This is a think piece, and as such, we must embrace thought and debate. The world’s best hamburger is, sadly, unknowable, but to pursue it can bring us ever closer.
Thus, we embrace the questions of the perfect burger. Like debating the perfect life, there may be no definitive answer, but even in raising these questions we may hope to raise the discourse of our burger-having lives.
1. Avoid A Narrow Gaze.
Don’t reduce your burger to a sum of its parts; a burger experience is so, so much more.
There are those burger purists who care only about the quality of the meat, and believe that a burger should be judged in its simplest, purest traditional form; a plain burger. And in that zen-like focus, this burger enthusiast will exclude all other factors.
This is a fine school of thought, but what I won’t stand for is the bullying attitude that surrounds it. Am I less of a burger fan because I like to try different burgers, or understand that a fun place deserves credit for ambiance?
No. But that does raise a tricky question; are we judging a burger experience or just the burger onto itself?
I say both.
With a purely narrow gaze, you’re actively shutting yourself into ignorance of the broader experience for the sake of convenience. A hamburger is more than a mere meal; allow the whispers of its grace to influence your heart.
2. Know What You’re Looking For.
In our experience, we start at the core and expand outward
A big chunk of attention should be paid t the burger itself. The “burger” represents the complete product; bun, cheese/bacon or lack thereof. Focus on sheer quality and enjoyment.
A smaller but still significant amount of attention goes next to the edible supporting cast. “Supporting cast” here represents the fries or onion rings, or salad, I suppose, if you’re some kind of weirdo. Milkshakes, good beer selections, or any gluten free/veggie options would count in favor of the supporting cast.
Then, finally, the consideration is paid to the experience separate from the food. Is this place fun? Nearby? Cheap? Open late when nothing else is? Is this some place you feel fond and comfortable in, or a fancy place with a haughty off-menu burger? Whatever makes you feel some type of way is valid, and should be acknowledged. We are, after all, humans, and that humanity deserves a say in our experience.
You’ll notice there are no point values assigned, no direct rubric to follow. That’s because to dissect something is to take joy from it; let’s be vague and happy. These are burgers. Allow them their divine mystery to exist unpierced.
3. Know What Works And Embrace It.
Here are three perfect burgers you can have.
A: On the fancier side: a good quality meat, a smoked gouda, a touch of truffle oil or bacon jam or any other savory addition, and something crunchy, like pickles or onions. Add a little spice on the side, like ketchup to add moisture if needed, and a crunchy fried side (good fries or good onion rings only – always forsake the mediocre placeholders) and a small, simple set of greens.
Do not trust anything that’s too expensive or fancy sounding that dips into seafood, notably lobster or shrimp. That’s a mutation by chefs who don’t respect the burger to stand on its own. Similarly, don’t get enamored of fancy ground-chuck steak blends – they’re often leaner than they could be, and while they’re often great, they’re not always what you’re looking for.
B: On the less fancy side; find a trustworthy place you know with American cheese bubbling on the burger. Add onion, pickles, and onion rings. A side is good. Beware of adding bacon! It’s a classic American trap these days to overwhelm with the savory, and too much bacon will bleed into your meat and cheese. Instead, consider an outside-the-box treat, like a milkshake to share.
If you are at In-N-Out, and you should be, get a double cheeseburger and animal style fries. Slop the animal style fries on the burger. Congratulations; you’ve won at life.
C: On the home-made side: always make your burgers with 80%-20% meat, high quality is better., but don’t get fancy without a serious adult. Cook with friends. Get an easy to melt cheese. Do not get obsessed with bacon, and do not skimp on the buns. Get good buns; potato ones or, if you’re willing to trust me, thin-sliced onion bagels you lightly toast.
Consider goat cheese, if you’re going fancy. Make a salad. Enjoy.
These are not the only ways to have a perfect burger experience, but they are the most reliable and consistent ways to get the best out of your experience.
4. Just Enjoy
There is nothing so depressing to me as someone so in love with the theoretical great that they spite the practical good in front of them. Always cherish the hamburgers in your life for what they are.
All burgers are beautiful, with or without truffle aoli.