Category Archives: Finding Burger

Notes on the Journey making and discovering in, Finding a great Burger.

Finding Burger Heaven (Part 19), Congratulations & Well Done!

Having lived in Ireland for just over a year I have tried several local burger eateries, and some big surprises. It is almost on every menu. It is after all a celebrated meal, a worldwide phenomenon. Gen whatever enjoys tucking into a meal whether happy or not, brioche bun, potato bun, sesame and everything bun. These are important as they hold all the combinations together no matter how weird or how wonderful.  

I do not take issue with any combinations as they are personal. 

But I do take issue with trying to find the perfect burger where everything is killed…..dead before loaded with your perfect combination. And before this gets lost, I must ask the question. Is it possible to taste the patty in its perfect form if well cooked?

or is the flavour profile different from medium or medium rare, or dare I ask Rare? 

What goes for steak must surely go for beef patty. 

Or does this open a whole new creative side where the taste is easier to manipulate as it is easier to hide behind  additional garnish needed to elevate the taste of welldone. 

I have always believed before tackling the ratio of fat to beef,  the perfect burger starts with its terroir, feed and breed. Take away the cooking technique and basting. 

All overcooked burgers rely heavily on the excess makeup and garnish for perfection. I just do not think the real flavour can be tested…tasted if over cooked. 

But then again, it takes a special skill to make a burger with the correct fat to meat ratio for a welldone beast cooked above 75…..

It is all about food safety, it is a well known fact that a burger is the cause of more food poisoning than any other food. In some extreme cases people have died, because of poor protocols where guests were infected with Shiga toxin-producing E.coli bacteria (or STEC for short). STEC is a particularly harmful type of E.coli that can cause kidney failure, particularly in children under five and the elderly. In 2016 a number of cases was reported from a single source that initiated a well done rule.

When beef is minced to make burgers, any harmful surface bacteria from the raw meat will be spread throughout the burger. So unless the burger is cooked right through, these bacteria can remain alive on the inside and could cause food poisoning.

On the other hand a steak that is seared over a high heat will kill harmful bacteria on the outside, making the beef safe to eat.

Essentially the rule states that to cook a burger properly, ensure juices run clear, the burger is piping hot all the way through and there’s no pink meat. Above 75 degrees Celsius. 

Admitting there is a gratifying part eating a well done burger, only because it is hot and not Steak Tartare.

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Finding Burger Heaven! (Part 18) Shrooms!

Mushroom Burger

Mushroom Burger

I never thought I would admit it, but lately we have been selling more mushroom burgers than beef burgers, I would like to take credit but it most likely it has a lot more to do with people wanting healthier options and many are looking at plant based diets and it is here to stay. We thought we would make 15 every two weeks, now we are making 15 every 4 days. Admittedly it is slightly cheaper on the menu, but only marginally.
Before lockdown we had started developing a vegetarian burger that was doing well but needed some further development, in the end we then outsourced the burger due to some consistency issues. During lockdown I spent weeks making batch after batch of vegetarian burgers until we settled on a mushroom and black bean burger that worked and was the right texture that was not dry, that was not made up of only beans and had the right amount of softness and moisture.
The challenge is always making sure everything binds well without adding loads of flour or bread. We managed to make the mushroom burger gluten free which ended up a being a bonus.
The biggest issue was that we did not want a vegetarian burger that reminded us of meat, but rather celebrate the vegetable.
We use a sunflower dressing and hummus in the final assembly and use cider glazed onion and a sweet and sour basting sauce. What we did find is that many guests still ask for a mature cheddar instead of the vegan cheese.

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Finding Burger Heaven! (Part 17) New York, New York!

My Favourite New Burger

My Favourite New Burger

Going back to New York meant I could continue my journey in finding the perfect burger, it also meant checking in with my previous favourite burger to see if it was still number one.

I did fail as I could only manage four burgers on my trip, two were revisits. The spotted pig and db bistro moderne.

At db bistro moderne I revisited the original DB burger and at the spotted pig I had the Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort Cheese & Shoestring Fries. Two things happened, I had a new favourite and simplicity rules.

I did have other burgers on my trip, but they did not stand up to these two favourites.

We arrived too late for lunch and too early for dinner, we had no booking, very hungry and had covered way to many miles by foot when we arrived at the spotted pig. We negotiated a bar counter seat and ordered a Flying Dog Pale Ale. With a paper next to me opened on sports page, I was reminded how the Mets sank to a new low the previous day, Blank! I still had a good day at the Mets stadium.

We ordered Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort and another beer. It was as simple as that soft bun, burger and Roquefort, it was that simple. No elaborate garnishes, salads, lettuces or pickles.

Toasted soft bun, chargrilled burger topped with Roquefort with lots of shoe string fries. It was simply delicious, great rich meaty flavour that was right blend of meat and fat. The Roquefort worked with the pure beef patty almost to well. Here is three ingredients each made and cooked perfectly, it was that simple. We have some work to do.

Db burger is still part of my favourites list and I will have it again on my next trip.

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Finding Burger Heaven! (Part 16) It Has Happened Again!

