The Ultimate Burger has the best of everything, a gourmet's delight; it has loving care and attention lavished on it and no time nor expense is spared in its production. This is not that burger. This is the Optimal Burger™. You can prepare it from scratch in 15 minutes, eat it without any fuss and it will make you channel Jules Winnfield (just the quiet-enjoyment-of-the-burger part, not the kill-the-person-who-"gave"-you-the-burger part):
The Optimal Burger™ has to be easy to shop for. The Optimal Burger™ should not require visits to multiple vendors or have seasonal requirements because (a) no one has time for that and (b) who knows what time of year the urge for a good burger will strike? It requires no cooking devices beyond a standard gas grill and should not be expensive.
The Optimal Burger™ takes into account multiple factors, in the approximate order of importance:
- time of preparation
- ease of preparation
- structural integrity
You may have other factors to take into account. Healthiness. Sustainability. Calories. You will have a different Optimal Burger™ (you perhaps should focus instead on developing the Optimal Salad). I endeavor only to give you ideas while making my own case.
The recipe that follows includes crowd-sourced improvements based on recommendations from 18 burger aficionados at Pier 9.
The buns are crucial to a good burger. They form the carapace; they need to be large enough to accommodate all your ingredients and to not disintegrate under a little pressure. The buns define the maximum achievable size your burger can attain, for a good burger is shorter than it is wide. Don't skimp here.
If you prefer, toast the buns before serving. They're easy to blacken on a hot grill though so be careful. Turn down the gas and warm with the lid down. Or just pop in the toaster.
Sliced tomatoes are a time-honored burger component but I think they're overrated. They tend to be heavy and watery and slippery, and you want none of those properties. Ketchup on the other hand is liquefied tomato, sugar, onion and salt, and it makes up layer 1 of my Optimal Burger™. You always have it on hand, it's cheap, it's a good glue, and whatever sort you like is bound to go well with the burger. I like a mix of Heinz and Sriracha. Other good options, depending on taste, are mustard or BBQ sauce.