The Makings of a Great Burger
The bun: Often overlooked, the bun in the burger aficionado world seems to be the soft, rich brioche style. This, in my opinion, is the choice of someone who hasn’t thought through the practicalities in sufficient detail. A deftly cooked burger, dripping with greasy juices, and topped with piquant sauces, will see off such a bun in minutes, leading to its inevitable sad, soggy abandonment – how many times have you had to pick up a knife and fork to finish things off? (In the case of Patty and Bun, notorious for its gloriously messy creations, it’s advisable to keep the burger in its paper wrapping to the very last bite to save your dignity).
The burger: A high fat content is key to success – John Torode reckons “the best formula will be about 40% fat, otherwise it will not be moist.” Chuck or brisket are good places to start, but the main thing to ensure is that there’s enough flavor, which means well-aged beef: New Jersey butchers Pat LaFrieda uses 50-day dry-aged prime rib in their patties, which may or may not be going too far. A coarser grind will give a more satisfyingly meaty texture – if you don’t have your own machine, the butchers you’ll no doubt have had to visit to source your decent beef should be happy to do it for you. Real burger purists will stop there, but for a really juicy, intensely savory result, add breadcrumbs soaked in stout. For a decent crust, salt your burgers just before searing them on a smoking hot grill or pan – and go no further than medium rare. A well-done burger is nothing short of a chewy tragedy.
The cheese: Not mandatory, of course – but a very welcome addition. American cheese, is amazingly popular among modern burger pushers, mainly because it melts very easily. Most prefer a cheese you can actually taste, even if it doesn’t drip so fetchingly down the sides of the burger – a mature cheddar is a great choice, added to the patty during cooking so it drapes round it like a cloak.
The pickles: With enough decent pickles, you won’t miss that salad – spicy Korean kimchi is the latest fermented fad. Add a few thin slices of red onion, briefly soaked in vinegar to rob them of their anti-social bite, and you’re in pickle heaven.
Sauces: You can get as fancy as you like here. A popular choice is a Thousand Island type dressing. A good burger only deserves the best.