I’ve been thinking about this question recently, not least because I was sent two different burgers to review, and I was also asked to define my ultimate burger.
Broadly, there are three aspects to a burger – the meat patty, the bun and the various condiments served inside or with it.
This is a contentious one, especially with my friends across the pond, many of whom insist that any patty that contains more than minced beef and seasoning is a not a burger at all, and might better be described as a flattened meatball!
I’ll have to agree to disagree as I happily enjoy both pure-beef burger patties as well as ones with all kinds of other ingredients mixed in. Since I eat the latter in burger baps, with burger condiments they are, as far as I’m concerned, burgers!
Pure Beef Patties
If I want a pure beef patty, then I don’t see the point of buying mince just to add salt, pepper and shape it myself, and I’m certainly too lazy to buy a steak and mince it myself, so we usually get ready-made patties from Waitrose – their Aberdeen Angus ones to be specific. These are pretty good and we’d not thought much about alternatives, until recently.
The Donald Russell patties we were sent didn’t measure up well against the Waitrose Aberdeen Angus ones. Cooked to medium in our normal way, they were chewy, a touch dry and under-seasoned. We were disappointed with them.
A few weeks previously, we were also sent some Waitrose Heston Ultimate Beef Burgers to review. I was dubious because, at the end of the day, they were still made of beef, so how much better (if at all) could they possibly be, really? The blurb informed that Heston created a blend of three different cuts of British beef (chuck, brisket and aged fire rib), minced specially to ensure that the meat’s grain sits vertically within the burger, plus seasoning. They are based on the recipe Heston developed for his In Search Of Perfection TV show. To my surprise, we absolutely loved Heston’s Ultimate burgers. The flavour and texture were exceptionally good and they retained moisture very well. We thought they were significantly better than any other pure-beef patty we’ve tried; in fact we liked them so much that, despite the price tag of £4.49 for 2 burgers (weighing 125 grams each), we’ve bought them twice since.
It seems that there are as many recipes for burger patties, the kind containing more than just beef, as there are burger eaters. OK, this is probably an exaggeration but only a slight one!
In the past, we’ve enjoyed Pete’s mum’s recipe which combines minced beef, raw onions, pork sausage meat and seasoning. And we’ve made cheese burgers with the cheese inside rather than on top; blue cheese is my choice for this. We’ve also been inspired by Nigel Slater to add East Asian ingredients to flavour beef, pork and chicken patties and even to cook them in a bath of stock, in the oven.
But the recipe I’m recommending for my ultimate burger is a Felicity Cloake one, part of her “How To Cook The Perfect…” series (which earned Felicity one of two well-deserved awards from the Guild of Food Writers this year). (See below for recipe).
We particularly loved the flavours and moistness added by the stout and the lightly caramelised onions. These were seriously good burgers!
By the way, we used some Donald Russell mince for these patties, which we were sent at the same time as the burgers, and thought it had a decent fat content and flavour, so worked well for making burgers.
I am torn between a brioche bun (which adds a lovely hint of sweetness and also looks spiffing) and a regular white burger bap.
What is definite is that it must be soft, soft, soft. I hate burger buns with a crust and using ciabatta (or any other trendy loaf) is a no-no. But nor must it be so soft that it disintegrates while eating the burger, leaving soggy smears of bun remnants and a virtually bare burger between your fingers!
As Pete isn’t a fan of brioche, we opted for white and our favourite baker, Tom Herbert, came to the rescue, emailing me his ultimate burger bap recipe. It produces the perfect white burger buns – soft, with a lovely crumb and yet robust enough to remain in one piece while eating. (See below for recipe).
This one’s a bit of a free for all as there are many condiments people like in their burgers from a variety of pickles and relishes to cheese (American processed or real) to rashers of bacon, fried onions, fried mushrooms, onion rings and then there’s the question of sauces and salad…
In our ultimate burgers, we both went for romaine lettuce (picked fresh from the garden), thinly sliced red onion and some of my home-made pickled gherkins. In addition, Pete added thinly sliced tomato and I added sliced, fried mushrooms and a basic marie rose sauce (tomato ketchup + mayonnaise mixed).
On a cheaper burger, I might add stronger flavours such as bacon, chilli con carne, cheese or pesto but on a great burger, much less in the way of condiments are necessary, I think.
Felicity Cloake’s Perfect Burger Recipe
1 tablespoon oil or butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1kg roughly minced chuck steak (or any non-lean mince)
100 ml stout
2 tablespoons brown breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons chopped herbs (parsley or thyme work well)
1 teaspoon salt
Note: we used Meantime London Stout, white breadcrumbs and fresh thyme.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over a low heat, and cook the onion until soft and slightly browned. Leave to cool.
