I've had fantastic burgers all over the country: I can heartily>"/>
I've had fantastic burgers all over the country: I can heartily recommend the Midwesternly modest ground round patty at Miller's Bar in Dearborn. Mich.; the smoky hamburger steak sandwich with cheese at Raleigh's Char-Grill and the outrageously good In-N-Out tribute at Husk in Charleston, S.C., where chef Sean Brock grinds beef and bacon together.
But my burger standard is served at Dallas' Maple & Motor. In a blog post explaining why I made the burger one of my last Dallas meals, I described it as "a perfectly seared hunk of ground brisket and chuck with a salty crust and full-on beefiness." That's what I want from a burger. If it's got a sturdy bun and the proper ratio of meat to toppings (ideally, jalapenos and mayo), even better.
As of yesterday afternoon, dozens of readers had weighed in on our selections for Seattle's best burgers, many of them offering alternate suggestions for standout burgers. Yet very few of them provided any kind of rationale for their nominations beyond "tasty" and "delicious," which led me to wonder how most eaters judge their burgers.
Lots of food writers have tried to articulate a definition of burger perfection. Back in 2008, Minnesota Monthly's Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl developed an equation that involved multiplying a burger's flavor rating by three and squaring its char score. (If you have a deep interest in burgers and a working slide rule, the formula's here.)
Robyn Lee, editor of Serious Eats' A Hamburger Today blog, daily confronts questions of burger superiority. She doesn't require contributors to use a complicated rating system, but has drafted guidelines for burger reviewing. Her writers are tasked with assessing "how the burger fares in terms of juiciness, seasoning (lots of salt = good times), beefiness of the..beef, seared-ness (depends on cooking technique), smokiness (if its grilled), texture (how coarse the grind is and how packed it is), quality of toppings, balance of toppings to meat, balance of bun to everything else, texture of bun...stuff like that," she e-mails.
There are also burgers which have an unquantifiable specialness, Lee adds.
"Some places defy such criteria and people love it for other reasons, like Dick's Drive-In," she says. "It's not the best burger ever, but people love it."