Q: Hi, Hanna. I have a question about burgers that I don't think you (or, for that matter, anybody has addressed.) I have noticed a trend lately that when chefs are looking to create the "perfect" burger, they seem to lately always going with the two patty option, as opposed to one thick burger. Why? What's their reasoning? Is it because they think it's harder to get the temperature right with one thick burger? Which do YOU prefer? I'd love to know.
A: Do you remember studying for exams and realizing that one wild guess was always safer than the rest? Maybe it was “international trade” in history, or “diminishing marginal returns” in economics (obviously, I didn’t stray too far from the social sciences when I was in school.) The phrase might not explain everything, but it could at least earn you half credit.
In the restaurant world right now, that failsafe answer is “Instagram.” Are two patties prettier than one? You betcha: Especially if they’re posed with melty cheese and vibrantly green lettuce tucked between them, with a few seductively grilled onions peeking out from either side of the beef.
But since I’m not a chef by trade, I checked with John Zucker, whose perfected burger at Purlieu features two patties on a Brown’s Court bun.
“It definitely photographs better,” he confirmed.
Contrary to what you and I both thought, though, it isn’t easier to cook (although there’s obviously less waste when a rookie kitchen hand wrecks four ounces worth of meat.) “It's actually more challenging to get the burger cooked correctly with the sear technique,” Zucker says. “It took us about a week to get the cooks to do it correctly without burning it.”
That said, once a cook masters thin patty strategy, it takes far less time to fulfill an order, which is likely why sliders prevail at places like White Castle. “We’re able to fully cook a 6-7 ounce burger from raw in about 3-4 minutes,” says Thai Phi of Pink Bellies, home to an absurdly good In-N-Out homage, available in two- and four-patty versions.
Zucker, another Californian, shares Phi’s admiration for In-N-Out. Although his burger isn’t directly based on the source material, the chain’s insistence on a caramelized patty shaped his burger opinions. “Having two patties with that crust is really good,” he says. (Or one: Like Phi, Zucker likes giving customers the chance to choose.)
That kind of customization is important, because not every burger is better with a second patty. I’m an on-the-record, raving fan of Little Jack’s burgers, and I don’t think much of the double. The extra patty seems to throw off the proportion of bread to meat, and the overall texture of the sandwich.
In general, I’m fine with any burger dimensions, so long as the meat’s properly seasoned and cooked, although I draw the line at burgers that can’t be devoured without the help of a knife and fork, since those have arguably morphed into something more like Salisbury steak.
But I don’t want to dodge your question. My ideal burger is seven ounces, topped with mayonnaise and jalapenos. One patty, please.
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