Burgers are a lot like music; there are a million ways to make it. You’ll know when you’ve got it right. You’ll know, just as well, when you have it wrong.
I’ve eaten many a burger, and the experience is everywhere from the spiritual to the “spat-ual.” A good, home-cooked burger is just as awesome as the best trip out for dinner. For those of us whose cooking training has been “on the streets” or as a result of children claiming that death was nigh, sometimes a little help is a nice thing.
Making a great burger isn’t complicated; it CAN be. But at its core, burgers are common food, meant to be enjoyed by people of all walks of life. And to make a good burger, here’s my consumer advice:
- Fresh meat – Really, I’ll give you some places to skimp later, but DON’T skimp on the meat. Sometimes, corners must be cut. But keep the Platonic ideal in mind. Fresh, not frozen (80/20 mix … don’t go too cheap and don’t go too lean).
- Don’t Overcook – Be sensible. If you’re overly worried about food poisoning, get a thermometer or let someone else do the cooking. If you overcook the meat (no pink), it will be tasteless and boring, no matter how much stuff you add. And if you like it that way, more power to you and yours …
- Cheese – I’m always a fan. A good slice of cheddar or American (yes, the goopy fake stuff has a place… on top of a burger). Melted. On the grill. While I’ll do a blue cheese burger, the rest of the cheese is still holding a number.
- Buns – Quality and freshness are more important than type. A good plain bun works. So does a locally sourced, brioche or potato bun. Sesame seeds always please. The bun should hold everything together – and be noticeable in subtle flavor. Gentle, not loud or unnoticed.
- Condiments and the hangers-on – Skimp here, up to a point. No one has ever become Burger Maximus because they included lettuce, onion, pickles, ketchup, mayo and mustard … everyone does. My advice is if you can’t get good veggies, leave them off … a tasteless tomato in November adds nothing but cost. And while people get testy when discussing their favorite condiments, there are reasons you find restaurants that feature burgers … and steaks … and veggies … and I’ve yet to come across one that people flock to primarily to get “that ketchup plate.”
- Barber’s Party Dip – If you’re not going to make real fries and you don’t want to go frozen, Barber’s Party Dip and ridgy chips are kind of the bomb, you know. Just saying …
- Commune – Burgers are a food of the people, and for people — for families, friends, groups, etc. They are the foods of cookouts and sporting events and local places that invite you to visit and be a part of their world
So, go out good people, and enjoy life. Enjoy it with friends and enjoy it with the things that bring a smile to your face.