Meet Mr. Hamburger

With apologies to Josh Ozersky, Adam Kuban, and the Hamburglar, George Motz is America's leading hamburger expert. In his 2005 documentary Hamburger America, Motz—who's won awards for television and commercial work—travels around America documenting eight establishment hamburger stands. (It was required that they be open at least 40 years, which we give much respect to in this day of food fads and flash success capturing the majority of media attention).

This month Motz released his debut iPhone application, christened the Burger GPS. It reviews over 1,800 hamburger restaurants across the country—none of which are typical fast food chains or use frozen beef—and compiles it all in a trusty map. Perfect for your next hamburger roadtrip, which is so much cooler than this.

With the official burger season kicking off this weekend, we caught up with the filmmaker to talk about home grilling and why cooked ground beef is such a juicy (oh, so juicy) topic to devote your life to.

Why dedicate so many of your creative juices to documenting the hamburger—and not topics like the war in Iraq, NASCAR racing, sea turtles, or, hell, pizza? What is so compelling?

Because a few years ago no one was taking the American hamburger seriously. Gourmet burgers were on the rise and fast food was under fire. I felt that the great mom 'n pops of the country, the true primary sources for great burgers, were getting pushed aside and dismissed. The war, pizza, and sea turtles are all important, but most people just want to find a great burger and avoid the issues.

Why do you always recommend the home-griller use ground chuck?

It's the easiest and tastiest way to make burgers at home. If you have no clue what you are doing in the kitchen or grill, stick with 80/20 chuck and you can't go wrong.

Biggest mistake a home-griller can make?

Most people think that grilling outside is the easiest way to make a burger. It's not. Grilling requires an incredible amount of patience and knowledge, something most weekend grillers don't possess. If you have made a great burger on a grill you have reached a new level of understanding. One big mistake grillers make is to not toast the buns. The best way to enjoy any burger is to toast the buns in a pan with butter (not over direct flame). Also, pressing a burger on an open flame only sends those precious juices into the fire, juices that should be in your mouth.

OK, settle the great debate on which cooking surface is superior: Flattop (pan) vs. the grill.

Flattop all the way, all the time. Flame is tough to manage. The flattop is consistently good.

If you were forced to eat a burger at a fast food chain, which one would you pick—and which burger?

Forced? It wouldn't take much to get my mitts on an In-N-Out Double-Double Animal Style. I had three last week...

Would you dedicate this much effort to documenting another foodstuff?

Not anytime soon. My focus is still the hamburger and I'm constantly learning more everyday.

What foodstuff needs to be documented to the extent of the hamburger?

If I had to choose one other foodstuff to cover next it would be the oyster. I'm crazy about oysters.