/ Food & Drink

What makes the perfect burger?

They may not be especially sophisticated, but a great burger is a simple, delicious, pleasure. That’s probably why burger chains can be found on almost every high street in the country. But what’s the best way to enjoy your burger?

Like many people this bank holiday weekend, I plan to throw a few burgers on my barbecue (as long as the weather gods continue to smile on us). But getting it right for your guests can be tricky.

You obviously need to use good quality meat but a great burger is about far more than that. In fact the accompaniments – and the bun – can be just as important and can transform a simple offering in to a true burger king.

In an attempt to uncover the perfect combination we roped in some expert help. We’d already assembled a crack squad of top butchers and chefs for a blind food tasting to discover the best premium burgers available in Britain’s supermarkets (find out which came top in our guide to the best beef burgers).

And so, between mouthfuls, we grilled our experts and asked them for their top tips for pimping up your burger.

The bun

To enjoy your burger to the max you need to eat it in a bun. All of our experts agreed that this must be soft, so that it can soak up all the juices – French bread is a definite no-no.

But while some of our panel preferred traditional rolls, others swore by brioches. However avoid any that are over sweet and cake-like.

The toppings

Smoky bacon and oozing cheese are classics, much loved by our experts. Sharp goat’s cheese, brie and Stilton were popular for cutting through the beefy taste but, a touch surprisingly, all were fans of cheap, processed cheese slices.

Soft, hot onions and tangy gherkins complete the deal.

The crunch

To contrast the soft roll and tender, juicy burger (and as a polite nod towards healthiness), you should also add in iceberg lettuce.

To make it extra crunchy, soak it in icy water for 15 minutes before patting it dry. All that’s left is to add your favourite condiments. Our experts were fans of Heinz Tomato Ketchup and French’s Yellow Mustard.

More leftfield options

Cheese, lettuce and bacon – as suggested by our panel – are all classic burger accompaniments. And indeed, a Zagat poll of America’s favourite burger toppings showed they were among the most popular (jalapeno peppers and raw onions were voted the least favourite).

But many people prefer less traditional toppings when assembling their dream burger. A restaurant in Liverpool serves a burger covered with peanut butter and chilli jam while closer to home, one of the Which? editors swears by her homemade topping made of garlic, anchovy and caper mayonnaise.

So what makes the best burger? Is cheese a pre-requisite? And what condiments are a must? Whether cooking your own or eating out, let us know how you enjoy your burgers in the comments below.

What extras make the perfect burger?

Cheese (25%, 249 Votes)

Onions (25%, 244 Votes)

Bacon (14%, 139 Votes)

Gherkins (12%, 118 Votes)

Lettuce (11%, 105 Votes)

Nothing – the meat speaks for itself (7%, 72 Votes)

Garlic, anchovy and caper mayonnaise (5%, 47 Votes)

Peanut butter and chilli jam (1%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 536

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Comments

I wonder how many burgers do you get out of 10 sausages? 🤓

The one thing I dislike about bought burgers, is the cheap soft soggy buns that give me stomach ache and wind.

If we make our own, we like our burgers on lightly toasted ciabatta or even on half a jacket spud, topped with cheese and bbq sauce and probably coleslaw for the healthy bit.

And burgers come from the butchers.

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Burger buns are quite disgusting. They now seem to have developed cheap brioche buns to make them sound more up-market.

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You mean this lot Duncan:
Ingredients: Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar, yeast, soybean oil and/or canola oil, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, wheat gluten, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride, dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, guar gum, calcium peroxide), sorbic acid, calcium propionate and/or sodium propionate (preservatives), soy lecithin.

And large white baps from a supermarket:
Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin), Water, Palm Oil, Dextrose, Yeast, Salt, Emulsifiers (Mono- and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids, Mono- and Di-Acetyltartaric Esters of Mono- and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids), Spirit Vinegar, Fermented Wheat Flour, Soya Flour, Rapeseed Oil, Flour Treatment Agents (Ascorbic Acid, L-Cysteine Hydrochloride), Wheat Starch

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I think that the information on that website Duncan mentions might just be a little biased. 🙂 Yes, white bread is fairly dire and maybe that’s why burgers are often referred to as junk food. I don’t eat burgers but if I did I would want ones in wholemeal bread.

The ingredients of a McDonalds hamburger can be found on this page: https://www.mcdonalds.com/gb/en-gb/product/hamburger.html

It’s a USA bun:
http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/nutrition1/ingredientslist.pdf

They might have changed the recipe slightly, but most of the ingredients/chemicals/muck are still present.

The Pasteurized Process American Cheese in the Trumpburger does not sound very inviting, Alfa.

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LOL!!!
There is even an ingredient added to separate the ‘cheese’ slices. How can you get a natural beef flavour from wheat and milk derivatives?

