For one of the most democratic foods this country has ever produced, the hamburger is the source of more infighting, misinformation, and virulent name-calling than any other. Paradoxically, it’s the burger's near-total cultural ubiquity that has created this vicious partisanship. Because everyone has access to a burger, everyone has an opinion about what’s best. And as with most democratic institutions in this country, having an opinion means believing that everyone who doesn’t share your opinion is godless trash.
Meat blends, patty size, toppings, bun: Whether you’re grinding your own short rib blend for an eight-ounce behemoth, or stanning for your hometown chain’s smashburger, we have love for all of the thousands of burger variations that people get passionate about. “One of my mottos is there are no rules in the kitchen or the bedroom,” says grilling iconoclast Meathead Goldwyn, founder of AmazingRibs.com and author of Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecuing and Grilling. In other words, your own personal burger preferences are sacred, and nobody should try to take them away from you.
That said, there’s a lot of bad information out there. “I don’t normally get angry, but I get angry when people think they know what they’re talking about,” says George Motz, author of The Great American Burger Book. Motz has devoted years to studying the burger in all its many forms, and spends much of his time setting the record straight on American burger history and lore.
Why is there so much burger misinformation out there? There’s the fact that, when you get right down to it, it’s pretty easy to make an acceptable hamburger, and if you’ve never had a truly great burger, it’s easy to believe that’s as good as it gets. Sure, there are some truly awful ones (though even the 7-11 microwaved version has its fans), and some undeniably amazing ones, too. But that vast middle ground is still pretty damn serviceable, which leads competitive types to act like they deserve a Beard award just by putting two kinds of cheese on their overcooked, grey patty.
Secondly, most people fall in love with a specific burger as a child (a minor variation on Sam Sifton’s groundbreaking Pizza Cognition Theory). They’re as vehemently opposed to ideas that challenge their burger beliefs as the male babies who boycotted the all-female Ghostbusters because it ruined their childhood. Suggest to one of these burger bros that Whataburger is mediocre at best and they’ll run you off the internet.
Well, facts are facts, and our two experts aren’t afraid of a little fight. Here are the top seven burger myths that need to be toppled ASAP.