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The existential questions

Posted by Jeanne on May 27, 2010

Very important things have been on my mind.  Specifically – what is a burger?

This article inspired the question – it talks about pork burgers, lamb burgers, burgers made of fish.  The photos seem to show burgers on flatbreads, burgers on hard rolls, soft rolls, and some with no bread at all.

Googling “what is a burger?” got me over 24 million results, the first of which stated that a burger is “United States jurist appointed chief justice of the United States Supreme Court by Richard Nixon (1907-1995).”  Not quite what I was looking for.

Wikipedia states the following:  “A hamburger (or burger for short) is a sandwich consisting of a cooked patty of ground meat, (usually beef, but occasionally pork, turkey, or a combination of meats) placed between two buns.”  (Emphasis in original.  Also, if any of my law professors are reading – yes, I know Wikipedia is a terrible, awful source.)

Top Chef University says on Twitter that a Top Chef burger should be grilled, and should comprise 50% chuck, 25% skirt, and 25% short rib served on brioche.

I look forward to many burger-related experiments this summer – I thought this would be an apt post right before Memorial Day when apparently summer “officially” starts.

The only hard line I’m prepared to draw regarding the “what is a burger?” question at this time is that a burger is a sandwich.  A sandwich must have two pieces of bread – a wrap is not a sandwich, nor is there any such thing as an “open-faced” sandwich.  (ETA:  A roll, which has an identifiable top and bottom, qualifies as “two pieces of bread” to me and can be made into a sandwich.)

Conduct yourselves accordingly.

How do you define a burger?  What is your ideal burger?


9 Responses to “The existential questions”

  1. A burger, like fish ‘n chips for our friends over the Pond, is ultimately a comfort food. A few things define comfort foods: easy to prepare; universality; relatively inexpensive; and simplicity. A “burger” as described by Top Chef that requires a blend of three cuts, each portioned out like a compounding pharmacist, and requiring a meat grinder, is not by this calculus a burger: It costs too much, is too difficult to shop for, is difficult to prepare, and no one would think of “skirt steak, chuck, short rib” as being the constituents of a burger, much less served on brioche for goodness sake.

    Fresh lettuce; a nice 90/10 ground sirloin from the meat counter; fresh tomatoes; fresh red onion; stone ground or prepared mustard; two dill slices; and a squirt of ketchup are the American way…really, the best way. Options for a true comfort food burger can also include a thick slice of medium cheddar or American and/or two slices of pan-fried bacon.

    EZE’s discourse is complete 🙂

  2. And, totally disagree on open-faced sandwiches. They do exist. Without getting snobby about delectable Southern Ribs sandwiches, what do you think a Po Boy is 😉

  3. Jeanne said

    Speak to me of this Southern Ribs sandwich – I am unfamiliar.

    Also, isn’t a Po’ Boy on a roll that has two sides and thus qualifies as a sandwich?

    I knew you would have an opinion. 😀

  4. Peter said

    Burgers are the best. I’ve lost all interest in Top Chef. I love a good pan fried burger every once in a while; why does a grill have to come in to the mix? By that definition, a burger becomes a style of cooking vs. a finished product. I look forward to possibly eating some of the burger experiments you guys do this summer, and vice-versa. Grill or no grill.

    I’m totally with you on the basic definition of a sandwich. Two pieces of bread (or a roll with a defined top/bottom) separated by a non-bread. A so-called open faced sandwich (i.e. open faced roast beef or turkey) is just meat on top of a piece of bread. Two breads does a sandwich make.

  5. Curt said

    For more on the definition of a sandwich I must refer you to these two recent Basic Instrucstions comics:



  6. Naomi said

    Funny you should post this now as last night Mitch and I had the same discussion about returning to burgers this summer. My recent dining experiences have led me to truly enjoy some short rib in my burger but I am thinking bison exclusively for my summer exploits. Better flavor, better texture. Period.

  7. Jess said

    I think wikipedia has this one nailed. But when I personally define a burger I homage Carl Kopp.

  8. Jeanne, I think you’re doing a Po Boy wrong 😉 This is how they’re supposed to be made

    As for rib sandwiches, there is nothing like them anywhere. You take about 5 slices of white bread, throw 1/3rd of a slab on top of them…Eat your way down. The bread sops up the sauce, rib juices and caramelized pork. Admittedly, your stomach (and heart) will hate you for about a week, but your brain will thank you.

    • Jeanne said

      That does indeed look good – I’ve always seen Po Boys on what looked like a large hard roll!

      And the rib thing – not a sandwich. Just meat on bread. Especially if it’s a slab with bones in it still!

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