This Loaded Burger Is as Good as It Looks

It happens every summer. The embers are stoked. The mighty unsheathe barbecue tools from their gift-set boxes. And the battle of the burger begins. After all, anyone can slap a cooked patty and cheese between a pair of buns, press it onto a paper plate, and announce, "Tah dah," but if you can’t go big, you should go to McDonald's.

This is the philosophy you might take away from chef, food stylist, and “burger pervert” Mathew Ramsey's Pornburger: Hot Buns and Juicy Beefcakes, a salacious escapade and cookbook featuring burgers that are nothing short of beasts. If your megastacks fall short, or simply fall, you might want to take a class on solid foundations for building beautiful monsters from this burgermeister.

"A good stack operates like a well-oiled orgy," said Ramsey. "Every component has a part to play."

In crafting a complex burger, the simplest path to a satisfying bite each and every time is to size your patty to the bun, advises Ramsey. You never want a mouthful of bread, but that’s not to say the bun isn’t to be enjoyed. While a world of options, from kaiser rolls to sesame buns, exists to baffle and stall you in the bread aisle, victory goes to the bun that complements rather than overpowers. Ramsey may be known to sandwich his components between White Castle cheeseburger waffles, but he has a straightforward preference.

"From a functional standpoint, I often defer to the squish and subtle sweetness of a buttery brioche bun," said Ramsey. "It has the structural integrity I look for, without cock-blocking the flavors of whatever else is going on." Pro tip: flavor is what it's all about, and fat is where it's at; Ramsey suggests nothing less than a 20% fat blend for the patty.

From bun to patty to condiments to the stuff of fantasy, there are guidelines for constructing a decadent, towering burger, and there are opportunities to blast "Let’s Go Crazy" on your boombox and dance around the grill with a mixing bowl.

"Some of the greatest adventures in eating come from the unexpected," said Ramsey. "Sure, bacon is great on a burger.... But, what if I were to rub the bacon with white miso and parmesan? It's a very satisfying and easy way to level up."

And if you're still stuck on that stack, remember Ramsey's take on making epic burgers: the only fun in rules is breaking them.

Put your twist on a stack with this Pornburger recipe. But first, brace yourself.

Bill U Murray Me?

Ramsay: "What does this burger have to do with Bill Murray? Absolutely nothing. Well, unless of course you're Bill Murray. In that case, this is a very personal public invitation to join me for a burger and a beer. Also, I'm pretty sure this is what he whispered into Scarlett Johansson's ear at the end of Lost in Translation. This looker with a heart of gold is seared on the outside, medium-rare on the inside, with a molten core of melted cheese and a creamy sous-vide egg yolk. Stack this fatty with shredded lettuce, bacon, quick-pickled jalapeno, tomato, and my smoky burger sauce, and you too may become a Bill-iever."

Ingredients 

  • PornBurger Smoky Burger Sauce
  • Grilled red onions
  • Sliced tomato
  • 1 Juicy Floozy patty
  • A few slices of crisp-cooked applewood-smoked bacon
  • jalapeno pickles
  • shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 sesame brioche bun

How to make PornBurger Smoky Burger Sauce 

Behind EVERY GREAT BURGER is a super-secret special sauce. This is mine. (Makes about 1 cup)

  • 3/4 cup homemade mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp chili garlic sauce (I like Huy Fong)
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp sweet relish*
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • * I use Gordy’s sweet pepper relish, which is a blend of pickled cucumbers, celery, onions, and peppers.

Directions 

  1. Mix together the mayo, chili garlic sauce, ketchup, relish, and liquid smoke. 
  2. Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

How to make the mayonnaise 

Ingredients 

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 cups safflower oil

Directions

  1. In culinary school, you learn to make mayonnaise whisking by hand. Fuck that — I recommend using a stand mixer. Combine the yolks, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, cayenne, and salt in your mixer bowl and mix with the whisk attachment on a medium speed (5 or 6) until combined. 
  2. Keep the mixer on the same speed and add a few drops of oil at a time, waiting for all the oil to be incorporated before adding more. When the mixture begins to thicken and emulsify, you can start adding a more constant, but thin, stream of oil. Continue until all of the oil has emulsified. Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Editor's Note: In lieu of safflower oil, try canola oil.

How to make the Juicy Floozy Patties 

These patties utilize science to build off of the shoulders of St. Louis giant the Juicy Lucy, by adding some creamy yolk-popp’n persuasion to the equation. For those of you not keeping score, each floozy is one sous-vide-cooked beef patty, one sous-vide-cooked egg yolk, and a whole lot of melty cheese.

