The Secrets to Crafting a Great Burger

There are a lot of people claiming to sling great burgers in this big city of ours, but a lot of them fall short of perfection. However, if you take care to follow these basic burger tenets, you will almost invariably end up with an amazing handful of food.

That’s some tasty looking shit!

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The Bread: A potato roll seems to be the best, most durable, yet simultaneously soft and pliable bun on the market. You don’t want a flaky bun that crumbles apart in your hands, and you don’t want something so crunchy that it snaps in half when you grab it or bite down. The potato bun is also absorbent of meat juices too, and isn’t too big or thick to the point where using one creates a massive burger that you can’t fit your mouth around to bite down upon. In addition, they offer a bit of sweetness to contrast with the savory flavors of a burger. Last, they toast and grill nicely without too much damage done to the structural integrity, pliability or strength of the bun.

The Grind: What makes a burger so delicious is the fatty meats that are used in the grinding process. Burgers made from lean beasts like bison, or from low fat content cuts like tenderloin, should always be cooked for less time otherwise they will dry out and become too hard. Don’t be afraid of the fat. Fat is what makes the burger good; it adds texture, flavor and it helps in the searing process.

Meat Ratio: I’m going to go ahead and say that anything over an inch thick and four inches in diameter is simply too big, and possibly anything closely approaching said dimensions is too big. There will be too much meat in relation to bun, cheese and toppings. It will taste monotonous, and it will likely soak through the bread regardless of whether you are using a potato bun. It’ll be heavy too, essentially flattening the bottom of the bun, and if it doesn’t, then you’re bun is too hard.

Cooking Method: Cook a burger on a flat top griddle and you will love the result. It will get a nice even sear, a crust will form, and all those juices will get locked into the middle of the patty. If you’re using a grill, you’re losing juices and that oh-so-delicious fat content that a burger needs to achieve true greatness.

Cooking Temperature: This is where I may get some guff from people. I like to order my burgers medium instead of medium rare, because with medium rare you almost always get too much bleed-out and juices flowing, which ruins the bottom bun. Sorry fellas. This ain’t a steak; it’s a sandwich, and sandwiches have toppings, condiments and cheese.

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Cheese: I’m not even going to entertain the idea of eating a burger without cheese. Fuck that. And, for me, it’s American, all the way, at least two slices per patty. There’s just something about the flavor of American cheese that works so fucking great with a burger. I guess if you have a fancy grind of meats like aged rib eye or wagyu brisket, then you can accentuate those funky flavors with a different cheese like a sharp cheddar, a gruyere, or a stilton. I like to keep it simple though.

Condiments: I think every burger should have a smear of mayonnaise on both ends of the bun. Not only does it help protect the bread and keep it from getting soaked through with meat juices, but it also creates a glue to prevent toppings from sliding off upon biting down into the burger. It also tastes pretty good too. I’m not really a ketchup guy. I only use it for dipping if my burger seems too dry.

Type & Amount of Toppings: There is a tendency to pile on when you see a delicious list of available toppings. Steer clear of using too many, though, otherwise you’ll lose the essence of the meat, and it will become too tall to get your mouth around, if not just plain old messy.

As for the type of toppings, I think it’s nice to have a crunch element, like lettuce (a leaf of iceberg for me), crispy fried onion, or raw onion (only a few circles for me, otherwise I’m ravenously thirsty for the next three days).

Some may like bacon for crunch and savoriness, but I only go with bacon on occasion because I want to taste that burger meat more than the bacon meat. Bacon is a star. Give bacon it’s own day of praise without the burger being involved.

Besides, crispy bacon also has a tendency to cause rips in the bun when you apply pressure. Not good.

I also like tomato for a fresh pop of coolness, temperature-wise, and jalapenos for my heat, spice-wise. I like half-sour pickles as well, for an acidic zing, but if you use pickled jalapenos then you knock out two birds with one stone (spice and acidity). I do like fresh jalapenos much better though, so then it becomes an art of using a few slices of jalapeno and a few slices of pickle, without overcrowding the burger.

That’s really it for toppings, and that’s already pushing the limit at five items: lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, jalapeno. I realize the peppers aren’t for everyone. If you’re one of those people, feel free to pass on that. There’s always room at my table for pussies who can’t handle spicy food, and I’ll only mock you about it for a little while.

Side Note for Toppings: Many people like an over-easy or sunny side up egg on their burger. I think it should only be used on something like bison or a lean burger, where you need to add the fat from the egg yolk back into the sandwich because the base of the meat is low on fat flavor. Alternatively, you can use it when the patty is texture-monotonous, lacks flavor or is dry.

Last but not least, if all of this extremely simple shit is too confusing for your primitive lizard brains, you can just think back to the old days of Atari and Intellivision, when a game called “Burger Time” helped you understand what makes a good burger:

Burger Time

3 thoughts on “The Secrets to Crafting a Great Burger”

  1. You are dead on about the potato bread thing. I had just sent a message to a friend of mine from the east coast who I met in college back in my homeland of Illinois, where there is no such thing as potato bread.

    – Me: One time in college we were at the store and you were annoyed that you couldn’t find potato bread. We didn’t have potato bread in Illinois, never had heard of it. I tried to convince you that whatever bread was there was fine – that bread was bread. I was wrong. Potato bread is the most delicious bread by far. Just wanted you to know you were right…

    – Friend: No problem, you were living in the blissful ignorance of Central Illinois. Glad you are finally partaking in the joy that is potato bread.

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