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Stupid Food Fights: Burger Building

October 30, 2017

Far be it from me to argue with the Internet. Sure, some people may talk about “winning the Internet.” But there is no winning the Internet. The Internet always wins.

Apparently, right now the Internet is arguing about burgers. More specifically, the burger emoji. Now, the burger emoji isn’t a burger at all, it’s a cheeseburger. And yes, that’s clearly a form of burger. You might even claim it’s an elevated form of burger. But if I ordered a burger and received a cheeseburger, I’d be sending that sandwich back. Actually, that tragically happened a while ago.

On its face, this is a stupid food fight. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t try to make it a little bit more meaningful. Because when it comes to idealized forms of the cheeseburger, I have a few things to say on the matter.

At issue here is the order of the basic components of the classic American cheeseburger. In between the two buns, the emojis all contain (in alphabetical order):


There are no condiments shown. No onion. No pickle. No bacon. So without looking at the emojis that started this whole mess, how would you arrange the ingredients?

I know what I would say. From the top to the bottom it’s:


There’s a reason for all this.

Beef goes on the bottom, because those beef juices are precious. That bottom bun has a big job. It needs to suck up all that moisture while holding on to enough structural integrity to keep the sandwich together.

Cheese gets melted onto the burger. The cheese goes on top. You want the beef and the cheese to be commingled. It’s not a hamburger with cheese. It’s a cheeseburger, dammit. And melted cheese is the payoff. Maybe you can get that cheese to melt under the burger. But there will always be those unmelted corners that aren’t pressed up against the hot, glistening beef.

Lettuce above the patty is probably the only controversial stance in this build. Yes, lettuce can wilt from the heat of a patty. But that’s not the worst thing when iceberg lettuce is involved. That stuff is stiff, man. And I’d go shreds over slices. Lettuce is there for a few reasons. One is to give the burger a bit of lift. But I like to think of it as the staging ground for the tomato.

A bright red tomato on top is the crowning glory of a hamburger, and it should really only be used it the tomatoes are in season. That’s an entirely separate argument for another day. Regardless, those things are juicy in their own right. Where do you want those precious tomato juices to go when you bite down into this sandwich? Cascading over the edge of the melted cheese? Dios mio. No! You want them to drip into the nooks and crannies of the shredded lettuce below.


In the emoji argument, there are no condiments involved. But if there were, mustard would go on the bottom bun, because beef and good strong mustard are natural friends, each adding depth and complexity to the other. Mayonnaise would go on the top bun. Because you have to add a little bit of fat to the upper deck of the sandwich. Plus, the emulsified oils will mellow out the acidity of the tomato.

Ideally, I’d have some slices of raw onion too, to help cut through some of the fat. I could actually see a case for the onion to go either under the patty or between the cheese and the lettuce. Maybe it could even go under the tomato. But in my heart of hearts I like to keep the salad ingredients all together.

How about you?

This is not to say that I’m inflexible when it comes to burger builds. Surprisingly, I’m not. I enjoy trying all kinds of combinations and permutations. You never know what’s going to knock your socks off.

As silly as all this may sound, the order of ingredients on a sandwich is no trivial matter. In the end, they absolutely have an impact on how the flavors come together. And it’s easy to see how this works at home. Take a bite from a sandwich. Then flip it upside down and take another bite. Same sandwich. Different experience.

Now I want burgers. The big danger is that I just heard great things about burger delivery from Crave. It seems almost too good to be true. One of these days, I’ll put it to the test. But right now, I’m trying to be good.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2017 10:17 am

    I think my bigger issue is that lettuce should never go on a hot sandwich, ugh, wilted slimy grossness. But I hate lettuce on any sandwich hot or cold so I’m biased.

    Favorite build – Top bun, mayo, pickles, tomatoes, cheese, burger, ketchup, bottom bun.

    • October 30, 2017 10:20 am

      Point taken.

      But let’s say you had to have lettuce on your burger… where would it go in the build?

      • HokieMom permalink
        October 30, 2017 11:59 am

        if it has to be there – next after the top bun – to hold in all the rest to come

  2. October 30, 2017 10:40 am

    I am with you on the order and had no idea about the horrificness of the Apple cheeseburger emoji. My iPhone is in the toilet as we speak.

    I also saw your Facebook post that said the onion can go anywhere as long as it it not on top. In fact that is where In N Out puts it and it works great, especially when you order double onions, because of the form factor. Think I will have one tonight at the store in Tustin CA.

    • KingOfBeacon permalink
      October 30, 2017 7:31 pm

      I’ve always been a fan of the onion on top of the patty then covered with cheese. It seems to hold them on better.

  3. October 30, 2017 12:50 pm

    This is crazy. Lettuce goes on a burger twice: first on top of the bottom bun before anything else and then on the very top of the stack. Naturally this is to provide a barrier from all the wet ingredients turning the bread to mush.

    It’s same principle used in a pb,j&p. You put peanut butter on both pieces of bread so it doesn’t get soggy from the jam and pickles.

    • October 30, 2017 2:39 pm

      I saw what you did there. Pickles, LOL. Yuck.

      • KingOfBeacon permalink
        October 30, 2017 2:42 pm

        A peanut butter and jelly without pickles on it is worthless.

  4. EPT permalink
    October 30, 2017 4:19 pm

    I agree with the order top-to-bottom except for the lettuce and tomato. Lettuce should be on top, those luscious in season tomatoes would totally sod the top bun. Of course, then there are variations, very finely cut cabbage which holds up nicely. Sauces are another topic. BTW, what was your take on the bottled MAC special sauce?

  5. Adam permalink
    October 30, 2017 9:20 pm

    I like all the veggies on the bottom, so the beef and cheese are the shining star on top! And 100,000,000% agree with needing a crave burger immediately after thinking about burgers so intently

  6. MikeH permalink
    October 31, 2017 10:17 am

    From top to bottom:
    Shredded lettuce

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