by David Kitai
There is little in the world as innately satisfying as a good hamburger. When the bun, meat and toppings are perfectly balanced, a burger can deliver a pure shot of pleasure. However, while it might be the quickest way to instant stomach satisfaction, when made wrong it has the potential to yield truly disappointing results. Follow my tips and find yourself eating the perfect burgers all-year round (on your cheat days of course).
A burger is nothing without the right bun
The right bun could mean a two slices of fluffy white Wonder Bread, but as charming as they are, I think we can do better. (The bun should actually taste like something.) If you like a rich burger, consider brioche. My personal preference is a variety made with a mixture of white and whole-wheat flour and sourdough starter. Sourdough-driven bakeries often carry several great bun options. When the bun is fresh with a lightly crispy crust and soft, flavourful crumb, you know you’re in for a good burger.
Too many burgers—otherwise perfect—suffer from an anxious cook laying down four or five different sauces. I don’t care how much you love your dill aioli, it’s doesn’t pair with banana ketchup and peach chutney. Pick one or two sauces for your burger, matching flavours you know work well together. Sauce should be applied conservatively with wetter sauces, like ketchup and mustard, applied to the bottom bun where they will touch the patty. Mayonnaise-based sauces can be spread on the base of the top bun since they won’t soak veggie toppings like their wetter counterparts.
Keep your veggies seasonal
A sandy, watery, out-of-season tomato wrecks a burger. Come wintertime, why not replace them with a few slices of pickled beetroot? You’ll be surprised by how beautifully they fit in your burger. Wintergreens like kale, chard and collards can serve as cold-weather substitutes for lettuce (especially if you give them a quick wilt in a pan). Onions and mushrooms are best when cooked and, if desirable, with a bit of bacon.
Meat isn’t all about fat
But it’s a little bit about fat. The best way to guarantee a better burger is to make your own patty from ground beef. I aim for approximately 15 to 20 percent fat seasoned only with salt and pepper. If you like the fast food-style burger, make a few small ¼ lb-patties pounded thin. If you want something medium-rare, shape a thick ⅓ lb-patty per serving. Most importantly—and perhaps controversially—don’t cook your burger on a grill. Use a cast-iron pan or flattop. The juicy fat will refract back up to the burger, multiplying the flavour and tenderness, rather than dripping off to burn away between the grill slats.
Toast your buns and assemble with care
You might do everything right only to have your burger fall apart en route to your mouth. It’s likely attributed to over stacking and a cold, untoasted bun. Consider too your plate as a whole. Classic as fries may be on a hot summer’s day a juicy burger needs a refreshing side. Opt for grilled asparagus and zucchini topped with a little lemon juice and zest and melted butter, or a green salad with roast corn.