Mandatory Burgers: Deciphering Your Signature Burger Style
You love burgers. We love burgers. But we don’t all love the same types of burgers. Some of us dig a tower of toppings on thick-cut premium beef patties. Others prefer to keep it simple with a smashed burger smothered in melted cheese. From gourmet burgers to backyard burgers to veggie burgers and everything in between, use this handy guide to discover your own personal burger style.
Cover Photo: Claudio Alexandre Cologni (Getty Images)
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Size matters. (Thick-Cut Burger)
You’re a bit of a snob when it comes to meat temperature, but we’re not judging you. You know a burger is best enjoyed at lower temps like medium rare or medium that allow the flavor of the beef to shine and prefer a thicker, juicier patty. A restaurant or gastropub burger is your jam, but nothing too pretentious. You want a good outer sear, a crumbly pink center, melty cheese, and a fresh-baked bun. Maybe you'll opt for bacon or even a fried egg on top. Nothing too crazy. Wash it down with a craft beer and you’re good to go.
Oh, you fancy. (Gourmet Burger)
You like fine food, and don’t mind paying a bit more, even for a burger. Dry-aged and premium beef like wagyu or Kobe and choice cuts such as short rib and oxtail get your pulse racing. You enjoy luxury additions like truffles and bone marrow, but draw the line at anything gold-leafed. Your favorite burgers are the ones where the beef is the star of the show, and every accoutrement has been carefully hand-picked to elevate the taste experience. The meat has all been ground in-house, culinary techniques such as cooking the patty in clarified butter are employed, and there’s likely a renowned chef at the helm using words like "umami," "grass-fed," and "market [anything]."
Think: Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern, db Burger at db Bistro Moderne, Peter Luger Steakhouse (New York City), Le Big Mec by Chef Ludo at Petit Trois (Los Angeles), Fleur by Huber Keller (Las Vegas)
Get your grill on. (Backyard Burger)
You keep things simple and drama-free in life — and in burgers. Your favorite ones are fresh off the grill in your own backyard or from a neighbor’s summer barbecue. You don’t care much about toppings. Some good ol' plastic-wrapped singles and a few squirts of supermarket condiments will do you right. Maybe some pickles. But you want that smoky, chargrilled flavor to come through and it absolutely must be eatable in one hand, so you can toss back a cold brew in the other.
Think: Tessaro’s (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) , the only restaurant in America that cooks its burgers over a hardwood grill.
Pound it out. (Smash Burger)
Crispy meat is the name of the game and you don’t give a hoot about beef blends or burger temps. You want a super thin, stackable patty that’s cooked all the way through by smashing it into submission on a hot griddle. Topped simply with gooey American cheese on a squishy bun to hold it all together with a meat skirt that extends beyond the edges, this is as much of a textural — as it is a flavor — experience for you. You can easily scarf down two or three at a time, and usually do so while standing.
Not just a smash-and-grab job. (Half-Smash Burger)
You’re somewhat of a dichotomy, but this is 2019, so it’s OK to be burger fluid. You love the crunchy bits of beef fond from a smash burger but also enjoy a juicy, medium-rare patty. This best-of-both-worlds burger is still in its infancy but is growing fast. It’s achieved in a couple of different ways — you can use a "smash and slide" technique, where instead of smashing and holding the patty down like a traditional smash method, you slide it across the meat so the edges get the thinnest and crispiest with a thicker, moister middle; or you can hand-form your patties first by pressing them down before they hit the pan, pinching the edges to be slightly thinner so they crisp up the most as you cook it low and slow in salted butter, letting an outer crust fry up in a pool of sizzling liquid, while the meat retains its inner juiciness.
Think: Your own kitchen. You’ve got this.
Look at me! (Stunt Burger)
Let’s face it. You’re doing it for the ‘gram. Eight to 10 patties piled high beyond the human mouth’s capacity draws you in like Matthew McConaughey to a hash pipe. Your burger has ridiculous toppings, is deep-fried, stuffed with jalapeño poppers, bacon-wrapped, dusted with Cheetos, covered in cheese sauce, topped with fried chicken, served on ramen noodle or doughnut buns, and always completely over the top. It’s the burger designed to get attention and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it always gets you pumped and ready to defy the laws of physics as you stuff that bad boy in your pie hole — after taking at least a dozen expertly art-directed pics, of course, one of which most definitely includes a flexed forearm.
I'm on 'shrooms! (Blended Burger)
Your cholesterol is through the roof and you’re trying to cut back on red meat. You want to reduce your beef consumption and your carbon footprint. You're trying to lose weight but can’t give up cheeseburgers, or you just really love the taste of mushrooms. Whatever it is, we know you have your reasons for reaching for a funghi-infused patty. Initiated by the Mushroom Council, the Blended Burger Project aims to make burgers healthier for you and more sustainable for the planet by blending beef with finely chopped mushrooms that meld with the consistency of the meat, acting as both a flavor enhancer and moisture-maker. Mushrooms are a natural complement to the savory elements of beef that add both rich umami notes to your burger, as well as unctuousness since they explode with juice when cooked. Fat-free, cholesterol-free, and low-calorie, supplementing traditional meat with mushrooms adds nutrition while helping the environment. You didn’t set out to be an eco-pioneer, yet here we are.
Visit the James Beard Foundation website for a list of restaurants offering blended burgers on their menus.
Vegging out. (Meatless Burger)
Like with blended burgers, we know you’ve got your reasons for going meatless. And when you do, you opt for a natural, plant-based patty made from ingredients like portobello mushrooms or black beans, but also enjoy the occasional tasty quinoa patty topped with tempeh bacon. And you’re educated enough about vegan alternatives to know that substitutes like the Impossible Burger that mimic meat are often genetically modified, only isolate certain plant proteins, and contain as much saturated fat as a beef patty plus five times the sodium to preserve it for a longer shelf life. So, you steer clear of the hype and stick with Mother Earth’s menu options. There’s no soy leghemoglobin or zinc gluconate in your burgers, and we’re damn proud of you for that.
Drive on through. (Fast-Food Burgers)
For those of you who can’t identify with any of the above, you fit into the drive-thru category, which basically covers every fast food chain and rest stop across America because you don’t care about cooking techniques, beef cuts, or condiments. You just want a carb-encased patty in your face as quickly as possible, preferably with an extra value menu. So, go on, have it your way.