- Spread the beef out and sprinkle over the onion. Add the stout, breadcrumbs, herbs and seasoning and mix together with a fork, being careful not to overwork it.
- Divide the meat into 12 flattish burgers, putting a dimple in the centre of each. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.
- Cook the burgers on a medium to hot barbecue or griddle pan: leave them undisturbed for the first 3 minutes so they build up a good seal on the bottom, then carefully turn them over, adding a slice of cheese on top if desired. Cook for a further 4 minutes for rare, and 7 for well done, and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.
Tom Herbert’s Ultimate Burger Bap Recipe
Makes 10 baps
500g strong white flour
200ml milk (tepid)
100ml water (tepid)
25g castor sugar
25g sourdough (omit if necessary)
5g dried yeast (or 10g fresh yeast)
Egg, beaten (optional, for wash)
Sesame seeds (optional)
- Weigh all the ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Knead for 10 minutes until your dough is soft and elastic.
- Leave to rise in a covered bowl for an hour in a warm place.
- Divide the dough into 10 pieces and pin out 10cm baps on a floured surface.
- Place on a baking trays with baking paper on.
- Brush some beaten egg over each bap.
- Leave them in a warm place for half an hour.
- Brush with a second coat of beaten egg.
- Sprinkle a pinch of sesame seeds onto each bap.
- Leave for a further half hour to rise.
- Meanwhile pre heat your oven too 230 degrees Celsius.
- Bake your baps until they are perfectly golden (about 10-15mins).
Note: We omitted the sesame seeds and egg wash. We were still rewarded with beautifully risen, evenly textured white baps that were pillowy soft but didn’t disintegrate whilst eating our burgers.
Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!27 Comments to "What’s Your Ultimate Burger? Perfect Burger & Ultimate Burger Bun Recipes!"
What a brilliant post Kavey! I love the cheese on the inside burger and made some lovely ones recently but these included pre cooking onions and mushrooms which also went into the pattie mix. I do think it was the quality of the meat that made them so good. I tend not to add any breadcrumbs as I feel it makes the burgers too dry. I do however LOVE your bun recipe and will be using this so thanks for posting it xx
Those are very good looking buns!
I am of the meat, salt & pepper school of thought myself.
My fav burger has a proper rendang sauce and a thicker plain beef patties and lots of caramelised onions. But it is rather messy to eat. 🙂
Great post! I keep meaning to try the Heston burgers ever since you Tweeted about them.
Haven't made burgers for a while, might have to have another play soon, love blue goats cheese & caramelised shallots on mine! Love brioche usually myself but your buns look really good too
I like a good mature cheddar. Got to have onions
We are lucky there is a longhorn beef stall at local market and we get amazing mince for burgers. It's very rich , got some bison mince too since there are now bison grazing the Peak District
Like Dom @ Belleau Kitchen discovered the joy of cheese on the inside of the burger last year. ( Thank you Man vs Food)Got to have onions and call me a savage but I like ketchup
Agree burger in ciabatta is just wrong way too hard
Love the post, I have to admit I like unadulterated patties and simple condiments. Has to have pickle though! I rarely make my own as they never seem to be as flavourful or juicy as ones I eat out.
Had a Lucky Chip burger this weekend and it was most excellent but nothing beats the Hawksmoor for me.
absolutely loving this and will go for this at the weekend and with the buns. cheers
Great post, will definitely give the bread recipe a try this weekend, going to try make some burgers as well, perfect Wimbledon final food!
Ooof, hankering for a burger now. You must, must, MUST try Ginger Pig burgers…I was outrageously impressed. As big as your head too 🙂
Personal preference? Rings of red onion, gherkins, hot mustard, tommy K and no bun (favouring iceberg and blue cheese dressing on the side instead). Now I reeeeaally want a burger.
Yum! What a post – its got my mouth watering and I'm a long way from lunchtime! For a really special burger-y treat you must get your hands on some wagyu mince from those guys in Suffolk. First you cook the burger (perfectly held together by perfect fat content) and then toast the bun in the juices….Will give you their email address if you like 🙂
Dom, thanks – so pleased you enjoyed! The recipe from Felicity Cloake does have a (very small) quantity of breadcrumbs but the addition of that stout definitely contributes to the burgers staying good and moist.
Foodycat, a lot of folks are, for sure! And the baps were perfect, soft and lovely.
Teanamu, would never ever have thought of rendang, what a great idea! And caramelised onions always good though for some reason I associate them more with bangers than burgers… silly of me!
Chloe, time for burgers soon then. I adore blue cheese!
Becky, I don't think I've ever tried bison mince, that'd be a new one for me!
Gav, I'm so happy with my home-made pickled gherkins and they were easy too. And of course, I grew the gherkins myself. But otherwise, can I recommend Aldi for pickled gherkins? Theirs are great and very well priced for large jars!
