This week, Burger King is introducing a version of its iconic Whopper sandwich filled with a vegetarian patty from the start-up Impossible Foods.
The Impossible Whopper, as it will be known, is the biggest validation — and expansion opportunity — for a young industry that is looking to mimic and replace meat with plant-based alternatives.
The roll-out will start in the chain’s St. Louis restaurants and then proceed nationwide if all goes well. Here’s a commercial in which hardcore BK fans can’t tell the Impossible Whopper from their beloved beef version:
As an increasingly conflicted omnivore, I would be perfectly happy if all low- to mid-end burgers were replaced by veggie clones — I don’t care that the Quarter Pounder I eat once every three months is beef…I just want it to taste like a Quarter Pounder — and then high-end burgers (the ones where you can tell the difference and you eat only rarely) were made from humanely raised beef for which consumers pay an appropriate price that accurately reflects the true-cost accounting of their production. A meat burger that costs a dollar is just being paid for in other ways by someone or something else.
From America’s Test Kitchen and Dan Souza, the editor-in-chief of Cook’s Illustrated, a YouTube series called What’s Eating Dan? In each episode, Souza picks a different food — pizza, rice, salmon — shares some of the science involved, and then shows us the best way to cook it. For starters, I’d suggest the first episode on burgers and a more recent one on mushrooms:
Rosati shares almost all of the company’s recipes, though unfortunately he isn’t giving away any real secrets here. The processes have been adapted for the home cook, and Garutti told Eater that only “six people” in the world know the real recipe for Shake Shack’s signature sauce.
The recipe in the book for Shack sauce is a mixture of Hellman’s, Dijon, Heinz, pickle juice, salt, and pepper. “We make our own from scratch,” Garutti says, but when he and Rosati first started testing recipes for the book they came to the conclusion that these weren’t recipes “most people would want to make at home,” because they were labor-intensive, “messy,” and time-consuming.
This is your basic, salty, flat-grilled burger that you can get absolutely anywhere. If somebody gave me a blind taste-test between this and most other fast-food burgers, I might be able to distinguish In-N-Out, but it’s not guaranteed. It’s highly generic, as if culled together from a series of stock photos: bun, burger, watery lettuce, and a slice of tomato. Sure, you can get it Animal Style, but be honest: Animal Style sauce tastes like Whole Foods’ version of Big Mac sauce, except not as good.
it’s the best burger for people who eat a burger for the vegetables
They are in different leagues — an In-N-Out cheeseburger is $2.35 while a Shackburger goes for $5.29 — so a comparison is unfair, but in my mind, that extra $3 at the Shack buys you a lot of flavor. Still, as Kryza says, next time I’m in CA, I’m gonna get myself a burger at In-N-Out.
From The Message is Medium Rare, an appreciation of the ShackBurger, “a straightforward, honest-to-goodness burger”. It includes a review of the typography used by the restaurant:
These three typefaces artfully express the ethos of both the burger and the brand. Neutraface is the bun: sturdy, reliable and architectural. Futura is the patty: basic but bold. Galaxie is the lettuce: wavy, quirky and fresh. To the layperson this comparison may seem like a stretch, but designers know they are purposefully expressive.
My ideal burger is bun, cheese, burger. Sometimes bacon. Ketchup on the side, so I can control it. Pickles — yes! Obviously. And the cheese thing has to be very clear: American cheese only. American cheese was invented for the hamburger. People talk about it being processed and artificial and not real cheese — you know what makes it real? When you put it on a hamburger.
But much of his burger manifesto is about what a burger shouldn’t be.
Grass-fed beef does not make burgers, in my opinion. It’s too lean and the fat content is not evenly distributed, so it can get a little mealy. But the dumbest burger in the world is the wagyu bullshit. It’s like 70 percent fat content — it’s disgusting. Would you eat a ground bacon burger? That’s what you’re doing with a wagyu burger. Or the idiots that have “kobe beef wagyu sliders with like a trio of ketchup” on their menu — that drives me insane. The inventor of the kobe beef slider is right next to the inventor of aluminum siding in the Dumbest Thing I’ve Ever Seen Hall of Fame. And you know what’s even more stupid? The fucking customer that buys it because he’s like, Oooohh, kobe, and it’s like $21. God have mercy on their souls.