Months went by where we had no problems, brisket and chuck came from two suppliers. The product was consistent, we became complacent and confident. Then it struck again, that pink burger as we made the burgers fresh how was this possible, and off course the only people that picked it up was the guests eating well done burgers. We even blamed seasonality and the grass.
I spoke to a good friend and through our conversation he mentioned that if a butcher used nitrates in their shop certain cross contamination could occur. That had to be it, the problem is that both sources are too ethical, too honest and we had scrap that idea.
We went back to the drawing board removing everything, making burgers with no salt, only parsley and only mustard. Results after two days of allowing the burger to stand was a little annoying as the salt seemed like the culprit. The question I had is, how much nitrates are present in salt, does it make a difference if the salt is sea salt or not?
Some vegetables like celery, beetroot, cabbage, some root vegetables and parsley all contain a percentage of nitrate. Sea salt contains a percentage of nitrate, be it very small amounts. When nitrates are exposed to certain types of bacteria the nitrate is converted into nitrite. This reaction is similar in characteristic to traditional cured meat products.
All of this meant that we have to relook the recipe for the guests wanting a well done “’bloody pink”burger.
The problem has been solved for now.

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Finding Burger Heaven! (Part 15) Top or Bottom.


Top or Bottom

Does it matter where the tomato and the lettuce is placed, does it matter if the lettuce is placed above above or below the patty, where does the chutney work best? For years we have layered our burger with a buttered and toasted bun, ice berg lettuce, aioli followed by the tomato followed by the meat, then caramelised onion, followed by a great cheese and finally some chutney with a buttered and toasted sesame bun on top. We asked the question as one bites through the burger, layers of flavour is exposed and pop one by one, releasing moments of happiness as this happens. We needed an experiment. It is time for change!

I ask these questions after we did a trip to Stellenbosch last week, where I possibly had one of the best burgers to offer in the Western Cape, possibly one of my top ten burger experiences. Bertus a good friend of mine at opened a small burger joint, De Vrije Burger. I studied the assembly of the burger, with a burger patty at the base, followed by cheese, leaves, tomato and thin slices of red onion with slices of cucumber pickle. The sauce was a smoky chili sauce. I liked the idea, as the salad does not get squashed by the patty, the juices do not spoil the salad.

Need to consider a possibility……we did a trial with everything in reverse to what we normally do. After cooking and eating, we like the way it eats, like the look. But the biggest down fall is the juices running into the base making it soggy. This will still need further thinking and tests.

Maybe a burger should be presented in two halves with fresh ingredients on the cap and the remainder on the base, leaving the guest in charge to assemble. This is an option. Perhaps we can leave the lettuce in whole pieces.

In the end of our debate and experiment we walked away only with two things, the possibility of adding red onion and changing our basting for now.

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Finding Burger Heaven! (Part 14) Southern Fried.

Chicken burger

Photo Credit –

If it has to be chicken then I would do a Southern fried chicken, mincing chicken for a burger just does not seem right. A couple of months ago we did a burger shoot with Crush on line. I this shoot we covered various options from fish to chicken to vegetarian.
There is something to fried food on a bun, like Gatsby with fried fish and chips on a bun, or a po’ boy sandwich. The same goes for fried chicken it just tastes so much better no matter how bad it sounds.
At the hotel we offer these in miniature slider versions with a little coleslaw and aioli.
In the picture we added grilled pineapple, coleslaw, pickles and chili aioli (because chili makes everything ok)

Recipe does contain some extra steps, but so worth it
600g de-boned chicken thigh or chicken breast if using breast cut into two thinner pieces in length. This is a lot of ingredients but well worth the effort

Crispy Southern Fried Chicken Burger


  • Cream Mix
  • 600 ml buttermilk
  • 6 ea garlic cloves
  • 1 small chili
  • 1 ea spring onion sliced
  • ¼ tsp Black pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp White pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • 2-4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander root included
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme
  • Salt as needed
  • Flour Mix
  • 200 g Flour
  • 1 tsp Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp celery salt optional
  • 1 tsp dried parsley optional
  • Oil for deep frying
  • For Burger Assembly
  • 1 cup shredded ice berg lettuce
  • 1 cup coleslaw
  • 2 large pickled gherkins sliced thinly
  • Chili aioli
  • 100 g shaved pine apple grilled
  • 4 ea sesame buns
  • Butter for buns to toast


  • Cream Mix
  • Pour cream and eggs together into a deep cup and blend with a stick blender.
  • Add garlic, coriander leaves, paprika, salt pepper, fresh chilies continue to blend.
  • Add portioned chicken to the egg and cream mixture.
  • Leave over night before use.
  • Flour Mix
  • Combine sifted flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne.
  • Dip egg drenched chicken pieces into flour mix. Allow to rest for 30 minutes before frying.
  • Into a deep fryer.
  • Fry until golden brown, if the pieces are very large finish in the oven.
  • Assembly
  • Butter each bun top and bottom and toast in pan or grill until warmed trough and crispy.
  • On each base sprinkle a shredded lettuce followed by a spoon full of coleslaw.
  • Top with fried chicken followed by pineapple and sliced gherkins.
  • Drizzle some ranch dressing on top of everything, finishing with top of bun.


