We live in a burger Golden Age, where time-honored classics, evolved fast-food chains, and haute patties all coexist with equal credibility. Look around and you’re bound to find something delicious—and suitable for all wallet sizes.

These days, burger composition has become its own pseudo-science of sorts, where every minute detail is approached meticulously: patty-to-bun ratio; dry-aged beef blends; and beer-infused cheese. To form some sort of platonic ideal is a useless exercise: Each burger is a vision, with its own unique strengths.

Still, there are practices that best capture the essence of what makes a standout burger. So we reached out to a handful of patty-obsessed chefs to focus on a specific element of great burger-making, and explain how to balance it with the rest of the components. Why does Sean Brock prefer American cheese to Comté or Gruyére? And why is Marlowe’s lamb blend so important for mouthfeel? Here are chef-approved building blocks that you can play with to create your own ultimate version.

Potato Bun

Wylie Dufresne, executive chef at Alder
Dufresne says: “The potato bun is the quintessential burger bun. It’s soft, so toasting it gives a bit of crunchy texture. We brush one side of the bun with beef fat that’s infused with garlic and thyme. It’s delicious!” (Photo courtesy Alder) 

American Cheese

Sean Brock, executive chef at Husk

Brock says: “I like using American cheese because it’s basically a sheet of equal parts sauce and cheese that acts as a blanket to secure everything on the burger. It’s also very gooey, which keeps the burger moist.” (Photo courtesy Andrew Cebulka)

Onion Jam

Sang Yoon, chef-owner at Father’s Office

Yoon says: “When I made the Office Burger, there weren’t any gourmet burgers around. So I used the rich flavor of the French onion soup and its base of beef broth as my main inspiration, not so much a burger. I thought about how to highlight and enhance the flavor of beef. Think French onion soup—beef broth, caramelized onions, and Gruyére.” (Photo courtesy Father’s Office)

Lamb Blend

Jennifer Puccio, executive chef at Marlowe
Puccio says: “The blend of the burger meat allows you to create flavor profiles and control mouthfeel. I prefer a burger with a higher fat content, both for the flavor and juiciness, and a finer grind, which keeps the meat tender and facilitates even cooking of the patty. We add ground lamb to imbue a subtle, rich earthiness to the flavor profile. The addition of the lamb also goes particularly well with the char from our grill.” (Photo: kevineats.com)

Animal Style

Josh Capon, executive chef at Burger & Barrel Winepub

Capon says: “Once the patty goes on the grill, smear it only on the raw side with a nice dose of mustard before flipping it. The Dijon flavor cooks off, but the application of the mustard deepens the flavor of the meat, making it smoky, rich, and flavorful. This is better than just putting mustard straight on a bun because Dijon can be overpowering. When you bite into a burger, you don’t want the main flavor profile to be the mustard. You want the meat! When you grill the burger with mustard when it’s raw, the meat absorbs the flavor and enhances it, letting you enjoy each bite to its fullest.” (Photo courtesy B&B)

Double Patty

Linton Hopkins, chef at Holeman and Finch Public House

Hopkins says: “For me, a good burger is about balance. When I developed this burger, a lot of thought went into the ratios of caramelization-to-meat, salt-to-meat, cheese-to-meat, and bun-to-meat. I like the meat to develop a good sear and crisp edges; two thin patties offer more surface area to caramelize than one thicker patty. I wanted every single bite to deliver satisfaction.” (Photo: Holeman and Finch)

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