I love that Chang loves White Castle; I do too1 and make a trip to the one in Hell’s Kitchen about once a month without ever telling another living soul I do so. I agree with most of the rest of his list, 1 but would add one thing: no super-thick burgers, aka most burgers at fancy restaurants. They are too difficult to eat and the massive patty throws everything out of proportion and you end up with a mouthful of burger with very little of anything else. Blech. Balance, people!
I used to go to White Castle all the time with my dad and my sister when I was a kid, back when those sliders were 25¢ apiece. This was the early/mid 80s…there was no chicken sandwich or anything on the menu. I don’t even remember cheese being an option.↩
Especially the “I do not like a burger with a bunch of shit on it”, although one of my current favorite burgers, the Fedora burger at Bar Sardine, breaks that rule with sauce, cucumbers, and shoestring fries. Love that smashed bun. (P.S. My all-time fave burger, besides the ones I make at home, is the ShackBurger.)↩
Don’t believe the “bedazzled blend” burger hype. Using fancy cuts of beef is not important and kind of a bullshit move, according to Mylan. What is important is making sure the meat is high-quality and comes from mature animals, and that your blend has the right fat content.
Use cheaper cuts of beef from harder-working muscles, like chuck or round. Why? These cuts have more myoglobin, Mylan says, and myoglobin is what gives beef its “beefy” flavor and red color. Each cut will contribute its own flavor and textural nuances, and you can play around with different cuts to bolster the flavors you prefer.
And holy cow! (Ahem.) He suggests using a hamburger patty maker, which I didn’t even know existed. $13! I’m totally getting one and trying this.
Wealth doesn’t just magically materialize into your bank account. It comes from the ground, human effort, the flesh of animals, the sun, and the atom. The global economy is driven by nature, and yet it’s not usually found on the accountant’s balance sheet. Perhaps it should be. I’d like to know the true cost of the stuff I buy. Embodied energy and carbon footprint calculations are a good start, but it would be nice if the product itself came with a True Cost number or rating, like the nutritional information on a cereal box or the Energy Star rating on a refrigerator.
When True Cost is factored in, conflict diamonds become a morally expensive choice to make when they’re fueling turmoil in the world. Likewise clothing made in sweatshops. Organic tomatoes flown in from Chile may be less expensive at the register, but how much carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere flying/driving them to your table? What’s the energy cost of living in the suburbs compared to living downtown? Do the people who made the clock hanging on my wall get paid a fair wage and receive healthcare? Just how bad for the environment is the laptop on which I’m typing?
See, by placing a ball of meat on a hot, un-oiled griddle and smashing it down firmly into a flat, thin disk, you greatly increase the contact points between the meat and the griddle, which in turn increases the Maillard reaction. That’s the series of chemical reactions that creates the rich brown crust that makes our steaks and burgers taste so freaking good. Maximum crust = maximum flavor = maximum craving.
I’ve already discussed the basic ins and outs of smashed burgers in the past, but after writing that article, I found myself wondering, what if I were to take this to the extreme? Is there a way I can pack even more flavor into a burger?
Spoiler alert: the answer is a big fat (or should I say short smashed?) yes.
Ernest Hemingway liked a good burger and had a specific recipe he wanted his staff to use when preparing meals. Using his instructions, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan recently recreated the Hemingway burger.
Fingers deep, I kneaded. Fighting the urge to be careless and quick, I kept the pace rhythmic, slow. Each squeeze, I hoped, would gently ease the flavors — knobby bits of garlic, finely chopped capers, smatterings of dry spices — into the marbled mound before me.
I had made burgers before, countless times on countless evenings. This one was different; I wasn’t making just any burger — I was attempting to recreate Hemingway’s hamburger. And it had to be just right.
Surprisingly, with 11 different ingredients, Hemingway’s burger is not as stripped down as his prose. For a more minimalist burger, you have to turn to Dean Martin:
This is a five-minute video of Andy Warhol eating a Burger King hamburger accompanied by Heinz ketchup.
The scene is part of a film done by Jorgen Leth called 66 scenes from america.
Leth had his assistant buy some burgers and directly advised him to buy some in halfway neutral packaging as Leth was afraid that Warhol might reject some brands (Warhol always had an obsession with some of his favorite brands).
