If you’ve eaten a delicious burger in New York City recently, chances are you’ve sampled the wares of Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors. After all, the Jersey-based wholesaler supplies dry-aged steaks, custom-blended patties and more to 1,500 restaurants, including standout burger joints like Minetta Tavern (home of the famous Black Label Burger), Shake Shack and Spotted Pig.

“We have always specialized in making custom blends of chopped beef,” the man behind the brand, Pat LaFrieda himself, explains. “And we like to say chopped not ground because chopped beef is something that still has texture. So you get the integrity that comes along with that, but you also get the flavor that you’re looking for by using specific cuts of beef.”

We recently caught up with him at a Heineken Light event where we got to sample mouthwatering tomahawk steaks (see above), chicken, ribs and burgers (see below)—and learn about the brand’s new YouTube spot featuring Neil Patrick Harris and “The Grill Master.” So to help you prep for a kickass July 4th BBQ, here are LaFrieda’s thoughts on all things grilling, including what to tell your butcher, how to make a beer-based marinade and, of course, how many times you should flip…

“Once the meat is on the grill, until it loosens up and some of those sugars are reduced—a.k.a. the Maillard reaction—that’s when I would flip the meat for the first time…”

On what to tell your butcher
“What I suggest is, if there is a particular flavor profile that you like in a steak—say ribeye—I would use the ribeye side of the chuck and ask my butcher for that particular cut, and that’s what I would grind. So if I wanted my burger to taste just like ribeye, I’d be taking pieces of ribeye, and that’s what I’d be putting through my chopping machine.”

On when to place your meat on the grill
“There’s a lot of advice out there that says you should take your meat out of the fridge and let it get up to room temperature before you put it on the grill. I disagree—sorry, chefs, but I do. Yes, the grill will kill pathogens, but there are some pathogens that heat cannot kill. So it’s not only unhealthy… I like my meat medium rare, and what I like to do is take my meat from the refrigerator and put it right onto a hot grill. And this will cause a few things. This will make the outside sear while the inside stays that medium rare that I’m looking for, it will not overcook, it won’t turn grey. And then I don’t wanna touch it. Once it’s on the grill, until it loosens up and some of those sugars are reduced—a.k.a. the Maillard reaction—that’s when I would flip the meat for the first time.”

On how many times you should flip a burger
“It’s a big debate as to how many times to flip a patty. For me it’s gonna cook on each side twice, so that’s really flipping it three times. So you’re placing it down, you’re flipping it. I know grill marks are passé but still, it makes me remember how many times the burger has been flipped, so I’ll have my cross-hatch marks just because that’s what I like to do. I think everyone’s experienced putting cheese on too early, and especially with rare burgers, you’ll start to have some of the blood come up into the cheese, which doesn’t look that nice. So having it cook on the fourth side as it’s final resting place before the cheese goes on top is really key. Otherwise the mixture of the two just never seems to come out right.”

On the biggest grilling mistake you can make
“I think the biggest mistake—and it sounds very simple but I hate to see it, I call it ‘steamed meat’—is when you put the meat on the grill before the grill’s hot enough. I can’t stress that enough. If you put your hand over it and it doesn’t feel hot enough, it isn’t. Give it some time to heat up. If you follow that rule, then taking refrigerated meat and cooking with that all the time, that is going to alleviate every issue you’ve ever had in grilling because what’s everyone’s biggest problem? ‘I can’t get it to the wellness I want it to.’ If you’re always starting out with the meat at the same temperature, and you’re putting it onto the same amount of heat, it should take the same amount of time to cook it for the wellness you’re looking for.”

lafrieda chicken

On the best beer-based marinade…
We’re often asked about alcohol and marinade, and usually what’s used is a balsamic vinaigrette, which gives a more refined, sweeter flavor when you’re done. The reduction of alcohol does the same, except for the most part the alcohol cooks off and usually you don’t really gain much. We’ve been playing around with Heineken Light and because of the cascade hops, because of that really fruity flavor and those hoppy notes, we’re able to actually translate that into the finished product, so you’re actually tasting the beer in the marinade or in the sauce, so that’s something that we’re really excited about…

Heineken-Light_Pat-LaFrieda_Chicken-Recipe-Card