What constitutes the perfect burger? Is there such a thing as perfection? After all, taste is subjective and one person’s dream burger could well be a disappointment to someone else. Ultimately this blog is about the search for my perfect burger.
As it happens, my opinions on the things that make a perfect burger align quite closely with those expressed by Anthony Bourdain in this video:
There’s nothing I particularly disagree with there, except I tend to eat my burgers with two hands and don’t mind if they’re a bit messy. Here are my thoughts on the ingredients that combine to make the perfect burger:
Should be soft and yield easily when bitten. Chewy or crusty buns make for cumbersome eating, often resulting in the contents of the burger sliding out onto your lap. Preferably lightly toasted on the inside to prevent it from becoming soggy. Sesame seeds are optional, potato buns are great, as are brioche buns, provided they aren’t too sweet.
Ketchup (tomato sauce if you’re Australian), mayonnaise, mustard or any combination of the three are acceptable burger condiments. Special burger sauces such as the Big Mac sauce can be great too. I’m normally not a fan of barbecue sauce as it’s often too sweet and its flavour can overpower a burger (though it can work well in burgers with bacon).
Preferably beef mince (ground beef if you’re American) formed into one larger, or two smaller patties. Well-seasoned, but the seasoning shouldn’t distract from the flavour of the meat – just salt and pepper works fine. Cooking doneness depends on the patty and the chef, but anything from medium-rare to (just) well-done is fine, provided it’s warm in the centre. Bacon can be a delicious savoury addition, though less is more, as its saltiness can overpower the beef. I rarely order chicken burgers and have a preference for battered, deep-fried chicken breast and a loathing for sodium-rich processed chicken.
Pretty much mandatory, but shouldn’t overpower the flavour of the meat (which is why blue cheese burgers are a bit hit-and-miss). Ideally the cheese should have a subtle flavour, creamy texture and an even melt – American and processed cheeses are generally optimal. Melted over the meat for extra points.
Should be kept simple to avoid over-complicating the burger and making it difficult to hold together. Lettuce is great for crunch and can help to keep the bottom bun dry if placed under the meat. Tomatoes provide juiciness, thinly sliced or diced raw onion helps to cut through fattiness and pickles (along with mustard) add piquancy. A runny fried egg adds great texture and flavour – at the cost of messiness. Beetroot and pineapple? Save them for the salads.
So there you have it – one man’s ideas on the ingredients that combine to make a great burger. What do you think? Comment below and let me know what makes your perfect burger.