Welcome to Smash Hits, a five-part series in which a pro burger flipper shares everything she knows about smash burgers and how to make a proper one at home.
Yeah, I’ll say it: When it comes to a great burger, the specific bun really doesn’t matter! Whether your chosen bun is sesame-seed-covered, potato-based, pale white, or brioche, the key is that it’s soft. Imagine eating a burger on a crusty baguette or a chewy bagel. Now you see why softness matters, right?
Don’t spend a lot of time or money on your burger bun. Unlike other sandwiches that are made or broken by the quality of the bread, a burger’s bun is merely a vessel, and it doesn’t need to be anything more. It’s not terribly difficult to make your own buns (or baps as they say on The Great British Baking Show), but why bother when there are perfectly good options available at the grocery store for a few dollars?
If buying cheap buns at the grocery store makes you feel somehow guilty, funnel some of that guilt into buttering and toasting each bun to perfection before you build your burger. Spread your bap with melted butter or rendered beef fat and let it sit on the grill, in a cast iron pan, or in an actual toaster for a few minutes. And if this is too much effort for you, don’t worry about it!
If you still can’t get on board with my minimization of the bun’s importance, think about it like this: If the best part of a burger-eating experience is the bun, something went wrong.
It’s worth noting that America’s first hamburger restaurant, Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, still serves its burger on toasted white bread. I think Louis’ would do better to move on to a bun, but then again, they’ve been serving burgers on toasted bread for more than 120 years, so who am I to knock it?
I will knock the pretzel bun, which is rarely soft and never the most cost-effective option, and makes no sense to me. Where do you stand on the issue of pretzel buns? And what’s your ideal burger bap?
There are (almost) no wrong answers here—because, again, buns don’t matter that much.