a mix of chuck and brisket, both of which contain a generous marbling of fat.

The company also offers what it calls its One Percenter blend, made with Certified Angus Beef chuck shoulder graded USDA prime. The name reflects the fact that “only one to three percent of all beef in this country is graded USDA prime,” according to Schweid. “It’s the best quality beef you can have.”

“With the brisket and chuck, you get a very beefy flavor,” Schweid says. “With the prime chuck, you get a little cleaner taste. It’s really a personal preference.”

In both cases, he says, you get “a very loose-formed patty, to emulate a handmade burger.”

Here are Schweid’s tips on cooking burgers:

1) Sprinkle both sides generously with salt.

2) Cook on a flat-top griddle or a grill to enhance the char for a crisper surface.

3) Do not press the burger with a spatula or other tool while it cooks. That does nothing but squeeze out the juices.

4) Turn the burger only once. This, too, helps retain moisture. To determine whether the burger is ready to flip, lift the edge gently with a spatula. If it releases easily, it’s ready.

5) When is a burger done after cooking on both sides? Schweid goes by what he calls “the face test.” When the burger is gently pressed, “if it feels like your cheek, it is medium rare. If it feels like your chin, it is medium. If it feels like your forehead, it is well done.” Of course, some people’s cheeks are chubby, others gaunt. Some people have bony chins, others double chins. But you get the idea. Use your judgment.

6) After the burger is done, resist the temptation to serve it immediately. Let it rest a few minutes to finish cooking and consolidate its juices before you serve it.

As a company, Schweid & Sons dates to the late 1800s, when the brothers’ great grandfather Harry started selling high-quality meat in Manhattan. By the 1930s, their grandfather Sam was processing the meat in Harlem. In 1978, their father, David, decided to specialize in ground beef. By then the family was living in New Jersey, so in 1994 David moved the company across the river. Jamie and Brad joined the firm a few years later.

“My father didn’t want the family business to be something we were forced to go into,” Schweid says. “We didn’t have that pressure. But we have a passion for what we do, and we don’t mind working hard to take the business to the next level.”

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