What makes a good burger?

That question has been on my mind ever since I had a quick chat with damn-good-chef, Munesh Gopaldas (his Wagyu cheddar burger in Bistro Ecila is OMG). The topic was, obviously, hamburgers. It was a full blown discussion on where to get good patties, the meat to bun ratio, how to cook the ground meat and where to get good burgers in Cebu.

The conversation got me thinking about what makes a good burger. I’m neither a chef nor a foodie, but I know people who appreciate these beautiful artery popping creations more than I do. This led me to talk to my friends and asked them about burgers. One of them happens to live and breathe burgers. In fact, I will unashamedly admit that the rest of this article was essentially written by him. For that Justin Alfafara, you are officially a co-author to this post! Thanks!

It all starts and ends with the Patty.

The kind of meat used in the patty will dictate if you have an awesome burger or not. Do not be content with off the shelf “ground beef.” You have no idea what’s in there. It’s always best to choose the cut of meat yourself and have it ground in front of you. The cut also determines what kind of flavour you are trying to achieve. Don’t limit yourself to one kind of cut. Sometimes mixing different cuts can offer an incredible gastronomical surprise.

I understand that burger places are first and foremost a business, but there’s one thing in the burger industry that really bothers me. It’s when they add EXTENDERS. They do this to cut costs and maximise profit, but some people really take it too far and as a result, there’s barely any meat in there. Some people use pork fat as well to increase the bulk of the patty.

(TIP: Check the drippings from your burger. If it starts to coagulate or solidify after a few minutes, there’s porkfat in your burger.) 

The Perfect Bun

The bun has to be thick enough to absorb the juices of the patty and the toppings while not becoming too soggy. But it can’t be too thick that you feel like you’re eating day old Elorde and burnt Holiday Beef Loaf. The creamier and softer the bread, the better. Toasting and buttering the bun also goes a long way.

Some people choose to go the healthy way and use whole wheat multigrain buns. Sometimes it works, but mostly it’s dry. My take on it? You’re eating a burger. Why are you thinking about health? It’s like smokers putting filters on the butts.

Meat to Bun Ratio

A lot of people think, “I’m gonna use three or four or SIX patties! It’s gonna be da bomb!” It’ better to have the right mix. If you think a burger is too small then just order another one. It’s better to eat a bunch of small awesome tasting things than one really big mediocre burger. The intricate balance of these elements can make or break a burger. An overly packed burger may look brilliant, but it’s a real mess to eat.

Get the ratio off then you’ll be dealing with the following:

– Too much meat = too salty

– Too much bun = too dry or too bland

– Too much topping or sauce = you won’t taste the cow

– Too much cheese = trick question. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MUCH CHEESE! \m/

Mmmmmmmmm… the Cheese

There are literally hundreds of awesome cheeses out there. Personally, the best ones for a burger are those that melt. But to keep it simple, the cheaper you go on your cheese, the milkier it’ll tastes. This results to biting into meat and bread with a lingering aftertaste of somewhat mature milk. If you have a naturally salty patty, don’t get an equally salty cheese. Balance it out.

You get what you pay for with cheese. If you really want to go gourmet then you can mix up three or four different kinds of cheeses. From Raclette to Dark Cheddar to Camembert to Smoked Cheddar to Gouda to Aged to Cream Cheese… I can go on and on and on about cheese. Bottom line, cheese is AWESOME. If you’re eating a burger that uses “cheese sauce” instead of real cheese, don’t go back there.

All the other bells and whistles

Unless you have an incredibly gourmet inclined tongue, it’s best to keep this department as simple as possible lest you find yourself eating something you don’t understand. The most common choice people make is the Bacon and Mushroom option. Nothing’s wrong with that, but it’s kinda…. mainstream. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Trying new things can open your palate to a whole new world. Usually ingredients that you don’t expect to match will surprise you. You can even go as daring as peanut butter or maple syrup. I know it sounds gross, but I’ve tried it and they surprisingly work in a burger. But don’t go overboard as well. The key is to keep things in proportion.

Less is more

At the end of the day it boils down to simplicity. Your burger should taste awesome in its simplest form without all the bells and whistles. If it needs all this fancy schmancy jazz to make it taste good then it’s probably not that great. I can go on ALL DAY about burgers, but for now those are the basic things most people would need to know.

Thanks Justin on your incredibly insightful opinions on burgers.

Guys, show your love for burgers! Where can we find your favorite burgers in Cebu?

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