Hamburgers.

Proper hamburger with proper bacon at Five-Napkin Burger, New York City

Proper hamburger with proper bacon at Five-Napkin Burger, New York City

There are many good things to say about the food in Australia. The freshness of the produce, the astonishing quality of the Asian and Indian restaurants, and Chicken Twisties are only a few.

However, in the deadly serious matter of hamburgers, this country falls sadly short.

I’m not even talking about the accessories and condiments on the burger, although the ever-present slice of beetroot is an abomination worthy of a war-crime trial at the Hague. I’m talking about the beef patty itself.

Here is what a quality hamburger patty should contain:

Beef

Salt

Maybe a sprinkle of ground black pepper

AND THAT IS GODDAMNED IT.

Australian burger cooks feel the inexplicable need to deface their hamburgers with spices, herbs, onions, mushrooms, and all other manner of extraneous crap. It absolutely ruins the primal meatiness that is a good burger’s raison d’être.  Once you add all that stuff to a hamburger, it ceases to be a hamburger and becomes meatloaf. And if I wanted meatloaf, I’d order meatloaf.

Another hamburger error is overcooking. Burgers here are usually cooked until they are the texture of linoleum floor tiles. Requests for medium-rare or even medium burgers are denied. Check out some of the comments in this SMH thread  about Sydney’s best pub burgers:

  • So you eat undercooked mince meat in America where you have a far higher chance of being infected with e-coli from beef? No thankyou!
  • The problem is that there is a much higher risk of food poisoning with undercooked mince meat, and for a very good reason….
  • …while it may taste better, it’s not worth the risk…
  • One day those who like it rare will wake up to the risk they are taking every time they bite into a piece of meat….you want it rare than eat fish otherwise you are just playing russian roulette with your meat…

Sigh.

Yes, the risk is marginally higher for less-cooked meat. Yes, I am an adult who knows the risk and takes it into account. No, it shouldn’t be a worry for first-world capital-city restaurants with good food hygiene practices. No, you are not playing Russian Roulette by eating a medium-rare burger. Yes, I’d prefer to eat a cricket ball than another dried-out, overseasoned meat lump.

How do I like my burger?  Medium-rare, with good melted cheese, crispy streaky bacon (bacon…that’s another rant for another day), on a lightly toasted, buttered bun. A little ketchup and maybe a little mustard, but not both at once. (No mayonnaise, and whatever condiment used should not glop out in unsightly dribbles when eaten.) If there are crunchy fried onions available, big plus. I don’t like lettuce, tomato, pickles, or raw onions on my burger. The beef should be 10-15% fat. Any fattier and it’s greasy (and not in a good way): any leaner and it’s dry.

Mmmmmm… burger….

Same burger as above, from a different angle. God, this is making me hungry.

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14 comments

  1. cabrogal

    Well at least we can more or less agree about burgers and how bad they usually are here (unless you make ’em yourself).

    The only differences are that I definitely go for lettuce and raw onions (over fried ones) and to me the only acceptable condiment is a few drops of hot chili sauce.

    The tinned beetroot?
    Definitely an abomination.
    But if you truly want your Australian burger utterly ruined order a ‘hawaiian’ and watch with horror as they put a ring of tinned pineapple on it.

    Of course when I talk burger abomination I’m not even considering those things they serve in American ‘hamburger restaurants’. They aren’t bad burgers. They’re not burgers at all. They’re not even food.

    • Sasha

      You know what the really sad thing is about Macca’s? Their “Angus” burgers were actually a pretty tasty approximation of a proper burger. Late last year they changed the patty to a meatloaf slice. ARGH. No more McD’s burgers for me.

      I will confess to a desperate passion for Sausage McMuffins, and I love their fries. But the burgers make me sad.

      • cabrogal

        I went into a McD not long after they first arrived in Aus.
        Once was enough.

        However I was called into one by police for a chat with the manager after I’d been handing “What is wrong with McDonalds?” leaflets out to customers during the UK McLibel trial. The poor bloke couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t arrest me and as long as I promised not to obstruct entrances the cops were going to let me keep handing them out.

