There was a lot of chatter among the world’s burger aficionados when Momofuku mastermind Dave Change released his burger manifesto last week. I absolutely love this adorably dimpled evil genius and all he does, and if his crack pie didn’t win me over, his inappropriate banter with other insane favourite Anthony Bourdain during their trip to Crif Dogs and his adventures on the first season of The Mind of a Chef certainly did. The man knows his shit, he’s got a brilliant food mind, and he just seems like the kind of dude I’d want to hang out with over a few drinks.
All that said, back to his burger manifesto; it really got me thinking about my own burger manifesto, were I to write one. It’s something that I’ve thought about time and time again, and discussed ad nauseam with my favourite and most trusted burger buddy, the husband (though it must be said that we don’t always agree on what makes a perfect burger).
Chang’s manifesto can be summed up as follows (though I do recommend taking 5 minutes to read the lot):
“My ideal burger is bun, cheese, burger. Sometimes bacon. Ketchup on the side, so I can control it. Pickles—yes! Obviously. And the cheese thing has to be very clear: American cheese only.”
1. I do not like a burger with a bunch of shit on it.
2. I’m not a fan of salad on my burger (he refers to lettuce, tomato and onion here, stating the only acceptable lettuce is iceberg)
3. Another thing that’s a no-no on a hamburger is mustard – ketchup only
4. No pita bread or brioche as a bun
5. Grass-fed beef does not make burgers, in my opinion (he says that it’s too lean and fat content isn’t evenly distributed. Wagyu also a no-no because fat content is too high, around 70%
6. Australians fuck up burgers by putting fried eggs and tinned beetroot on them
7. A medium-rare burger made with really good meat that has been properly ground up is a very wonderful thing
His final disclaimer being:
Do as I say, not as I do. When you catch me eating one of these kinds of burgers that I have spoken against, please know that I am the ultimate hypocrite and that I am probably enjoying the shit out of it. Hamburgers are pretty much all good.
Honestly, I agree with most of that. I especially agree with the fried egg and beetroot thing being a scourge on society. Syrupy, sticky tinned beetroot and a dry, overdone fried egg. It ain’t right. Other things I disagree with. Mustard on a burger is a fine thing (providing you use the right type of mustard, obviously). Anyway, time to compare; this is what my burger manifesto looks like comparatively…
My Burger Manifesto
1. Bun: I don’t care what anyone says, I like a brioche bun. Not the super sugary ones you find in the Bread Top bakeries (they do have their place, but it’s not holding my burger), just a regular, standard brioche. As long as it’s been toasted a little first on the cut sides – fresh brioche buns fall to mushy piles of crap when they’re holding a solid, juicy, greasy burger and they haven’t been toasted first. And if it’s a regular burger bun, that’s fine too, providing it’s actually fresh, fluffy and lightly toasted.
2. Beef: I’m not going to pretend to know the finer points of butchery and beef – I just want really good quality beef (and you CAN taste the difference between good quality and freshly ground versus frozen and defrosted supermarket quality crap), I want it to be a good thickness, and I want it cooked medium-rare. It needs to be a little juicy and pink when it’s bitten into. My only real exception to this rule is a smash patty a la Rockwell and Sons – I absolutely love the charred bits on the outside of the patty. If I’m going with the thinner smash patties though, my burger then needs to be a double instead of a regular single thick patty. Best case scenario is a single thick patty that’s a little charred from the grill and STILL pink and juicy on the inside. And just a bit of salt and pepper to season it, thanks.
3. Meat-to-bun ratio: This is an important point of contention to me, and it’s an absolute must to get right. I don’t want all this extra bread at the end, nor do I want my burger innards flailing about all naked with not enough cover half way through.
4. Condiments: I like the trinity of ketchup, American mustard and mayo, in relatively equal proportion, and not too much (ie. not dripping all over the place and pooling in the plate half way through). And if I can get Kewpie mayo instead of regular mayo, I’m a really happy girl.
5. Salads: Lettuce – not a necessity, but if you are going to use it, make it crispy cos or iceberg, or just don’t bother. No one likes warm, limp, wilted lettuce. Tomato – one of two slice, but not too thick. Onion – I like a few thin slices of raw red onion, but a nice pile of caramelised onion certainly has it’s place as well. If you are using caramelised onion, though, don’t use the lettuce or tomato.
6. Cheese: Make it sturdy but melty. American cheese, pepperjack, Kraft singles, that’s all good. Don’t get all fancy and use blue cheese, Havarti, fior di latte or anything like that. Just no. And for the love of all things good, make sure it is melted all over that patty – there is nothing more disappointing than getting a burger with unmelted cheese!!!
7. Additions: Bacon and pickles. That bacon had better be browned off and a little crispy (read: not still soft and pink, not burnt to a blackened crisp), and the pickles need to be sliced thinly enough so as not to make the burger any harder to eat than necessary (no little cute whole pickles, just sliced ones, like your tomato). I wholeheartedly agree that the beetroot and fried egg is completely shit. The only burger I’ve ever eaten with an egg was at Au Cheval, and it was gently cooked so that the yolk spilt out and acted as a sauce. That was magical perfection, but if it’s not like that, don’t add the egg. Especially if it’s one of those backyard BBQ, chalky overcooked yolk, overly oily from sitting on the grill for an hour eggs. That’s nasty.
8. Burger VS Sandwich: If it’s fried chicken (it’s very delicious, but) it’s not a burger. If it’s pulled pork (as much as I love this stuff), it’s not a burger. If it’s made from tofu or mushroom or lentils, it’s not a burger. Those are sandwiches, and lots of them are perfectly lovely. But if it’s not centered around a beef patty, it is absolutely and unequivocally NOT A BURGER!
