What you’re about to read is a very adult discussion about what The Takeout staff considers the ideal hamburger bun. Unlike other food debates, where we may have questioned each other’s patriotism or flung accusations of being a commie bastard because they dared to like smooth peanut butter over crunchy, this conversation was polite and well-measured. Like the burger bun you prefer. Everyone has a correct answer—even you.
When my family had burger nights, we ate those burgers on Martin’s potato rolls. Anticipating your criticism, let me say: I know potato buns get mushy upon contact with burger grease. I know they offer no textural intrigue. I know they’re not, objectively, the “best” burger buns. But damn if they don’t hit a nostalgic nerve deep in my medial forebrain bundle. Sometimes we’d mix it up with hard rolls from the deli, maybe even pretzel buns as those came into vogue, but the experience wasn’t the same. When I’m grilling a no-frills, straight-down-the-middle burger, give me gooey Swiss cheese, ketchup, and mustard, all plastered to one gently yielding potato roll. [Kate Bernot]
Ordering a burger is already an indulgence, so why not make it everything you want it to be? I’ll sooner remove the bun entirely than try to work through a dry, airy, oat-sprinkled offering that tries too hard to imply “fresh from the garden” and doesn’t complement the unapologetically greasy patty beneath. To that end, a pretzel bun is my favorite option. I understand that for some people, a dense, chewy, salty bun housing a dense, savory serving of beef might be gilding the lily. But it ensures that every bite has achieved maximum possible savoriness, and that’s what I’m looking for in a restaurant entree. (My palate gets enough sweet in the course of my candy research.) [Marnie Shure]
Ooh look at me, all fancy with my brioche bun! (I even pronounce it the most insufferable way possible: Breh-yosssh) But inarguably it’s my favorite bun for burgers. Brioche offers a subtly sweet richness, a crisp lacquered exterior, and the animal synergy of butter and beef is almost confit-like, eating meat cooked in its own fat. Mostly, brioche offer the softness I seek out—as supposed to a dense pretzel bun—that allows the beef patty to shine. [Kevin Pang]
Just make it grilled
I am pretty open-minded about my hamburger bun selection: sesame seed, onion roll, Kaiser, all good. One caveat, though: It must be grilled. You have burgers on the grill there, you can move them over slightly to make room for some bun action. Put some butter on there first, Culver’s-style, even better. There’s something about a raw (uncooked) bun that just saddens the whole experience for me; it also lacks a vital temperature/texture element. So with my hamburger receptacle, it’s about process more than variety: Only grilled buns need apply. [Gwen Ihnat]