Ground beef goes viral on TikTok thanks to Chef Merrick’s video

If you’ve lived in Boise for a while, chances are you’ve heard of the city’s famous burger patties. Mention them to anyone outside the state of Idaho, however, and you’ll likely be greeted with a blank stare.

Unless they’ve seen the recent video of celebrity TikToker chef Merrick.

TikTok is a video-focused social networking site that allows users to post and share videos as well as follow other users and comment on their videos.

Chef Merrick, whose real name is Jonathon Merrick when he’s not creating mouth-watering videos, is a resident of Boise with over 100,000 followers on his TikTok account.

Merrick started using TikTok in 2019, teaching people how to cook a wide variety of foods, from maple honey roasted peanuts to potatoes au gratin. When he’s not making TikTok videos, Merrick is a specialty product expert and craft supplies specialist at Shamrock Foods, a Boise-based food supplier and delivery service.

On March 28, Merrick posted a video showing people how to make steaks with a side dish of mashed potatoes and cocktail sauce. The video had over 313,000 views as of Wednesday afternoon.

“It was just a fun recipe, it was a no-brainer,” Merrick told the Idaho Statesman. “I just thought it would be really cool to represent the tradition, to represent the recipe, but also to represent Idaho as a state and give some exposure to a recipe that a lot of people didn’t know about.”

Merrick’s recipe features local Wagyu beef from Snake River Farms in Boise and a variety of spices including mushroom powder, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika.

Merrick moved to Boise from Pennsylvania two years ago and called a friend and lifelong Idahoan during the video to ask what sauce should be served on the side. His friend’s answer was cocktail sauce.

Many Idahoans were quick to comment on Merrick’s video, both praising his work and offering alternatives to his recipe.

“SERVE IT WITH FRY SAUCE!!! Mayo, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke. It’s killer, I promise,” commented a user called alex_bosshardt. “I’m from Idaho, this is our jam up north.”

“I’m from Idaho and I’ve eaten steaks from Westside Drive In my whole life and you’re supposed to use fry sauce I thought,” said another user, Emmanuelle Tapia.

Whether the correct answer is fried sauce or cocktail sauce, Merrick simply enjoyed the discussion he created on his post.

“It’s a good debate here, you know, back and forth,” Merrick said. “So it seems to me that a lot of people make cocktail (sauce), but a lot of people make fried sauce.”

The video is also attracting attention from outside the Gem State. One user, simply called Erin, said he recently visited Idaho and hadn’t heard of burger patties and now wanted to come back to try them, while another user said that he was from Scotland and loved learning more about Merrick’s recipe.

Idaho steaks aren’t just a niche food that Merrick highlighted.

Idaho has a long history with finger steaks. The state’s craze for the deep-fried slice of meat may date back to the Torch Lounge when a chef named Mylo Bybee is said to have invented the dish before joining the Torch’s kitchen staff in the late 1940s.

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Here it is: “Sonny’s Secret Finger Steak Recipe”. Allen Haummann Facebook

The Idaho statesman went so far as to crown the steaks as one of Boise’s “150 Icons” in a special book in 2013 celebrating 150 years of Boise.

“One thing that has always been important to me is regionality. For example, if we go on a trip to New England, the first thing people think of is clam chowder,” Merrick said. “If you go to Louisiana, they might think of jambalaya or maybe some other recipe.

“I guess what inspired me was the fact that it’s unique. It’s unique to this area. A lot of people haven’t heard of it,” he continued. So it’s something different. I think doing a twist on that was a way to connect with the locals.

A winning recipe

In 2008, the statesman hosted the Great Idaho Finger Steak Cook-off to recreate the original recipe — or something close. Bybee, it was said at the time, always kept its secret ingredient a secret. Here is the recipe that the judges chose to be the closest to the original:

Finger Steak Cook-off Winner

  • 1 pound sirloin steak
  • 1-1/2 cup flour
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lowry salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Enough milk to form a pancake batter (about a cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients except the meat in a large bowl to make the dough. Cut the steak into cubes or strips, as desired, and dip in the batter. If the paste is too thin to adhere to the meat, let it thicken for a few minutes.

Fry at 375 degrees until dark golden brown.

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This story was originally published March 30, 2022 2 p.m.

Shaun Goodwin is a duty reporter at the Idaho Statesman. If you enjoy stories like this, consider supporting our work by subscribing to our journal.
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Dino S. Williams