This Is What Makes A Perfect Burger, According To Anthony Bourdain

In the immortal words of Anthony Bourdain, "There are many, many forces at play with a properly made burger" (via LA Weekly). The late television star and author of "Kitchen Confidential" was talking to Eater during a promo session in 2015 and divulged the essential qualities of his favorite burger (see it here on YouTube). At the time of the conversation, the New York-based Bourdain was in Los Angeles to shoot "The Taste," a cooking competition show that he co-hosted with Nigella Lawson — and in the Eater piece, he admitted that when he travels to Hollywood, there is always one thing he does as soon as he's off the tarmac. Like the rest of us, he goes straight to In-N-Out Burger.

In the three-minute video, Bourdain makes it clear that while L.A. has its fair share of good restaurants, he's got eyes for this west coast fast food burger joint, calling it one of his favorites. "As soon as I arrive, I'll hit the airport In-N-Out, and on my way out of town, after finishing 'The Taste,' I'll pick up another." 

So, what makes In-N-Out's burger so perfect? As Bourdain explains, it has a "decent bun," fresh lettuce, cheese that's melted and not too fancy. "But notice it's two thin patties together, okay?" Bourdain says, gushing about the burger's beef. By utilizing the maximum surface area, he says, it "therefore expos[es] the maximum areas of meat surface to the papills of the tongue. It's brilliant."

Total burger success comes in the form of structure and flavor

When it comes to burgers, Bourdain minces meat, not words. He is very clear on what constitutes a perfect burger, as he patiently explained to Tech Insider in this video clip from 2016. His three keys — a squishy potato bun, well-ground quality beef, and meltable cheese.

A burger's structural integrity is also key, he says. Whether the toppings added are bacon or blue cheese, one must ask, 'Am I making this burger better?' Bourdain also points out that a burger should be beautiful — but it won't be when you're wearing half of it. "One of the greatest sins in 'burgerdom,' I think, is making a burger that's just difficult to eat."

For Bourdain, In-N-Out's burger is a feat of engineering and flavor. It passes his chef's test for being able to hold the sandwich in one hand, not make a total mess of things, and still get a good representation of all necessary burger components in one bite. Plus, as Bourdain tells Eater, a two-pattied In-N-Out burger is a "perfectly designed protein delivery system." Of course, he likes his animal-style — but who doesn't?