J. Kenji López-Alt Figured Out The Secret To The Perfect Burger

We may all have our favorite styles when it comes to burgers, but it appears celebrated food writer J. Kenji López-Alt has found The One Burger Recipe to Rule Them All. He credits this particular way of cooking burgers to one devised by an Oklahoma cook that dates back to the Great Depression, per The New York Times.

Taste of Home says the Oklahoma onion burger was first invented in the town of El Reno at a time when ground beef was pricey and hard to come by. Because of this, restaurant owner Ross Davis (López-Alt credits Davis and his father Homer as a two-man culinary team that gave rise to this masterpiece, per The New York Times) would add half a bulb's worth of finely shaved onions on top of their ground meat before smashing the aromatic pile into the ground beef ball beneath. 

Davis' restaurant, the Hamburger Inn, may no longer have a presence in El Reno, per Thrillist, but the style lives on, and there are other burger joints that can ensure that you leave the town having tasted the treat — one of them, Robert's grill, claims to have been serving "onion fried burgers since 1926."

The perfect burger unites onions and ground beef

J. Kenji López-Alt spends a considerable amount of column inches explaining the food science behind the creation of his near-perfect burger and much of it comes down to the Maillard reaction which caramelizes the pile of thinly cut onions into the beef, per Taste of Home who examined the method too. In order for this to take place, the veteran food scientist says it is important to slice your onion thinly and in line with its equator, which will "release more meat-enhancing compounds," per The New York Times. The balls of ground beef, along with their finely shaved onion topping, are then laid on a smoking hot griddle.

Taste of Home credits Ree Drummond for shedding light on the Oklahoma onion burger, but her idea of what her perfect burger might look like is slightly different to López-Alt's. On The Pioneer Woman site, Drummond reveals caramelized onions play an important role in making her burgers work. But unlike López-Alt, Drummond is happy to pre-cook her onions so that they are caramelized before adding them on top of the hamburger patty for the final touch. 

While both cooking stars might not agree on the way caramelized onion and ground beef eventually come together to make the perfect burger, it is a combination that most people seem to be able to agree on.