        Oops. I tell a lie.
        In Singapore a good friend of mine (who happens to be an ex-Singapore cop and is still a reserve police lieutenant) dragged me into a local McDonalds to meet some friends of his. I swore I wouldn’t touch a bite until I smelled the sweet chili sauce they have (had?) in Singapore McDonalds. After that I kept buying fries to dip into the plate load of chili sauce I’d squirted from the free sachets.
        Sometimes my belly over-rules my principles.

  2. Sasha

    By the way, if you happen to find yourself in Sydney tomorrow, we will be lunching at Din Tai Fun at World Square, 1pm or thereabouts. Wave or come say hi. We’ll be there until Monday afternoon (Sydney, not Din Tai Fun, although it wouldn’t take much convincing to park me there the whole weekend).

    • cabrogal

      I would really love to meet you in Sydney, Sasha, but this weekend is definitely out for me.

      It’s five to six hours return trip by public transport and I’ve got commitments every day for the next few days I couldn’t squeeze that sort of diversion around.

      If you can give me maybe a week’s notice next time I would have a better chance of making it.
      Of course you will have to tell me which of your scarves you’ll be wearing so I know who to walk up and say ‘Hi’ to.
      Or maybe I can just look for the greasiest plate of food.

      BTW, yesterday I got some good news about the burger patty they hacked out of me a few weeks back.
      Non-malignant.
      Whew!
      I’ve had long hair for thirty five years and I’m not sure how well I’d have handled being bald.

      • Sasha

        That’s great news about the surgery. Congratulations. 🙂

        Next time I’ll post something on the blog ahead of time, telling people I’m coming to Sydney. Kind of like this.

        As for recognizing me, I’ll be the white woman with an American accent, checking my privilege. 😉

      • cabrogal

        Hmm, not sure how much that will help. Unless you’re wearing one of those US flag bikinis like in the credits of the 60s comedy ‘Love, American Style’.

        BTW, did you catch my post on Evil Aleister?
        After you and one other blogger reminded me of him in the same day I thought I’d better say what I thought of Creepy Crowley.

  3. Tex

    Hamburgers in this country are a national embarrassment. Stop putting green shit and onions in my meat, morons. And anybody who wants fucking beetroot on their burger cannot be taking seriously on any subject.

  4. Burly

    While I do add a few spices to my burger (garlic, minced onion, and black or red pepper), I agree that a minimalist approach is the best for the meat. What truly sets a burger apart is the quality of the toppings. I prefer sweet onions, a high quality cheese, smoky bacon and tomato. That’s a perfect burger for me.

  5. James Sutherland

    That burger in the picture looks very nice – if only they’d cooked the slab of onion! Cheese, bacon, ketchup, mustard, pickles, crispy cooked onions, lettuce. I sometimes get adventurous … some chopped jalapeños, a chicken breast, even a layer of chile con carne, though of course you’ve left “burger” territory behind by then!

    Sausages are my bugbear in the UK – burgers are mostly OK, but sausages … what was the last “pork sausage” I bought, 40% meat?! Rusk, wheat, floor sweepings, plastic food-substitute …

    • Sasha

      James, I will never as long as I live forget my ill-fated attempt to order a sandwich in London. Someone needs to fly a couple of Little Italy deli owners over there to teach Brits the art of sandwich making. I ordered a ham-and-cheese sandwich at a café, and after fifteen minutes I was presented with a squishy soft roll, untoasted and smeared with butter, enclosing one desultory slice of Swiss cheese and one slice of pale-gray ham. Appalling.

      • jas88

        Oh yes – sorry about that. I’ve never understood butter in sandwiches in the first place, and the miserable slivers of filling are just silly! On the bright side, the UK is slowly evolving sandwich-wise, with the likes of Subway spreading rapidly and proving to Brits that sandwiches are actually allowed to contain filling. The sandwich shop by the university I worked for is pretty good these days, with a ham, cheese and pickle sandwich being quite well filled with that and your choice of salad items. An old-style café, though … probably still a risk of getting the bread of despair.

  6. Pingback: Green Hamburgers | Recipes for a Healthy You

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