Hi. How’s it goin’? Good? Cool. Let’s get back to the burger talk, shall we?
I am not an expert on burgers, but I do have preferences and strong opinions on what makes a burger great. You are certain to have your own opinions.
This post will hopefully help you burger aficionados at home have a little more background on the various styles and characteristics of burgers, along with some remarks on what I like and don’t like in a burger.
At some point in your life, someone you know will ask…
Who has the best burger?
This question may not have a simple answer.
What style of burger? Is one style better than the other?
Would it be fair to compare Kuma’s Corner to Paradise Pup or Five Guys?
It’s about as fair as comparing Burger King to a burger made from the best cuts of beef from a steakhouse. I’d normally use the “apples and oranges” analogy, but how often do you see either on a burger?
Now, we’re only talking about BEEF burgers here.
There is no room in this conversation for the burger’s mutant offspring, or the much maligned “veggie”. We can save that for another time. We’re also not going to talk about every burger style that exists on earth because, a) I don’t know them all, b) new burger joints keep popping up all the time, and 3) this article would never end.
I will give you examples of restaurants that make burgers in the styles listed below. I’m sure these are not the only examples of those styles, and some of these places you may not have heard of, as I am mostly familiar with national chains and the burger joints in the Chicago area. Some of these styles overlap, depending on where you’re getting your burger from, so I’ll try to do my best to place them in the proper categories.
First, I’d like to briefly mention Louis Lunch
in New Haven, CT, because it’s where the hamburger sandwich was invented, and you’re going to have a hard time finding any other place that makes burgers in a vertical cast iron flame broiler and toasts white bread (not a bun) on a conveyor toaster contraption, so I won’t dare to categorize it below. It’s on my list of places to go if I ever pass through Connecticut. It should be on your list, too.
Second, I’d like to encourage you to look up the various styles on your own.
I’ll throw in a few descriptions here and there, but I’m not a freakin enyclopedia, ya know! 🙂
Fast-food burgers are typically thin burgers, sometimes fresh, but usually frozen, cooked well-done or beyond, and often sold through a drive-thru window.
Fast-food establishments, usually the national chains, often make up for variable quality of these thin brownish-grey meat slabs by offering double or triple patty burgers and covering them with American cheese slices and/or bacon, and hoping you’ll drown yours in condiments. To be fair, a fast-food burger can taste really good if done right (or after a few drinks). The main feature of the fast-food burger is that it’s fast and cheap.
This category has a few styles, and also a variety of novelty burgers.
- Flame-broiled burger – Burger King
- Griddled/Fried burger – McDonald’s
- Steam/Onion-Griddled Slider
– White Castle, White Manna/Mana (New Jersey)
- The Luther Burger – a bacon cheeseburger served between a split glazed Krispy Kreme donut, named for singer Luther Vandross, who may also have been it’s inventor. I could start a rant about how some restaurants make this one wrong, but I’ll save it for another post.
- McDLMFAO/Bacon/Jalapeño/Mutant Ninja/Angus/BBQ/Chipotle/Movie-
(I think you know what I mean)
Some burgers in this category are just a higher quality version of the fast-food burger, while others approach a happy medium between greasy spoon and gourmet. This level also has a number of novelty burgers. Some of these places even have secret menus (Five Guys, M-Burger).
- Char-grilled burger – burgers are grilled over charcoal
– Charcoal Delights, Portillo’s, Paradise Pup, Weber Grill,
- Griddled Diner burger – if the restaurant says DINER, they probably make this style of burger
- The High-End Restaurant Starts Up An Affordable Burger Joint Burger
– M-Burger (Chicago)- (It’s like McDonalds, but much better. Great Shakes.)
- Smash Griddled burger – burgers are smashed onto the hot griddle to get a crispy exterior
– In-N-Out , Five Guys (my review), Smash Burger, Steak-n-Shake, Shake Shack (NY)
- Butter burger – cooked on a well-buttered griddle and topped with more butter
– Solly’s Grille (Milwaukee), Culver’s
- Jucy-Lucy burger – two burger patties are pressed together to seal in some cheesy goodness
– Matt’s Bar (Minneapolis)
- The “Smashed Flat and Deep-fried in 100 Years Worth of Grease” Burger – Dyer’s (Memphis)
- The “Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Are Now Hamburger Buns” Burger. – Square Bar (Chicago)
- The “We Cursed A Baseball Team Because They Wouldn’t Let Our Pet Goat In,
so buy a double-cheese – it’s the best!” cheeseburger (cheeseburger cheeseburger). – Billy Goat Tavern (Chicago – no fries, CHIPS!) – click here for my review
- The “Holy Cow! This Could Feed A Small Village!” Food Challenge Burger
(many local establishments have these massive 1lb or larger items on the menu to pump up business.
Looking for a challenge? Google the name of your city plus the words “burger challenge” and see what comes up.)
Often larger and thicker than a fast-food burger, gourmet burgers are custom ground fresh, locally or on-site, cooked to order and desired temperature. Some gourmet burgers, especially steakhouse burgers, are made with combinations of more expensive or more flavorful cuts of beef, like short ribs and brisket. Some burgers are served with the typical Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Pickle, etc. , while others are topped with any number of ingredients, from fried eggs to lobster. The burger buns vary as well. Instead of the plain white “wonder” bun, you can often find a glossy egg-washed fresh baked upgrade, or the increasingly popular pretzel bun. A few of the burgers in this category make use of Kobe Beef, which I argue is an incredible waste to grind up into a burger.
Now, some of you may be thinking, “he’s just making all these categories up!”, to which my response is:
Of course I am! Just have fun with it.
When you get your own blog, you can make up your own burger categories.
Now, shut up and go get a cheeseburger!
Stimulate the economy, one burger at a time! 🙂
Looking for more info on burgers?
My friend in meat, Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn, also has a page devoted to the “taxonomy” of burgers, in which he also talks about the different regional styles, such as the “green chile cheeseburger” from New Mexico.
DON’T FORGET TO PUT BACON ON IT!