Despite doing a lot of burger reviews, and going into the deep detail of each layer, how it tastes individually, and then together, I have never really thought about how each ingredient should be stacked. This is until I saw an article about Google CEO making fixing their burger emoji a top priority. As a food blogger who reviews burgers on a regular basis, this was perhaps the greatest failure of my life.
But let’s fix that mistake, and think about it now. This post isn’t about the best ingredients to make the perfect burger. It is about how to arrange and stack a burger to maximize the burger experience.
What is in a burger?
Before we do that, we need to identify what exactly makes a burger? We can all agree that burgers are sandwiches, and to make a sandwich you need 2 slices of bread. Then we also need the namesake – a burger patty, or some other protein. A good burger doesn’t stop there – burgers are the ultimate meal in a sandwich form – which means that there should be some form of vegetable (GASP) to add balance and freshness, as well as nutritional value to the meal. Let’s assume the common ones, which is a leafy green, usually lettuce, tomatoes, and then some form of pickle. So far so good, but then burgers themselves, while great, might be a little bit dry… here’s where the a sauce comes in. Usually this is some form of mayonnaise combination, but we will leave it as “sauce”. Of course we can’t forget about the cheese.
To sum it up, a burger needs 2 slices of bread/bun, patty, vegetables (tomato, lettuce, pickle), sauce, and cheese.
How to Stack a Burger
We start off, by starting the bottom with half a bun – that much is obvious. The top would also be a bun. What should come after is up to debates.
Buns go on top and bottom
Spreadable sauce then goes on both top and bottom bun, as there isn’t any other logical place. Theoretically, the sauce could go on top of the patty, or even the rest of the vegetables, but that would require a lot more effort than using a knife or spoon to spread it across the buns. And we fully expect the bun to be an end vessel for both the sauce and the juice, so it needs to be toasted before hand to add flavor and to be a little more crusty and sturdy to not completely fall apart.
Spreadable Sauce goes on bun
Putting a leafy green in theory protects the bun from going soggy from any juices that leaks out. But the problem with doing this is that the juices flow out of the whole sandwich. Thus the leafy green shouldn’t go on top of the bottom bun. But – what if, just what if – the leafy green is shredded? Now any potential juices flows through the craggy crevices of the interlaced webs of greens, coating each strand and soaking the bottom bun. Both could work, but I think having a flatter un-shredded leaf makes more sense. You don’t want to artificially create more height in the burger as it will make it harder to eat and also make the structural integrity of the burger weaker. Furthermore, you don’t want your lettuce to be soggy, but just crisp enough. That means no direct contact with a hot patty that will wilt the lettuce.
Cheese goes with the patty. We do this because when melting cheese, we put the cheese directly on top of the burger on the grill after flipping the burger. The cheese acts as a vessel to impart flavors of the patty with it’s fat, as fat carries flavor. I don’t see a reason to change this. We have said that we don’t want limpy lettuce, so the next logical conclusion would be to to put the patty with cheese, patty side down, on the bottom bun.
But before that, we have to consider how many vegetables we are adding. In the case of using the three we mentioned, there is fear of the burger falling apart if we put them together. Putting the pickle on the bun, before the patty helps with the structural integrity. Pickle on the bottom also reduces the chance that the patty’s flavor overpowers the pickles in a full bite.
Pickle on bun
Patty on pickle, cheese side up
With the cheese acting as a barrier of heat, we can now add vegetables.
At this point, this is pretty much a matter of structural integrity so the burger doesn’t just fall apart. Tomato, then lettuce seems the most logical, as the heavier ingredient is on the bottom and the cheese acts as a glue.
Tomato on cheese, then lettuce
The flatter lettuce can also adhere to the sauce on the top bun. If you have onions or some other vegetable, putting it in between the tomato and lettuce will probably work better since the lettuce acts as a wrap. Our burger is finished with a top bun.
Lastly, bun goes on top
So in the the order of top to bottom:
- Top bun
- Bottom Bun
Of course, the above probably isn’t perfect. There are a lot of science yet to be considered, like whether the order in which the ingredients reach the mouth creates a better overall taste. More burger scientists are required at this moment.