The perfect burger can be seen as a figment of the imagination - a burger is only as perfect as the ingredients that make up the burger as a whole, meaning that every element of the burger needs to be absolutely perfect. The traditional burger, with onion, lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mustard, is a familiar and safe staple, but to me, that is not burger perfection. That perfection is reached only when each flavor that I could possibly desire has been involved, and is complemented by everything other flavor. It is a difficult math equation that I plan to solve.
In order to conquer a burger, it must be broken down into pieces. A burger can’t just be thrown together without some thought, care and creativity. In order to make this perfect burger, I will break it down by the most important elements: Bun, Meat, Cheese, Vegetable Toppings, Premium Toppings, and Condiments.
The bun is more important than most people think. If you like a burger that is jam packed with all sorts of ingredients, you need a bun that is able to hold in everything while also adding its own signature flavor. Here are my three favorite buns for any and all types of burgers.
1) Sesame Seed Bun: This is a classic. It is soft and pillowy, like a warm blanket that you can tuck your burger into before you devour it. This kind of bun is perfect for a burger that doesn’t have a lot of wet or greasy toppings, i.e., fried egg, bacon, chili, etc. I love the flavor of a sesame seed bun, mostly because of the crunchiness of the sesame seeds.
2) Brioche Bun: This is my favorite, mostly because it can take on any toppings and still retain its shape without getting soggy and mushy. A good brioche bun will also have an incredible texture: crusty but still a little doughy. The flavor of brioche is also great, it’s almost sweet which cuts the richness of a really meaty burger.
3) English Muffin: I know, I know, not very traditional. Don’t underestimate the power of a toasted english muffin, complete with all the necessary nooks and crannies to soak up the meaty juices. That extra crunch is a really nice compliment to a juicy burger, and with a swipe of melted butter, you have sheer awesomeness.
The center of the burger, around which every other element either flourishes or fails. A good piece of meat is very, very important to the rest of the burger, it almost pains me when I see those grey discs in between two pieces of bread at a restaurant or burger joint. Your meat selection is crucial to your burger, so choose wisely and do your research.
1) Grass-fed Beef: A good old slab of beef is a great start, but in order to ensure the flavor of the meat is great as well, I prefer a grass-fed cow over grain. Many people look out for these things and don’t really understand why they prefer one over the other, but after reading up on it and understanding why grass-fed is so important, I try to keep that as my staple for burger meat, and any meat, really. It tastes better and makes your body feel better too.
2) Lamb: A lamb burger opens up so many possibilities when it comes to building a delicious burger. It begs for feta cheese, olives, cucumbers and tzatziki sauce--all things that are perfect elements for a burger. The meat itself is also full of flavor, tending to have a much richer taste than a standard beef patty.
3) Turkey:A lot of people frown upon the turkey burger. It’s not beef, but it’s not veggie either. I’ve had people ask me what I’m really trying to achieve when I’m ordering a turkey burger, and all I can say is that I find it incredibly satisfying. While it lacks the smoky flavor of a beef burger, its slightly sweet flavor makes it a really great meat to top with roasted red peppers, a crisp, sweet red onion and a rich swipe of hummus.
Cheese is so important to a burger. It provides a melty, tangy, nutty element that can’t really be achieved by any other topping. For that cheese to really achieve perfection, it needs to be at least partially melted. A cold slab or crumble of cheese will just not do, so be sure to add on that cheese before the burger is fully cooked. Covering the patty with a bowl for a few minutes is also very effective, in order to concentrate the heat on the cheese.
1) Smoked Cheddar: that smoked, slightly charred flavor is an excellent contrast to the sharpness of cheddar, especially if I don’t have a grill to make my burger on.
2) Pepperjack: While many people like a spicy burger, I don’t really, but I do enjoy a kick of heat that doesn’t numb my mouth. For that, I call on pepperjack cheese, which has an incredible spice element without being too much.
3) Blue cheese: the nutty, salty flavor of blue cheese is so satisfying to me, especially on a super beefy burger with a huge slab of bacon. It may be a traditional burger, but it works for me, and it will absolutely work for you.
That fresh, crisp bite of veg is an excellent contrast to the juicy, fatty flavor of a burger patty. Be sure to use veggies that are as fresh as possible, or else you run the risk of getting a really soggy vegetable that kills the entire thing.
1) Heirloom Tomato: a thick, juicy slice of heirloom tomato is one of my favorite parts of a burger. It’s sweet and crunchy and adds a fresh element to the entire thing.
2) Avocado: the nice thing about avocado is that it not only can be on the burger in slices, it can also act as a spread. The fatty, creamy flavor of avocado goes incredibly well with a juicy piece of meat.
3) Red Onion: I prefer a red onion to a white onion, mostly because it is slightly sweeter and doesn’t have that tart bite to it. A really fresh red onion slice has an excellent crunch that is so necessary to the rest of the burger.
Premium Toppings: Part 1
What is a premium topping, you ask? These are the toppings that I consider “specialty,” not entirely uncommon, but not something you see every day at every burger place.These toppings are the backbone of the burger, without which all you would have is a piece of meat with no love behind it.
1) Fried Egg: This is my number one. Creamy, rich, a perfect compliment to a burger, plain and simple.
2) Crispy onions: Crunchy, salty, this is basically salted candy for your burger, and who doesn’t like candy?
3) Chili: A really hearty, beefy chili is a perfect topping for a burger, in my opinion. And because chili is such a flavor-heavy topping, there’s no need to load much else on.
4) Bacon: It’s bacon. Need I say more?