Photo Credit –
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Finding Burger Heaven! (Part 13) The Ultimate!

Bacon Egg Burger

Ultimate Burger with bacon, egg, mushroom ragout and cheese

I wanted to put a list together with my favourite top ten burgers, got to number eight on the list and realised that I missed two burgers on my list, I was fixating on the local stuff and not my travels.

And you may find yourself, ordering a burger in another part of the world, and you may find yourself staring at the most beautiful thing, and you may ask yourself well how did we get here? Once in a life time, eating a burger at Bar Boulud in New York, and you may tell yourself, this is the most beautiful thing in the world, am I right or am I wrong. Americana at its best. The original DB burger with braised short rib, FG and black truffle on a Parmesan Bun. Once in a life time experience.
So this is an ultimate burger experience in Finding Burger, but I would not necessary want to have this on a regular basis, maybe. A couple of months ago we did a shoot with Crush online doing a shoot on four different burgers from veggie to seafood and chicken. Then it hit me, sometimes going over the top is Ok, it is part of who we are, as a chef I want have a burger like this, I dream about this. Creating a burger topped with a soft fried egg, bacon, seriously good patty, mushroom ragout and cheddar cheese. I can feel, I can see the juices making mess all over my shirt the table, but it is so good. It will cure even the harshest hangover.

The second burger forgotten was from my travels, at the spotted pig also from New York.

Photo Credit

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Finding Burger Heaven! (Part 12) What is The Beef!

We have used Afrikaner, Simmentaler, Dexter, Angus and Boran in all cases the meat was excellent but very different. We have seen how our choices have had impact on the final product. What happens when the animal is put through stress and what it does to the meat, but more importantly how much does the terroir play a part?
Previously I had disagreed on the topic, I did not want to listen to a very good friend. But after experimenting and tasting meat for the burger repeatedly month after month it has become very clear. As the taste of the meat is greatly dependant on the grass and the feed, the PH of the meat changes accordingly. As the seasons change so does the feed. In many cases it is impossible to have a constant supply of feed throughout winter. The animals need a supplement in the dry months. This is a reality. What is the taste of the grass? Sweet or sour?
Very few farms have the luxury of great feed throughout the year. Very few farms can claim 100% free range, grass fed and organic beef.
As we will not compromise we will stay true, we will remain transparent with every delivery, every patty every bite. Currently we are using Simmentaler from Oak Valley with an abundance of rye grass which is supplemented with oat hay and apple pomace.
These animals are pasture-reared, free-range, hormone and antibiotic free.
Perhaps the chutney in the burger can have a little bit of apple to bring it all together.
It is hard to choose where my favourite beef comes from.

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Finding Burger Heaven! (Part 11) – When Will we Learn?

Originally I wanted go through beef choices and how it shapes our decisions, but after my holiday I decided to discuss bad burger choices.
The burger is sacred and can never be thought of or regarded as an afterthought, never!
What is wrong with people, chefs and restauranteurs? No…. rather what is wrong with me? Why do I insist in ordering a burger when, deep down I know I am setting myself up for disappointment. You just know it, that gut feeling that never gets it wrong.
Recently while we were in Overberg district, I was slightly upset, ticked off more like it. A restaurant I wanted to visit, was closed and were on their holiday just as I was. No reason to be upset, but I was. So we scanned through a list of local places to eat and came across one. As I always enjoy burger, more than I should, the opportunity in Stanford almost put me off burgers for life.
The support act was the highlight (chips). The rest was downhill and it came down to one thing only.
The main star was disappointing. How hard is it? You buy the meat, you mince it, season it, cook it and enjoy it.
Hiding behind poor ingredients, disguising the essence, the meat is just a big no! How can people add seasoning beyond the point of recognising that it is beef, adding egg and binders to try and fix the bad quality is just so wrong on so many levels.
Or am I being over critical.
I am still upset, this would never have happened if all my plans worked out!

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Finding Burger Heaven! (Part 10) – Is it all About Baste?

Burger part 10

It’s all about the baste

It is essential to have a little bit of smoke on the beef patty when grilling, this is why it is essential to use a charcoal grill with open flames, the juices and fat run off onto the exposed coals causing puffs of smoke that is essential in creating a taste profile that is true.

So, is it all about baste? Or can we leave it off completely? In the past we have always added a little basting. Our thinking was based on trying add an extra dimension and the rest based on nostalgia of when we were young and we frequented our favourite burger shop. What we were ultimately after was an umami burst to lift everything. What we ended up with, was a dirty grill!

We found that the basting we used, almost like a monkey gland sauce would burn almost caramelise slightly which in its own is pleasant…..but to sweet.

We have always said that we do not garnish imperfection, putting a basting on the patty is in a way hiding perfection. We need to steer clear of adding sugar, it messes with the brain. The tomato chutney is sweet, caramelised onion is sweet and so is the basting.

So just like that, it was gone. But it has still left a void. So now Sven is working on a more savoury approach juts short of emptying a bottle of soya over the burger. Perhaps the answer lies with caramelised onions.

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