French Fries:
Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*, citric acid [preservative]), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), salt. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone or E319) and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

As this convo was supposed to be about what makes the perfect burger, and not put you off them for life (although not a bad thing for some burger joints), I would say avoid the above ingredients……….

The buns are steamed but toasted in most restaurants, saves seconds on the coking time

Did anyone eat Wendy’s burgers when they were around? I have to admit eating a few of them in my younger days.

They used to taste much better than mcds or bk, and no noticeable effects on the innards. Square burgers could be had in a fairly solid wholemeal bun until they changed them and I stopped going there.

I can understand reviewing bought sausage – difficult to make at home. I do miss tomato-flavoured sausage from my youth – probably flavoured to conceal tasteless meat in times of real austerity. But I have found a recommended source in Chichester that I must visit if I’m ever in the area.

But beefburgers? One of the simplest things to make using basic ingredients – and a few herbs or other additions to your own taste. It seems a sign of the times when so-called restaurants cannot even make burgers from scratch, but rely upon a remote factory, with all the tricky chemicals that processing requires. But at home, surely the effort would be worthwhile?

Which? could have published a recipe. Maybe their experts could provide tried and tested ones? This looks about right (I’m not a great fan of garlic but it looks a subtle amount).

Home Made Beef Burgers | BBC Good Food
Ingredients
500g lean minced beef.
1 red onion, diced.
2 garlic cloves, crushed.
1 egg.
olive oil.
salt and pepper.
1/2 tsp dijon mustard.

And mince your own beef because what constitutes meat might be a surprise.

Cancelled 🙂

Beef in itself should not be a celebrated meat given the cost in water and land to raise beef cattle!

The findings suggest that meat eaters might help improve their health by substituting other healthy protein sources for some of the red meat they eat. Past research has tied red meat to increased risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.Mar 26, 2012
Risk in Red Meat? | National Institutes of Health (NIH)
nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/risk-red-meat

If we want dairy products we will automatically get a by-product of beef – unless we cull every male at birth. Put them on grassland. I don’t see any problem with eating beef in moderation.

I suspect the problem to which Patrick is referring in part is that the demand for beef means more cattle generally, and cattle produce a great deal of methane, as do their droppings and, as cattle in the UK are generally overwintered in barns, once spring arrives so do truck loads of manure, which is then spread on grassland and produces even vaster amounts of methane as sunlight reacts with it.

Methane’s a a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, so the global temperatures rise even faster, the effects of which could well be to disrupt the global conveyor, which means even hotter temps, greater spread of tropical diseases, more fires, drought, famines, extreme weather events, floods, volcanoes, asteroid strikes, solar storms, gravity wells, Einstein–Rosen bridgework, Tsunami, perturbations, KIC 8462852 variations and headaches. And all because people fancy a bit of beef.

And milk, cheese, butter, leather, wool,……….. Here’s another view https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/ruminants-and-methane-not-fault-animals

You get wool from cattle?

More seriously, I think that was the same view, but expanding on the issues somewhat. And it does over simplify some things. But yes – once again we return to over-use of modern fertilisers and weedkillers. It’s hard to know which does the greatest harm, but I suppose it also suggests that vegetarianism might have even greater benefits than we thought.

I’d find it hard to live without milk, and I don’t really want to see all our arable land [which largely produces cattle feed] turned over to vegetables. I have also yet to find a good substitute for leather in shoes, belts and other accessories. I also quite like leather upholstery. To offset my leather likings I don’t eat burgers.

It is a very interesting article malcolm but does actually criticises most beef production. I am a great fan of milk, wool and leather but we do not need to kill animals early to enjoy those benefits.

It has been shown that on the basis of inputs to weight chickens and pigs are the most effective.

I eat beef rarely as it is not actually a great meat unless roasted and of course is not that good for the planet nor in this later NY article, great for people who eat it.
nytimes.com/2017/05/15/well/eat/red-meat-increases-risk-of-dying-from-8-diseases.html

Perhaps Which?, if it is going to write about food, look at the big picture and actually pass on the advice from the NHS.

This from the BBC is actually helpful:
bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-much-meat-safe-eat

The health risks associated with eating red meat and processed meat have been established and reported for years. It’s one of the reasons that I don’t eat very much of them. Cooking foods preserved with nitrites (bacon and sausage) increases the cancer risk, and read about this in New Scientist in the early 70s.

I do cook beef once a week or less, but I’d rather have something that is recognisable as meat rather than burgers or sausages.

I am not supporting – or otherwise – the beef industry, just giving a link that might be of interest to some. I do like my beef rarely.

It is true that chickens and pigs need less grain to put on a kilo of meat than many other animals.

