Food July 23, 2022

United States of Burgers: Tips and techniques to make a great burger with smashed avocado and bacon

WATCH: 'GMA' gets pro tips to build the perfect burger

"Good Morning America" kicked off the United States of Burgers on Saturday with the best tips and recipes for making the perfect burger.

Shane Schaibly, the corporate chef at First Watch Restaurant, shared two toppings that will put your burger over the top, plus his preferences for beef blends, cooking techniques and more.

Tips for Making the Perfect Burger

The best type of meat for a burger:

My absolute favorite and go-to lately has been a dry-aged burger. I have a good friend who is a butcher, and they are making a dry-aged burger right now using the pellicle form [of] dry-aging rib-eye and New York strip in-house. It is also tender and deep in flavor and absolutely fantastic.

That said, the classic chuck 80/20 blend is an easy go-to for every weekend grilling. To get fancy, you can blend in brisket or short rib ground beef but the return on investment on these higher cost cuts isn't always appreciated by the backyard barbecue guest. Mixing and forming the patties quickly is key – you don't want the heat from your hands to heat up the fat in the mix. So gloves on, quick mixing of add-ins if applicable and then a speedy patty process all result in a superior burger.

How to season a burger:

At home, we use First Watch Seasoning quite a bit, which is what we use at the restaurants as well -- it's a very simple blend of kosher salt (must be kosher for the size and, in turn, the dispersion of the crystals onto the meat), black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika.

Tips for grilling up the burger:

I prefer a gas grill for everyday grilling as it heats up fast, is relatively easy to manage the flame, usually has a large enough surface area to do multiple things at once, plus most people have one already!

Now that we have the grill, let talk process. The key is to keep your grill impeccably clean. Buildup on the grates or in the bin or tray underneath can cause flare-ups and fires and makes managing the heat extremely difficult. Turn on the gas and get internal temperature to around 500 degrees, then scrape using a grill brush to clean off any debris from the last grill; close the lid and leave burners on while you get your burgers from the fridge.

The meat should be cold when it hits the grill to keep moisture in and hold the burgers together throughout the process.

Cooking the burgers:

Patty down, cook for 2-3 minutes; Turn 45 degrees and cook 2 more minutes; Flip the burger and cook 2-3 minutes; Turn 45 degrees to cook 2 more minutes. That's it! No pressing, smashing, flipping 50 times… less is more!

Topping recommendations:

Cheese, of course! A sharp cheddar always goes a long way, and so does a nice Gruyère, which is my personal favorite. But everything from brie to smoked Gouda to a mild jack and even American all have their place -- and no one usually complains about cheese choice at a backyard barbecue!

Bacon, more specifically "million dollar bacon" (recipe below). It will bring a sweetness to the table that can help balance out the richness of the burger or the spiciness of pepper jack cheese or other toppings like fresh jalapenos.

Avocado mash -- the mash approach makes for a better topping than avo slices in my humble opinion. This recipe is clean and pure with just fresh avocado, lemon juice and seasoning.

Brunch it up by adding a sunny side up or over-easy egg.

First Watch's Avocado Mash

3 avocados (about 3/4 pound), halved, peeled and pitted

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon First Watch Seasoning (kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion salt and paprika)

To prepare the Avocado Mash:

In a mixing bowl, combine avocados with lemon juice and seasoning until evenly coated.

Mash with a rubber spatula (or whisk), keeping medium-sized chunks. Don't over mash!

Transfer to an airtight container. Seal tightly with a double layer of plastic wrap pressed down directly onto the Avocado Mash to limit exposure to the air, which increases browning.

Keep in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours prior to serving, to ensure optimum temperature.

Million Dollar Bacon

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup water

8 slices of bacon


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a roasting rack on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Prepare the Million Dollar Bacon Glaze by whisking together sugar, black pepper, cayenne pepper, syrup and water in a large bowl.

Drag slices of bacon through glaze mixture and place on prepared sheet pan.

Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate pan and cook for another 5 minutes, making sure not to overcook.

When bacon is cooked to desired crispness, set aside until ready to serve.