Monday, August 24, 2015

Death by Cheeseburger

Why do the tastiest things have to be so bad for us?

I just got back from my yearly physical, and it's good news. I'm healthy as an ox. And that means I'm free to eat bad things for another year. So far, my love of food hasn't caught up to me, and while I want to lose ten pounds (who doesn't?) my BMI number doesn't qualify me for my own show on TLC.

I realized I've not put my thoughts about burgers down on the blog yet. So the next few posts will be dedicated to those incredibly unhealthy, but also incredibly delicious, calorie bomb sandwiches made with ground beef patties.

I have very specific thoughts on what makes a great burger. It stems largely from a light bulb going off in my head after eating a few times at Five Guys, falling in love with it, and comparing their burger to others. Five Guys has nailed the perfect burger in my opinion, and I've dissected their burger down to it's components to come up with a burger style that I find to be the most satisfying and delicious.

The first and most important component is the beef patty. I know it seems obvious, but so many burger joints are all about the toppings. Dozens upon dozens of burger combos, with crazy sauces, tons of veggies and fancy buns. The beef patty is an afterthought. And often you can't even taste the beef in those topping laden burgers.

I prefer thin patties. The thinner the patty the better, because the thinner the patty, the more external surface area there is that gets caramelized, or if you will, forms a crunchy umami laden 'crust'. Those thin patties are best cooked on a flat top. On a searing hot flat top, the burger wallows in it's own fat and juices. On a grill, the fat and juices drip away, and that equals less flavor and a dryer, less juicy burger. The patty should be simple, made with just beef, and generously seasoned with salt and pepper.

I always get cheese on my burgers, and I prefer American cheese. The melting properties of American cheese make it perfect for a burger. When done right, the cheese will melt, mix with some of the beef fat, and create what I call a 'sauce'. A salty, beefy, gooey, cheesy sauce. The best way to accomplish creation of the sauce is to double up the patties, with at least one slice of cheese in between. The heat and fat gets trapped between the patties with the cheese, and that magical sauce is born.

For condiments I prefer mayo. It adds yet more fat, and also acid, and the acid helps to balance out the beef fat. Thin buns are best, I don't like a ton of bread covering up the beef. I like them toasted and preferably burnt a little. The bitterness of the char adds yet another layer of flavor. For toppings I keep it simple. Again, I like the taste of caramelized, fatty beef, and I don't want it covered up. I usually go with just lettuce and tomato, and sometimes something sharp or spicy, like fresh onions, or fresh jalapeños. Vinegar peppers are a favorite of mine too. 

There you have it, the perfect burger according to Steve N. 

With a spate of burger joints opening up in the Albany area recently, and a clean bill of health from my doctor, I decided to do my own burger comparison, and write about it here on the blog. I plan to break the comparison up into local vs chains. It will be a lot of fun, and delicious, and fattening. 

Stay tuned.


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