Insanefountain, do hope you enjoy, let me know how you get on with the buns?
Simon, yes a great idea to have burgers for wimbledon, finger food whilst keeping an eye on the tennis!
The Shed, shall have to get myself some, have a confession, have NEVER bought Ginger Pig meat. Yet…
BSG, glad to have got the tastebuds salivating! I didn't know we had a wagyu producer in Suffolk? Is it as good as the Japanese and Aussie stuff? Shall look out for it, and yes please on email address!
I always make my own as I like to add my own seasonings. The fewer the better like salt, pepper and merquen (a Chilean smoked chilli powder).
Never tried putting cheese inside but I can imagine that would be excellent. Thanks for the tip.
Thanks for your comment on my burger post.
The reason I dislike additions other than beef to my burger is in the formation of the patty. To me the addition of anything else means you have to overwork the patty to mix and combine these ingredients which spoils the texture and with a dense patty you don't get the same heat transfer to the centre meaning you have to overcook the outer layer to get a nice medium rare. Also the uneven surface of a underworked freshly made patty gains in a hugely increased surface area thus meaning it can make huge gains in the browning flavours, (think roughed up roast potatoes vs smooth ones). Browning or mailard reaction flavours are the key to most great steaks or burgers.
This as in everything else in cooking is purely a selective taste. Great tasting beef loosely packed and properly seasoned is my bag. I have no doubt with some great additions you could also make it taste amazing and texture is only one factor in ones enjoyment in a burger.
Also I've never bought Heston's burgers at waitrose, something which I will remedy this week.
Mushrooms in a burger scareth me.
I love that you made your own baps though!
Neil, yes I understand about not overworking. We took quite a bit of care to be very loose and quick in mixing the patty ingredients together, so that we didn't squash the beef mince and make the texture too dense. I do love pure beef burgers too, but think there's room for the recipe ones as well!
Let me know what you think of the Hestons!
MiMi, they scare you? But shrooms are God. In Kavey's World Order, anyway! The baps were great!
Fabulous post and great discussion, Kavey. Seems I come out as American in that I disapprove of adding bread crumbs or egg to the patty yet un-American in that I much prefer real cheese from Britain to the orange-yellow processed product known as American “cheese” from the USA.
Daniel, well that fits, since you are both American and European in life, so why not in burger tastes? 🙂
Trying not to read this in too much detail as I can actually smell burgers cooking right now and the photos of all those patties make my mouth water.
But in short, brioche for the bun, rare patty made with chuck and cheese on top.
Mmmm burgers, a great seat of debate in our household! we think for the perfect burger you need to add some minced back fat to your lean best butchers mince, as much as 10% to the mix and season at the last minute so as not to draw out the moisture and condense the meat.
It has to be the X- Tudo Brazilian burger with several layers of toppings,. X-tudo is an abbreviation (X) and translates as cheese-everything. It consists in bread/bun, a hamburger patty, cheese (it’s the X in the name), a fried egg, tomatoes, lettuce, bacon, onions, vinaigrette, mayo and all sauces available.
This is the simple version. You can add more ingredients like sausage, corn, peas, champignons, slice of ham, gherkin etc. Some bars have X-Tudo challenges. We usually wash all down with guarana (soft drink). Very calorific and not to be eaten every week.
Louis, ah, a brioche fan, not many have commented here!
Chris, yes definitely need decent fat content to keep the patty moist!
Rosana, that sounds good too. And I think guarana is the drink I have at Luiz' place, I love it!
Great post Kavey!
Will have to try those baps soon – love a bit of sourdough (and they look up to the task of retaining the burger juice!)
Burger Me! London
Phew – glad the burgers went down a treat. I had to munch my way through an awful lot for that recipe… which was a hardship, obviously. Haven't had a barbecue yet this year, but thinking Saturday night could well be burger night… and never made my own buns, so that's a nice little project. (Oh, and gherkins, mature Cheddar, English mustard, ketchup.)
Do let me know how you get on with Tom's baps, ooer! And yes on the cheddar, gherkins and ketchup but for me, mustard is for hot dogs! 😉
Oh my goodness, a burger of mine looks more like a tower block once I've stuffed it full of extra things: cheese, onions/onion rings, bacon, guacamole etc! Loved this post. I always use Jamie Oliver's 'Cracking Burger' recipe with mince, bashed up crackers, an egg, parsley and mustard. Lush. But I can never get the right bap – I love the brioche-type rolls you can get, but next time I make burgers, which will be soon, I will be giving that recipe a go! Fab post Kavey, loved it!
Looking for the answer to what burger recipe shall I use tomorrow, I find the answer in your post Kavey. I’m off to Waitrose first thing in the morning! S.x
Loved your burger post. Will be trying this bun recipe. Thanks!