The Perfect Burger: Experts Weigh In

Jonathan Waxman, Jimmy Bradley, David CiancioJonathan Waxman, Jimmy Bradley, David CiancioWhat exactly is the definition of a perfect burger, anyway?

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Last week, we released our ranking of the 40 Best Burgers in America and the America's Top 10 Chain Burgers, and these lists were devised thanks to a panel of burger experts, who submitted suggestions of their favorite burgers to be included in our survey. With about 150 burgers from all reaches of the country to choose from, this panel of 30 experts then voted for their favorites in each region, which we then tallied and used to assemble our final ranking.

The responses were as varied as the burgers on our list. Some prefer nothing but a little bit of griddled meat with onions on a bun; others go a much more gourmet route. But in the end, certain unanimous qualifications became evident: The use of high-quality meat, for one, prepared with care and an eye toward balance.

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Nick Solares, Writer, Serious Eats, Beef Aficionado

"The perfect burger is greater than the sum of its parts and should offer synergy and balance. Whether you have three ingredients or 30, they should all have a reason for being there and contribute something to the overall experience, otherwise what is the point? My perfect burger happens to be is fresh ground beef on a plain white bun with American cheese and nothing else."

Charles Powell, Foodmancing the Girl

"First we have to define what makes a great burger, and I look at five elements.
The Bun: I love a squish in my bun. It should be soft and moist, but hold structural integrity while soaking up the juicy goodness of the burger.

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The Patty: This, of course, should be the star. High-quality meat with a crust to seal in the juice. The patty should be substantial enough to dominate the burger but not so over-the-top large that you need to attack it with a fork and knife.

The Cheese: Melt is the word you want to hear when it comes to a burger. Ideally, the cheese and patty will blend into one gorgeous, inseparable entity.

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The Toppings: Too often toppings are selected as either an afterthought or as a novelty. Toppings should be high-quality, complementary, and NEVER distract from the main event, the patty.

The Sauce: A sauce should never dominate. It should be the rhythm guitar, the backup singer. Aggressive and assertive are words I do not want to hear when speaking about a sauce."

Andy Husbands, Author of Wicked Good Burgers, Chef at Tremont 647

"The best burgers in America are found in everyone's backyard, with great ingredients, hot coal fire, cold beers, and lots of friends. As a professional chef I like technique so a killer sear is important, but if someone's cooking for me then whatever you give me will be awesome."

BJ Coleman, Burgers & Bourbon

"The perfect burger means quality meat cooked to perfection - juicy, moist, flavorful, and tender, with boisterous and enticing toppings sandwiched between an impeccable bun."

Related: America's Top 10 Chain Burgers

David Ciancio, Burger Conquest

"The definition of a perfect burger is one that when it hits your mouth makes you forget about everything else that is happening around you. That feeling of intense focus and ecstasy from the endorphin rush is what I call 'arriving at Burgervana.' The best restaurant burgers in America are made from properly seasoned and handled, fresh, never frozen, high-quality beef and made with TLC. They also always, always have cheese on the bottom. Always."

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-Dan Myers, The Daily Meal