Lifting Dumbbells to Lifting Quarter Pounders

When I was younger I used to lift weights. Now I lift cheeseburgers.

I went from lifting fifty-pound dumbbells to lifting Quarter Pounders. I put down the barbells and picked up the BBQ sauce. I quit the treadmill and became a regular at my local gin mill.

Shoot, I just realized the last one doesn’t make me a burger expert, just a guy who might have a problem. Whoops! I’m going to have to talk to my sponsor about this.

Okay, I’ll stop before you take your smartphone, laptop or desktop monitor and throw it out the window. I don’t want any innocent electronics to get hurt here. That’s not the point; the point is for me to tell you about what makes a great burger!


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So let’s get started.

A good burger has to have just the right amount of fat in it to be juicy. Everyone’s opinion differs here, but I think most people agree on the 80% lean/20 fat% blend. It really just depends on how much of your health you’re willing to sacrifice for some awesome flavor. The health-conscious people (the people that say things like “a second on the lips, a lifetime on the hips”) usually go for the burgers that are 90% lean. We all know those people; they’re the ones that sit alone reading a book at parties. They’ll be healthy and skinny when they die – but they’ll be alone. Rumor has it they’re all communists too.

On the other end of the spectrum you’ll find the savages like me who are willing to go below the standard 80% lean blend in order to get some serious flavor. We’re all dying young, but we’ll be surrounded by lots of people when we go. We’re also the kind of people whose last words are likely to be something like: “Hey, watch this!” or “Look what I can do!” Life insurance companies won’t insure us, and we don’t blame them.

The cheese is also incredibly important on a burger. You might be asking, “What about hamburgers; you don’t like those?” The answer is no. To me, the cheese is one of the best opportunities to add flavor to a burger, and if you don’t get cheese, you’re missing out on a lot of fun. Yes, fun. To me, getting a burger without cheese is like buying a Ferrari with a four-cylinder engine. You started off with a great idea, but you didn’t go all the way and in the end you wasted your time. Everyone’s laughing at you too.The next important part of burger is the roll. It’s so incredibly important. I’m all about a soft roll. They’re the best rolls if you ask me. There are many other great rolls too, but there are also some terrible ones. So many places talk about their gourmet rolls or how great their “pretzel bread” is but often times the stuff just doesn’t measure up. You could have the best ingredients in the world, but if you give me a burger with a roll that’s hard, get it the fuck out of here.

When it comes to what kind of cheese I actually like on a burger, I’m very much a traditionalist. I think American and Cheddar work the best, but I occasionally go for one with Swiss, Pepper Jack or Provolone.

The next part is, of course, the condiments and toppings. This part is very subjective. I’m all about ketchup, and I love some great BBQ sauce, but there’s nothing wrong with some mustard, onions or pickles. Just don’t put pineapple or coleslaw on it. Those people are even worse than the communists who eat the 90% lean burgers.

I think ketchups are all pretty standard and can be switched around without really noticing, but if you’re like me and you like BBQ sauce on your burger, you know that flavors vary a lot across different sauces. I used to be big into Bullseye but now I really love Sweet Baby Ray’s. There are obviously some other amazing sauces out there but I’m going to stick to the ones anyone can easily buy at Wegmans or Tops.


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I saved the most important part for last. Execution. This is where so many restaurants get it wrong – not just for burgers, but for all kinds of food. All of these restaurants go on and on about how they have the best ingredients – the best bread or the freshest lettuce. All of that stuff goes right out the window if you have cooks that don‘t know how to cook properly. The best cheese in the world can’t save a burnt, dried out burger, just like the best sauce in the world can’t save a pizza with terrible dough. A good burger has to be cooked just right; it has to be juicy and should melt in your mouth. You should look forward to every bite and should be disappointed when you get to the last one. I wanna see more places with signs out front saying: “Our cooks know what they’re doing” or “We don’t burn stuff here.” Okay, so it’s probably a good thing I’m not an ad executive, but signs like that should warrant a U-turn and a quick bite.

So there you have it, go out and find a great burger!


– Mike O’Brien

Twitter: @SDLStaff