Ingredients for 4 patties 

  • Eight 4-oz PornBurger patties
  • 8 slices American cheese, cut into 2-inch rounds (I use my 1/4-cup measure as a cutter)
  • 4 extra-large eggs,* cooked sous-vide for 45 minutes at 148˚
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • * I usually make a couple extra, just in case of breakage.

Directions

  1. Use your thumbs to press a sizable divot in the center of each of the formed patties and press a cheese round onto each one. Carefully crack open your sous-vide eggs and gently remove the whites. Place a cooked yolk on half of the patties. Gently cover each yolked patty with an unyolked patty. Wet a finger or two and run along the seam of the two patties to make into one glorious patty. Be mindful not to squeeze down on the center, so as not to break the yolk.
  2. Set your sous-vide water bath to 131˚ using your immersion circulator. Place the patties in zip-top plastic bags, one per bag, and use the water displacement method to push out the air from the bag. Zip-seal the bags and place in the water bath to cook for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat and drizzle it with oil. Season the patties liberally with salt and pepper and sear them on each side for about 1 minute, or until crispy. Serve immediately.

How to make the PornBurger Blend

After lots of tinkering and experimenting in the kitchen, I’ve landed on what I consider the perfect beef blend, using just three cuts. It’s a well-rounded burger with plenty of fat that balances notes of buttery richness, nuttiness, and even a subtle kiss of grass. Without further ado…

Ingredients for the PornBurger Blend 

  • 1 part sirloin (preferably aged)
  • 11/2 parts short rib
  • 2 parts chuck
  • Sous-Vide Poached Eggs

Directions 

  1. I’ve tried just about every method out there, and I find the technique adapted from both ChefSteps and Chef J. Kenji Lopez to be essentially foolproof, allowing you to "poach" several eggs at once. Simply set your sous-vide water bath to 167˚ using the immersion circulator. When your water is at temp, place your egg(s) — still in their shells — in the bath and cook for 14 minutes.
    When they're done, gently crack and drain them onto a slotted spoon. Don't have an immersion circulator? Heat water to about 173˚ and pour it into a small insulated cooler or thermos. Add the egg(s) and let cook for the same period of time.

How to make jalapeño Pickles 

Ingredients 

  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 7 to 10 jalapeños (the bigger they are, the less spicy), sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

Directions 

  1. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, oregano, and garlic in a small saucepan. 
  2. Bring to a simmer, stirring the salt and sugar until they dissolve. Add the jalapeños and simmer for 1 minute before removing from the heat. Use tongs to transfer the garlic and jalapeños to a sealable pint container, and top off with the hot brine. 
  3. Allow them to sit for at least a few hours and ideally a full day before serving. Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

How to make a dozen brioche buns 

First impressions are important, which is why I let these bubble buns do all the talking. Buttery, with supple squish and subtle sweetness, these babies got all the back.

Ingredients for 12 buns

  • 4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105˚ to 110˚)
  • 3 tbsp warm milk (105˚ to 110˚)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups plus 3 tablespoons bread flour*
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 10 tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
  • Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with a splash of water

* Bread flour has more gluten than all-purpose flour and allows for better structure. It can be found at your local grocery or online.

Directions 

  1. Combine the yeast, water, milk, and sugar in a small bowl. Allow the yeast to activate and foam for roughly 5 minutes.
  2. Beat the 4 eggs in another small bowl until combined.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, salt, and butter. Mix on medium speed until the butter and flour have a “crumby” texture.
  4. Add the yeast mixture and beaten eggs to the flour. Mix the ingredients (still with the paddle attachment) for about 10 minutes on low. The dough at this point should be incredibly slack and sticky. You want to be able to hold the dough and allow it to drop to the counter without breaking.
  5. Using as little additional flour as possible, shape the dough into a ball and set it in a greased bowl. Cover with a dampened kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm spot until it has doubled in size. It should take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to double. Remember, it’s about size, not time.
  6. Dusting your hands with flour, gently punch down the dough to remove air bubbles and portion the dough into 8 equal pieces. (I like to use a scale for precision and to ensure equal cooking time.) Again, the less flour used for shaping and handling, the better.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take each piece of dough and flatten it with the palm of your hand to form a disc. Fold over each of the four sides and pinch in the middle. 

Courtesy of Mathew Ramsey and Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers