I’m a burger snob. I freely admit it. But you won’t find me droning on about age-matured wagyu beef and chunky seasonal relish on a steamed brioche bun. You also won’t hear me slagging off McDonalds like it’s a pedo ring on the dark web. Don’t get me wrong. I will go to great lengths for the perfect burger and good old Micky Donuts is way down the list of preferred vendors, but I’d take one over a gastro pub-gourmet burger any day.

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Here’s the big question- why have a burger at all? Why a burger and not, say, meatloaf, or a steak, or anything else made of meat? What, specifically, is it that we love about burgers that we can’t get from any other food?

For me, it’s simple. When I order a burger, my priorities go: meat, cheese, bun, dressings. So, the first thing, and the most prominent taste when I take a bite is the meat. Then the cheese. If you’re one of these people who don’t like cheese on a burger then please unzip that human skin you’ve been wearing and slither back to the mothership.

Why? Well, because my love of burgers, like my love of many things, comes from childhood. A McDonalds was a treat in the 70’s, a Wimpy was like a lottery win! I grew up loving a specific taste of something so why would I want that taste removed and then replaced with shit that instantly stops it being a burger to me? It’s the same with sausages, I LOVE them, but I love the ones I grew to love- they‘re made of pork, usually by Walls. So why would I replace that with ‘apple and sage’, or ‘chili and mango’? It’s like growing up with a love of fishing and someone buys you a ‘Billy Bass’ for Christmas. It might look like a step up, but it totally misses the point.

“We’ve taken the humble burger and elevated it- look! There’s even a stick in the middle!”

I gave up hoping for a decent pub burger years ago. They’re all the same. A foot tall with a dense little patty that’s an inch narrower than the bun it’s hidden in, so you can be eight bites around the perimeter before you strike meat. Often, it’s also way too thick.
A famous person once said, “thick burgers are for dickheads” and I’m inclined to agree. The whole point of a burger, and this is where that ‘why a burger’ question comes in, is the surface. That dark, gnarly, caramelized area where you can taste the flame, searing hot griddle or hotplate, is where the magic happens. It’s where that burger taste comes from. You want as much of that as you can get. So, to stick some narrow, inch-thick hockey puck of mince in front of me, is to replace all that delicious seared surface with… an inch of warm mince. It might as well be a meatloaf after all.

Yeah, it might be hand-rolled, 28-day-aged prime Angus and come from a cow that did pilates at the spa but it’s still just warm mincemeat with added, unnecessary, herbs. That’s not a burger!

Thank f**k for America! It’s not often I say that but, when it comes to burgers, they are the Mecca, the homeland, the masters… and they get it right! Great US burger places like Shake Shack, In-and-Out, Five Guys- the list goes on, and it even includes good old MacDonald’s. Americans know what a burger needs to be. No inch-thick wad of warm mince for them-oh no! They smash their burgers into the grill to flatten them and so gain as much surface area as possible. They will put three thin patties where some gastro pub chef will put one thick one. That’s three times the surface area, three times the taste, and three times the cheese! Get in!!! No herbs, no chunks of onion or bell peppers. Just meat (with fat), seasoning and heat that combine to make juicy, dripping, charred joy that you can taste.

As for the cheese? It’s called ‘American Cheese’ and it’s about as close to actual cheese as Minecraft is to actual mining, but that’s what I want because it’s BURGER cheese! If I wanted Gouda and Manchego I’d order the sodding cheese board!

Like I said, I’m a burger snob. I’ve even gone as far as trying to order the same bread rolls as Shake Shack, they‘re called Martin’s Potato Rolls (yes, they’re made with spuds) online, but you can’t get them in the UK. I’ve studied the meat they use in the States (usually chuck steak which we call braising steak) and hand ground it to get the perfect blend. I’ve looked into the differences between various cheese slices to replicate that American Cheese effect and melt (Kraft seems to be closest) and I’ve followed their cooking to the letter to achieve that perfect, seared, melty, juicy sensation of MEAT, CHEESE, BUN in the mouth.

I love burgers but, given the choice between any gourmet ‘Burgenstein’ and good old Ronny Mac, you’ll always find me dining with the clown.