9. General feel: This may sound strange, but to have that certain je ne sais quoi, it’s gotta just be a bit of a hot dirty, greasy, juicy mess. When I’m holding onto that lightly toasted bun with a big juicy meat patty, nestled between crispy bacon and melted cheese and all the rest of it, I don’t want it to be nice and clean. It should be a little messy. It should be oily and greasy. It should give me reason to lick my fingers as I go. It should cause the paper holding it to turn a little translucent. I’m not saying I want the thing dipped in grease and deep fried but I also don’t want it all neat and tidy; it’s hard to explain, but if you get what I mean, you’ll probably get why it’s a big deciding factor on what, to me, constitutes a really great burger. If I want clean eating, I’ll get the salad.
So I guess that’s it. That’s my burger manifesto. And much like David Chang, you’ll almost certainly find me eating other burgers that don’t entirely fit that bill, and I’ll do so happily with greasy cheese smeared over my freckled face and bright yellow mustard staining my sleeves. Because burgers, for the most part, are good.
But some are better than others. And I’d know; I’ve eaten a disturbing amount in my time. Allow me to now take a moment to pay homage to what I currently rate as my top 10, in order of favouritism, as of July 2015 (review excepts below, click the link to go to the full review) …
1. The 1090 with bacon from 1090, Melbourne
With beautiful looking burgers come high expectations, and I’ve lost count of the amount of pretty burgers I’ve eaten that have tasted like crap, so I tried not to get my hopes up. Totally unnecessarily so. This was the burger of my dreams. It was all the best parts of my favourite burgers combined. The holy trinity of mustard, mayo and ketchup was perfectly proportioned, and didn’t lead to soggy buns (thankfully, because the burger bun was perfectly soft with just enough crispness to hold it together). Flavour of the beef was just about perfect, cheese was melted magnificently and the bacon was crisp and so very good. Just the right amount of lettuce and tomato, and I know it seems like a random point, but best onion I’ve had in any burger. I don’t know what it was or where it came from, I just know it was several types of delicious.
2. The Manly burger from Umami, Los Angeles
The Manly was another level of burger, and any time we discuss our top 5 burgers ever, The Manly is ALWAYS up there. Just think about it – perfectly booked pattie. Brioche bun. Crispy, golden onion rings. Chunky bacon cooked in fat to bring out a bacon flavour I didn’t know existed. And melted cheese. Seriously. Nothing more needs to be said about this burger; it’s as close to the perfect burger as I think I’ve ever had. Those bacon lardons… omg…
3. The double patty smash burger from Rockwell & Sons, Melbourne
Bun – perfect, buttery, toasty enough to hold it all it sans sog, soft enough to melt on your mouth.
Special sauce – really f#^$@ng special. Really.
Kraft cheese – historically my cheese of choice on home made burgers. Couldn’t have been happier!
Patties – this smashed patty business is something else (google it – I had to!). Crispy and crunchy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside, perfectly seasoned for my liking.
4. The Raph from Beatbox, Melbourne
They’re plain, simple, and the flavour of the patties are flawless.
5. Double cheeseburger with egg from Au Cheval, Chicago
A perfectly toasted bun help the double pattie and cheese business on one end, and a creamy aioli-like sauce, chopped raw red onion, pickles and a perfectly fried and soft-yolked, chive-sprinkled egg on the other. Meat was perfectly cooked and seasoned with a little crust happening and a still-pink centre. Good bun-to-pattie ratio, great cheese, and the egg yolk was the best sauce you never knew you needed with it.
6. The Original from 5 Napkin Burger, New York City
I’m stoked I ordered it medium rare; cooked to absolute perfection and made all the difference in taking it from a good burger to a great one. The gruyere and caramelised onion were perfect accompaniments, and just the right amount of aioli. Couldn’t fault this one bit; it was a surprisingly amazing burger.
7. Bad Boy Burger from Bad Boys, Melbourne
I was absolutely stoked to discover the promise of “crispy” bacon was not actually an empty one, like so many burgers I’ve had before. Crispy bacon usually ends up being half-cooked, barely browned bacon. This bacon was genuine crispy, and it was GOOD! The burger pattie itself was fantastic, one of the best I’ve had, actually! The outside of the patties were crispy and had a great charred flavour, the insides were still pink and a perfect medium-rare.
8. Double Laurie Dee with bacon from Laurie Dees, Melbourne
The double smash patties were perfect, they had the best charred crust, and were all sorts of greasy delicious. The addition of the bacon was the best decision of the night, it was actually crispy, and the Special D sauce was similar to the Big Mac special sauce, but a whole lot better!
9. The Chew from Chew Burgers, Melbourne
My burger was bloody fantastic, but did require several (5 in total) napkins for the extreme juice factor. The patty was soft enough to crumble when you bit it, but held together really well, and had a simple but really nice flavour. Great burger patty-to-bun ratio, and the bun was really nicely toasted, so it really didn’t go soggy (amazing feat considering the juiciness!!). Simple but delicious and noticeably fresh accompaniments of lettuce and tomato, and the aioli was unreal.
10. The Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendy’s, San Bruno (San Francisco)
Finally, this one I actually never blogged, and it was completely unexpected, but dear God this abomination was DELICIOUS and I still think of it oh so fondly…
Special mentions to Burger Boys, Huxtaburger, Grand Trailer Park Taverna, Le Bon Ton (cheeseburger not included in this review), Nieuw Amsterdam (cheeseburger not included in this review), and Shake Shack, all of which are absolutely fantastic burgers. I think next time I do this it’ll have to be a top 20… it’s like choosing between children..
Inclusions on my current “to eat” list include Mr Scruffs, 8bit, Lazerpig off the top of my head – more suggestions are invited!! Anyone else care to share their burger manifesto and/or top 10?!