/ 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
Member

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

Member

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.

Member

Have you seen the evidence on bought burgers that dont rot Alfa ? The flour quality in some of those buns is very low, Sainsbury,s changed their baguettes to this low quality crumbly flour and it tastes like cardboard and physically gives me headaches and a sore stomach.

Member

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

Member

Info on a burger bun from Macdonalds https://www.thankyourbody.com/mcdonalds-hamburger/ USA website.

Member

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

Member

If you read on it describes the chemicals Alfa. Whereas home made bun -flour (natural ) -salt-water.

Member

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

Member

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.

Member

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

Member

Azodicabonamide ditched by Macdonalds ? (NOT ) -in big macs -subway-dunkin donuts-starbucks -no comment-burger king-chick-fil-A, wendy,s-arby,s-jack in the box. Asthma inducer+epidemiological studies- respiratory problems -baked the chemical produces carcinogen urethane . Courtesy of NBC news.

Member

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……….

Member

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

Member

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.

Member

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.

Member

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

Member

Cancelled 🙂

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
28 May 2018

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

Member

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.

Member

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.

Member

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

Member

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.