The Imperfect Burger

I’ve ranted about the Perfect Burger before. I’d provide a link, but I know full well that page isn’t online right now, and besides, this isn’t about the Perfect Burger. It’s about the Imperfect Burger.

Start with pre-made frozen patties, just like the fast food places use. Grill one. Slap it on an 85-cents-for-an-eight-pack bun. Add a little catsup.

Now, hand it to your two-year-old, and let him nibble on it.

Now put the leftovers (the remaining 90% of the sandwich) in tupperware and refrigerate for two days.

Two days later find yourself hungry enough to eat anything, but too lazy to prepare much at all. With a Very Sharp Knife, excise the nibbly spots from the refrigerated toddler-burger.

Microwave for 40 seconds, rotating once.

Eat.

I swear on my Weber Sub-Silver grill, it tasted EXACTLY like I was at Burger King.

So… grill, slap, nibble, fridge, chop, reheat, and BAM! I’ve reverse engineered BK’s flame-broiled flavor. Have it your way, pal.

–Howard

32 thoughts on “The Imperfect Burger”

  1. I worked at BK for a year, and although I didn’t spend much time preparing burgers (I was mostly on cash), I have some insight as to how BK’s burgers are prepared. After spending some time in the steam bin after getting broiled, the burgers are stuck in the microwave for 10-15 seconds or so. Only the burger and heel[1] get microwaved, along with the cheese and bacon, if any. Mustard and ketchup are usually added after microwaving, while the lettuce, tomato, mayo, and any other toppings get tossed on the crown[2] while the burger is microwaving, the trick being to get them all on before the microwave is done.

    [1] Bottom half of the bun.
    [2] Top half of the bun.

    1. So the flavor I had right was flame-broiled meat stuck to bread, kept in a moist environment, and then microwaved.

      I’ll be opening a BK franchise in my back yard shortly. Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce!

  2. Heh. That story reminds me of when I took home leftover unsold cheeseburers when I was working at McDonalds (aka Corporate Death Burger)

    They tasted better after being frozen, thawed and re-heated in a microwave. Veddy Strange.

    1. Bah. Try working graves and picking up two double quarter pounders with cheese, supersize fries, coke, and four cheeseburgers at 8PM when you first get the chance. Then finally tearing into it all after it’s sat unrefrigerated on your desk till about 5AM.

      THAT is when McFood is at their best. Besides, I thought everyone knew that cold McCheeseburgers are always better than the hot ones.
      -J-

  3. ham on hand sandwich

    Had a buddy in late middle school / early high school (i left
    there junior year) name of james. james was a good kid, imho,
    with a crappy family and basically no good cards dealt to him by life.
    first day of class sophomore year, i noticed at lunch a pattern of ~1cm
    lines burned into the first few inches of his left hand.

    “dude, what happened to your hand?”
    “oh, i had a summer job at BK. some frat guy[1] ordered 12 whoppers
    during lunch rush and I was working the griller. i was slapping
    the things in there and it caught my hand.”

    that’s probably not the kind of extra flavor you want to recreate though.

    [1] my one horse east texas hometown happens to have a smallish state uni.

    1. Re: ham on hand sandwich

      Hey, I’m from Nacanowhere and worked a bit at Burger King there and my name’s James … do I know you?

      1. Re: ham on hand sandwich

        the james I know had black hair. his last name was holbrook(e?) iirc.
        haven’t talked to him in a good ten years… last i heard he was doing
        time in county for drunk & disorderly or similar.

  4. Ugh, flame-broiling.

    As if there’s really a need to add ANOTHER single-use appliance to most kitchens, Burger King went and invented a process so unbelievably pointless in its complexity that it still astounds me.

    A flame broiler is a propane-powered toaster with a conveyor belt. Seriously. And the irony of this is, the broiler was originally a little shelf under the oven where cooks set things that were a little underdone. Seriously – no appliance-specific heating elements, definitely no open flames… just a shelf and a close-proximity to a large heated iron oven. That’s all that was necessary. It was not a cooking instrument of its own. Heck, most of the time broilers STILL aren’t used for whole meals – sure, a chef may put some grill marks on a steak or two and toss them in if the dinner rush is getting a little meat-crazy, but for the most part they exist just in case a nice crust needs to be put on the top of a pre-purchased dessert.

    Burgers are best when cooked on an iron skillet until firm and browned, then lightly braised in some added beef stock (with a little worchestershire stirred in) until service. At that point you should take out the burger, drain it in a rack over a dripping-pan, take some of the dripping liquid and saute some onions or mushrooms in it, top the burger with that and some nice soft cheese, and serve with marinara sauce and mayo with a little bit of cracked pepper, oregano, basil, and just a sprinkle of paprika.