Her’e a learned paper that ends:
The total emission of CH, by domestic and wild animals has increased from about 21 Tg in 1890 to 46 Tg in 1940 and 78 Tg in 1983, mainly due to growing populations of cattle, buffalos and sheep. According to these figures, the mean rate of increase in CH, emission by domestic and wild animals during the last 43 years has been I. 1 % per year.
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.3402/tellusb.v38i3-4.15135

A part of the picture:

We bought some nitrite-free bacon from M&S last week, and it was nice and tasty.
I believe a balanced diet – a bit of what you like – is a good solution for omnivores like me, and so far I’m still here to tell the tale. Particularly since my early post war diet, and subsequent convenience foods, may have contained a lot of unsuitable ingredients.

Whether you suffer from cancer is dependent on various factors and luck is one of them. Most of the supermarkets are selling nitrite and nitrate-free bacon and at present I think it’s from a single supplier. When there is competition the price should fall. It’s about 45 years since I learned that cooking meat containing nitrites produces carcinogenic nitrosamines so it’s good that progress has been made at last.

That paper has some real heavyweights as authors, but even so it’s interesting the way they split the contribution ruminates make to methane output by classing Manure management and Enteric fermentation as separate entities, when they’re both ruminant in origin.

A 32 year old paper ! : ) I wonder how right they were in any predictions.

This slightly later work discusses calculating CH4 emissionsand the annexes reveal that swine produce around 1% of the methane that US and European cattle do. !!

ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp/public/gp/bgp/4_1_CH4_Enteric_Fermentation.pdf

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I don’t know what will happen, Duncan, but we do follow the US in many ways.

Now perhaps we should all get back to discussing burgers.

The average life expectancy (2015) in the US was 78.74 and in the UK 81.6, so I’m on your side here, duncan. And they do have burger eating contests, don’t they? McDonalds are advertising American burgers at present (adverts I’ve not been able to escape) that look far too big for comfort.

I hope Which? are actively lobbying government on the food standards front. The least we could have is country of origin prominently marked so we know what to avoid.

I would be interested to know how the USA can “force” the UK to enter a disadvantageous trading relationship. The country that exits the EU isn’t going to roll over and throw its lot in with America as a consolation prize. And anyway, it’s not our Prime Minister’s decision – it would have to be approved by Parliament.

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Yes I am aware of all that and don’t need a list, thank you. The USA’s agenda over Iran’s nuclear weapons and capabilities has nothing to do with international trade between allies. There is nothing available in America that we need that can’t be obtained elsewhere and there is nothing we sell to America that we can’t sell somewhere else. I accept that we have a trade surplus with the USA and the President wants to reverse that, or at least balance it, but any attempt to use such leverage to force the UK into an adverse position would be seen by other countries as totally unacceptable and would have worldwide repercussions on America. I think we could tolerate the loss of Hollywood movies far longer than the Americans could tolerate the absence of Scotch whisky. But this is all speculation because no one knows what is going to happen so trying to worry people over what might happen is pointless. I am not saying Trump’s bluffing, but he hasn’t delivered on any of his shoot-from-the-hip pledges yet and if he thinks he can bully his way around the world pushing other countries into submission he might find the combined opposition invincible and much more than he bargained for. I should be surprised if alienating the rest of the G8 countries was a smart move.

This Conversation is supposed to be about beef burgers but it has been dragged off topic yet again. How about telling us what you think makes a good beef burger?

I wonder who will be running America when serious negotiations begin – and conclude. However, are there any good recipes for burgers? They don’t have to be beef do they? Venison, kangaroo, fly (I watched a documentary on an African region where the lake disgorged vast quantities of small black flies at a certain time of year. These were caught on wet pans, formed into “patties” and fried. Full of protein.)

Beef is cheap but venison is a little deer.

Eh

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I have sometimes wondered about this at our major hospital but came to the conclusion that selling no unhealthy products would probably be commercially unviable. The WRVS presumably did not have to pay minimum wages or have hefty overheads; nowadays the NHS has to make every square foot pay its way. At least its car parking charges are an incentive to using public transport or going by bike [not good for hernia or vasectomy cases though].

I’ll be seeking perfection in more important matters before I worry to much about the perfect burger.

Aussie kangaroo burgers

“Take away the guilt with this low-fat kangaroo meat version of a classic fast food favourite.
Featured in Mince recipes, Nutrition information
YOUR LOCAL PRICING
Looks like your closest store is Coles Margaret River 6285 Change location

Recipe: https://www.taste.com.au/recipes/aussie-kangaroo-burgers/a9525626-a402-4ed5-96f4-fae873e679c7

ps – quite a way to go to my closest store, but helpful.

Nice veeggie burger on the panini press, some deep fried onion rings, fresh lettuce in a toasted seed bun with fried chips! YUM!