So Andy Warhol finally did arrive at the studio, of course along with his bodyguards, and when he saw the selection of burgers the assistant had brought he asked “Where is the McDonald’s?” and Leth — slightly in panic — was immediately like “I thought you would maybe not like to identify…” and Warhol answered “no that is the most beautiful”. Leth offered to let his assistant quickly run to McDonald’s but Warhol refused like “No, never mind, I will take the Burger King.”
Tomatoes are in season in the late summer. Lettuce is in season in in the fall. Mammals are slaughtered in early winter. The process of making such a burger would take nearly a year, and would inherently involve omitting some core cheeseburger ingredients. It would be wildly expensive-requiring a trio of cows-and demand many acres of land. There’s just no sense in it.
A cheeseburger cannot exist outside of a highly developed, post-agrarian society. It requires a complex interaction between a handful of vendors-in all likelihood, a couple of dozen-and the ability to ship ingredients vast distances while keeping them fresh.
According to the In-N-Out nutrition guideline, replacing the Spread with ketchup results in a decrease of 80 calories per sandwich. I know that ketchup has about 15 calories per tablespoon, so If we estimate that an average sandwich has about 2 tablespoons of sauce on it (that’s the amount that’s inside a single packet), then we can calculate that the Spread has got about 55 calories per tablespoon (110 calories in two tablespoons of Spread minus 30 calories in 2 tablespoons of ketchup = 80 calories difference in the sandwich). With me so far?
It just so happens that relish has about the same caloric density as ketchup (15 calories per tablespoon), and that mayonnaise has a caloric density of 80 calories per tablespoon. Using all of this information and a bit of 7th grade algebra, I was able to quickly calculate that the composition of the Spread is roughly 62 percent mayo, and 38 percent ketchup/relish blend.
Upon tasting it, my immediate thoughts are mayo, ketchup, a little yellow mustard, a hint of garlic and paprika, perhaps a touch of cayenne pepper, and an elusive sour quality that I can’t quite pinpoint. It’s definitely not just vinegar or lemon juice, nor is does it have the cloying sweetness of relish. Pickle juice? Cornichon? Some other type of vinegar? I can’t figure it out. This was going to take a little more effort.
Totally doing this for dinner one of these nights. We’ll probably cheat on the ground beef…we’ve got some Pat LaFrieda patties stockpiled in the freezer.
Four-star chef Eric Ripert checked out the burgers at McDonald’s and Burger King to use as a pattern for a burger at his new D.C. restaurant. Part of what he learned is proportion is everything.
Just looking at the basic burgers at each of these chains — particularly the Big Mac — showed me a couple of very key things: First of all, the burgers are a perfect size. You can grab them in both hands, and they’re never too tall or too wide to hold on to. And the toppings are the perfect size, too — all to scale, including the thickness of the tomatoes, the amount of lettuce, etc. In terms of the actual flavors, they taste okay, but you can count on them to be consistent; you always know what you’re going to get.
Here it is, the awful truth. After sampling In-N-Out Burger twice this past weekend (a cheeseburger with raw onion and, 4 days later, a Double Double w/ no onions) and having had several Shack Burgers this year (my most recent one was a couple of weeks ago), an adequate comparison between the two can be made. The verdict?
The Shake Shack burger wins in a landslide. It’s more flavorful, features a better balance of ingredients, and a yummier bun. On the french fries front, In-N-Out’s fresh-cut fries get the nod.
Courtesy of Mena, something to keep in mind: a cheeseburger at In-N-Out is $1.85 while a similarly appointed Shack Burger is $4.38, almost 2.5 times as much. SS french fries are nearly twice the price of In-N-Out fries. The burger comparison is an unfair one because, despite its location and style, Shake Shack is a restaurant and In-N-Out is a fast food joint. That the burgers are even close enough to compare — and make no mistake, I still love the In-N-Out burger — says a great deal about In-N-Out.
“If I were told that I had one last meal before I died and then I was given the choice between a super chic 15 course degustation meal cooked by Thomas Keller, Tetsuya Wakuda, Ferran Adria and Joel Robuchon and a perfect cheeseburger, the choice would be easy. I’d pick the burger without a moment’s hesitation.”