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The Science Of Burger Architecture (Why Some Combinations Work And Others Don’t)
The quick summary
- A chuck and brisket blend will give you the best burger possible.
- Your toppings should complement the patty, not steal the show!
- Do not ignore the assembly order, it could make or break your burger.
- When it comes to making great burgers, simplicity is key.
The burger. It’s a dish that everybody loves, but few can perfectly pull off.
While it may seem like a relatively simple thing to accomplish, there’s more to the humble burger than meets the eye. In fact, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what really makes a burger great.
But we’re here to help! According to Pallas Foods development chef Colin Greensmith, simplicity is the key to a truly outstanding burger – one where “you can taste the meat, and the other ingredients come out in the flavours.”
So let’s break down how to achieve this, and bring out the best in your burger recipes.
The first and most crucial step in the burger making process is choosing the right meat. But which cuts work – and how do you create the most mouthwatering mix?
Chuck, round, navel, short rib – these are all parts of the cow that are suitable for creating a perfectly adequate burger. While different blends will give you different outcomes, Colin says the best mix for getting a lean, beefy flavour is a combination of chuck and brisket.
This fuses two of the hardest working muscle groups in the cow – the breast and shoulder. The chuck from the shoulder adds a wonderful steak-like texture to the burger, due to the fat that’s dispersed throughout the muscles. The brisket imbues the patty with a deep and beefy flavour.
The reason these cuts work so well together is that they deliver the perfect fat content you’re looking for. Your burger will have a fine, crumbly texture, but still retain its moisture – and pack a real punch in flavour.
Now it’s time to bring your burger to life. But tread carefully on those toppings. It’s all too easy to go overboard and overwhelm your delicious burger blend.
We wouldn’t want to stifle your culinary creativity, but be smart with your choice of extra ingredients. You want to make sure your chuck and brisket mix gets a chance to sing.
Tomatoes are a great ingredient for adding some moisture. Rocket brings a dash of pepper to the taste buds. And some sliced cheddar brilliantly balances out the flavours – and has that magic meltability.
Onions aren’t for everyone, especially raw as they can be a tad harsh on the palate. Colin recommends sautéing your onions in oil or butter first, to create a softer topping. Add some extra sweetness by drizzling cider or apple juice into the pan.
The taste of raw onions changes with the seasons. By following Colin’s tip, you’ll get a more consistent taste with each burger.
But, of course, experimentation is always welcome. If you feel the need to branch out and try something different, find a theme that still achieves that all-important balance of flavour.
Go Mexican with an avocado and black bean salsa, refresh your taste buds with Greek-style tzatziki sauce, or take a flavour trip to Hawaii with some grilled pineapple slices.
There are lots of options out there, just make sure they never overshadow the star of the show – your burger mix!
Now let’s add the final piece of the puzzle – the assembly order of your burger.
How you arrange those toppings has a big impact on your final dish. But it’s not easy to work out what to put where. Say you have two condiments to add – mayonnaise and a red pepper relish. Which do you spread on the top bun and which on the bottom?
The answer lies in the science behind your taste buds. It’s a common misconception that taste buds only reside on our tongues. They’re also found on the inside of your cheeks, lips, and even the roof of your mouth.
It’s for this reason that Colin recommends putting the relish on the top bun. The taste buds for this hot, peppery flavour are located on the soft palate of your mouth. Spread the mayo on the bottom bun, to take full advantage of the savoury taste buds on your tongue.
Moist toppings like tomatoes or sautéed onions should be placed on top of the patty, so you don’t have a soggy bottom bun. However, if adding gherkins, place them beneath the patty to add an initial crunch to your bite – and a different texture to the burger.
While the condiments spread on your top bun will help hold the toppings in place, a bamboo skewer through the middle will give your burger some extra security.
Get the structure of your stack right, and you’ll really elevate your burger from something good, to something special.
As Colin says, “burgers are very personal things” – so take our advice to build out the best burger that suits your style. As long as you stay true to the foundational principles we have laid out, you’ll create a gastronomic experience that stands out from the pack.
To learn more, check out our very own chuck and brisket burger recipe here.