    Grilling purists may argue with me over that, but I stick to it. And I’ve never had a better burger.

    (This is the one problem I’ve noted with Culinary Arts. It has taken my natural instinct to tinker, and cranked it up into overdrive to the point where I end up being unbelievably picky about food. Sorry for the culinarian-rant.)

    1. Re: Ugh, flame-broiling.

      I’ll argue with your spices (you didn’t use any onion powder, this is a hamburger; that can’t be right), but the general cookingness sounds about right.

      Sauteed onions and mushrooms are cool if you have the time, and you’re not trying to keep it all in a bun on the go. Red onions are best for sauteeing, although I’ve only had them done _right_ a handful of times. (Don’t overcook ’em, they should be sort of al dente.) Usually I just go with the salad on top option: cheese, lettuce, tomato slice, raw onion), and of course catsup is traditional. (Ahem: “Ith’ tradithional, marther!”)

      Pickles do not belong in hamburgers, they belong on chicken sandwiches. And mayonaise only works if you haven’t ground the beef: sliced roast beef sandwiches it’s great. (Well, the One True Mayonaise, Hellman’s, is. I’m fairly certain Miracle Whip is either an industrial solvent or some sort of metal polish. Store brand mayonaise is simply pointless. No, I don’t know what Hellman’s puts in its’ mayonaise. Sulfur probably. Whatever it is, it works.)

      Rob

      1. Re: Ugh, flame-broiling.

        Generally, if I’m compelled to try putting onion powder in a burger I’ll just dice an onion up and mix it in with the ground beef. I do that with celery as well, sometimes, though too much of that and you wind up with meatloaf on a bun (which, while good to an extreme, is an entirely different meal altogether).

        Personally, I also like light mayo on my burgers. Now granted, it is heavenly on a Cuban and is just a condiment on a hamburger – but I feel that it adds just the right amount of mild flavour to the condiments to balance out the marinara. Otherwise the entire dish would taste like the sauce, and that’s just not right at all.

        As for the onions, I generally go for the basic vidalia. To my opinion, the sauteed onions on a burger are meant to be almost caramelized – and the vidalia’s sugary enough to accomplish that quickly. That way you have a hint of sweetness to balance the whole thing out.

        Then again, I’m the sort of person who will put a slice of baked apple on a grilled-chicken sandwich to see what it tastes like (it was pretty good, actually). Traditionalism always inevitably falls to my curiosity in matters of food – I have been regularly heard to exclaim “well, why doesn’t anyone combine them?” I will then try, and either come up with a neat new recipe or figure out exactly what makes that concept so hideous in the first place.

        I’m not a chef. I’m an alchemist of food. And that’s not entirely always for the best, though it is at least always entertaining.

      2. Re: Ugh, flame-broiling.

        Ketchup on cheeseburgers is a Yankee abomination and should be ruthlessly stamped out. Mustard is what goes on cheeseburgers.

          1. Re: Ugh, flame-broiling.

            No, there are a few uses for ketchup: fries, overdone scrambled eggs, meat loaf (if you don’t have any gravy). Not many, but a few.

          2. Ketchup

            My little brother pioneered ketchup on rice when we were kids. I’ve since repented, but I don’t know about him.

            Mmm…. white rice and ketchup.

      3. Re: Ugh, flame-broiling.

        I like industrial solvent on my sandwiches.

        Of course, I’m weird as I put ranch dressing, mustard, and ketchup on my hamburgers as well.

  5. you cut around the baby nibbles? i hardly ever bother with that sort of thing even if it were my mom’s DOGS that took a bite.

    i always figured parents gave up that little hygene quirk. 🙂

  6. Re: ham on hand sandwich

    nacogdoches. 🙂 there’s so many one horse
    towns north of Houston that they’re all kind
    of interchangeable. SFASU, land of the minimum
    800 SAT to get in (mid-90s).

    [to be ‘fair’ 800 required that you be in the
    top quarter of your graduating class. a 1000, iirc,
    would get you in regardless of class rank/GPA.]

    1. Re: ham on hand sandwich

      A friend’s dad was a history professor at SFA for many years, and VP of academic affairs before he retired.

      I get Jacksonville and Nacogdoches confused because they’re close to each other and I have family in Jacksonville.

  7. Perfect burger.

    frozen or fresh, marinade the meat in an herbal (store bought: Greek) vinigerette for 2 days prior to cooking, thick burgers are best. Flame grill over charcoal for best flavor. See also Sautéed onions, and pan fried garlic to go ontop of said best burger.

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