Describe the perfect hamburger

Each of us must have a personal standard based on some experience that will likely never be repeated in its entirety, but which still serves as the paragon by which all others will be measured.

Mine is from my pre-school years. It was a little grill in a bus station where we would go after church on Sunday evenings.

The plain bun, no sesame seeds, was lightly toasted on the inside.There would have been a light coating of mustard and mayo on the bun. A couple leaves of fresh iceberg lettuce. Equally thick slices (roughly 1/4" each) of tomato and onion. The 3/8" patty was not quite well-done, still juicy. Later on I added American cheese as a request item.

I was out of college when the early version of Wendy’s had as close as anything had until then. And a short-lived Backyard Burger in the neighborhood did well for a few months. But if I want “the real thing” now I have to grill it myself and do all the prep work to conform as much as I can to that ideal from childhood.


The Rallyburger from Rally’s (aka Checkers) is simply the best there is. No improving on that, in my book.

I haven’t had one in fifteen years because they’ve somehow managed to move out of every market I’ve moved into. Phooey.

Burger Bob’s 1/4 lb burger, toasted homemade bun, dill pickle chips and their ranch dressing.


Trouble is, they’re 90 miles away.

My perfect hamburger came from the long-defunct Burger Bar at my college. It was called the “CBS Burger,” and it consisted of a beef patty, a thick slice of Swiss cheese, a thick slice of Canadian bacon, and a bun. That’s all (at least, that’s all I had on mine–I don’t like condiments and other stuff on burgers). It was heavenly.

A very close second is the custom burger I get at The Counter: beef patty cooked medium rare, ham, Swiss cheese, and a fried egg on a regular hamburger bun.

I have a strong opinion…but I think it’s going to be very unpopular…

I like a burger that doesn’t disintegrate when I eat it. Carl’s Jr. once said, “If it doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face.” Man, do I disagree! I hate burgers where stuff drips out the bottom while I’m gnawing on the top. Clean and neat.

For me, an In-n-Out double double (not even animal style, although I wouldn’t object) is absolutely perfect. Or an In-n-Out double double with fried onions, pickles, mustard, ketchup (no lettuce, tomato, or sauce).

But, in general, what I prefer is quarter-pound or smaller patties (closer to 1/6 or 1/8 pound for a double burger), cooked with crispy edges (so, yes, this means the interior meat is almost certainly always well done. That’s fine for me in this one case. When I’m in the mood for a big pub burger, then they must be medium rare or even rare.) The meat must be reasonably fatty (no less than 20% fat, preferably towards 30%) and only salt and pepper as seasonings. Typically, as far as the rest of the condiments go, I usually do ketchup, mustard, onion (raw or fried, depending on my mood), pickle. In-N-Out is my one exception. As for the bun, it should be sturdy enough, but not heavy. No brioche buns or King’s Hawaiian or any crap like that, please. Basically, I’m looking for something maybe with a hair more body to it than white bread, but not by much. Lightly toasted is a plus, but not required. I’m a simple man.

The one described by Eddie Murphy’s mom sounds good to me.

I agree that I want the bun to stay together. I prefer not to eat my burger with a fork.

I like big thick “dad burgers”…but I also like thin patties if the bun is very toasted and the only condiment in mustard.

Totally depends on my mood, of course. Could be an In-N-Out DD one day, a Bob’s Big Boy the next. But in general it should be at least 1/4 lb. of grilled/flat-topped meat with a bun big enough that the patty doesn’t stick out too much. Lots of onions, shredded lettuce, a single thin tomato slice, relish, and either 1000 Island or a ketchup-mustard combo. Mayo is nowhere to be found. Any “chef’s special touches” are to be shunned.

Five Guys’ little hamburger, with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mayo. Add onions, mushrooms, and relish depending on my mood.

Philadelphia’s Rougeburger
The standard by which all others shall be judged.

Current favorite is the Killer Burger Classic here in Portland: smash patty, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, and fries on the side. Juicy, flavorful, abundant fresh cooked bacon. And a bun that doesn’t overwhelm.

The best two burgers I’ve ever had were:

  1. The Opal Country Cafe in a tiny town called Spencer, Idaho. Just off of I-15 near the Montana border. They call it the “triplet burger”. Best goddamn burger in my 66 years. I don’t know what they do to it, but it’s pure heaven.

  2. Second is the Long Branch Saloon in Anchorage, AK. The buns are made in house and are clouds to transport the juicy house-ground burger to your gaping gob. Homemade twice-fries on the side.

Miner-Dunn Hamburgers. Highland,IN.

I like the outside to be slightly charred, medium, with spicy brown mustard, ketchup, lettuce onions, tomato and bread and butter pickels.

I finally was convinced to try a new small Colorado chain called Larkburger. OMG, was that good. It’s not quite fast food, but you order at the counter and they bring the food to your table. The burgers actually look like the ones in the pictures on the wall and on the website.

You can order the beef (or turkey or tuna or chicken) cooked to order as they grind the beef fresh on site. Want it rare? No problem, that’s what you’ll get.

I got the Larkburger with Parmesan truffle* fries and a fresh squeezed lemonade. I was tempted by the five dollar milkshake but passed on it.

I am tempted to order my next one with lark’s vomit on it, but I’m sure they’ve heard that a million times.

  • Truffle oil is on my list of culinary fads that need to die, but they have a light touch with it. Thankfully they’vs avoided the “If a little is good, more must be better” habit that so many fall into.

I make 'em at home.

First I caramelize the crap out of some onions. Then I deglaze the pan and fry up the patty in the oniony goodness, to medium rare. Top off with a slice of extra thick sharp provolone and a glop of the onions. A piece of crisp iceberg is nice for textural/temperature contrast but I don’t think it’s necessary.

Just a little mustard on the bun, and I like my ketchup on the side for dipping.

Rally’s is pretty good. They moved from here when I was pretty young but I still remember the burgers and season fries.

Best hamburgers I’ve had, I’ve made.

Whenever I go to a new place, I get the burger plain. While toppings add quite a bit to the experience, the mark of a good hamburger is that it’s delicious without them. So, for that matter, Five Guys has a pretty good burger.

I like sesame seed buns, and I prefer them buttered and toasted.

In the ground beef, mix a package of Lipton onion soup mix, a good measure of Worchestershire sauce, a finely chopped onion and chopped green olives to taste. Form into big patties and grill outsige. Top with provalone or swiss cheese, serve on sesame seed bun.


For a 1/3 pound patty: should have a liberal amount of crushed garlic, onions, and a squeeze of lemon. Dusted lightly with flour. Seared a few seconds on high flame. Put in the oven at 250F for 10 minutes. Served on a modestly stiff bun (Amoroso-style). Garnished with caramelized onions, cheese and mustard. Downed with a can of beer.

I see mentioned Bob’s Big Boy. Do they still make the burger with the cole slaw on it? Loved that as a kid.

Sonic is Ok, but mostly I like to make them at home. A nice fresh kaiser roll with sesame, somewhat rare burger, “secret” sauce (ha!), and a LOT of onion. I can never get enough onion when I get them out.