Building Better Burgers.
By Brad Nelson
Monday, 6th July 2009
Burgers are considered the original All-American food, but the pedigree of this American culinary icon has roots in Europe.

Hamburg, Germany was a jumping off point for early 20th century immigrants to the US, and the grilled meat patty in bread often served in this port city may have been just the memory of home these early citizens needed in their new country. Fast forward 100 years and the hamburger is a worldwide menu staple.

In fact, Marriott hotels globally serve over 2 million hamburgers a year.

The Marriott burger is a classic bacon and cheddar burger with 7 oz of pure Angus Chuck. I like Chuck because it is the perfect natural balance of lean to fat, roughly an 80/20. Chuck also has great flavor, and infinitely more consistent than the plethora of trim product patties out there.

Simply adorned with crisp lettuce and ripe tomato, crisp fries and the classic pickle, I can always count on our hotels doing a great burger. Anywhere. Want to know the world's best selling burger? No surprises, the cheddar and bacon burger outsells all other flavor profiles combined two to one in every market in the world. All thanks to a small town in Germany...who woulda thought?

Where to get the best burger?

While in New York last week I had the chance to get to Laurent Tourondel's West Village BLT Burger . From this simply designed space, Laurent turns out some of the best burgers, all with a creative chef's touch. Laurent uses a combination of sirloin, short rib, chuck, and brisket for his patties, but the ratios are a closely guarded secret. You won't find a monster patty here, as the largest is a 7 oz burger. Laurent, like me, believes that the secret to a good burger the perfect balance of the patty and toppings. The huge patties are more of a marketing gimmick than a serious approach to food, and at BLT, the food is taken very seriously.

Our group ordered the bacon topped "BLT", a Lamb Merguez burger of Colorado lamb with a special sauce of minted cilantro yogurt, and a Falafel burger made of well balanced grains and vegetables that tasted great (something very few veggie burgers can claim!).

Sides here go well beyond fries, though they were pretty darn good. Try the fried pickles, waffle bites (think individual waffle potato nachos), and Vidalia onion rings. Where BLT Burger really shines are in the shakes. Creatively inspired Americana like the Lunch Box shake with vanilla ice cream, grape jelly, and peanut butter or the Twinkie shake (yes, a whole Twinkie is blended into the ice cream and milk. Remarkably "real tasting" considering the questionable ingredient label on a Twinkie).

I am always on the hunt for great burger joints. Here are my favorites:
  • Danny Meyer's Shake Shack
  • BLT Burger
  • SmashBurger
  • Five Guys
  • IN-N-OUT
  • Mark Bucher's Burger Joint
  • Bobby Flay's Burger Palace
  • Taylor's Refresher
Have a favorite not on this list? Send it to me and we'll add it.

What's on YOUR plate today

Brad Nelson is the vice president culinary and corporate chef of Marriott International, he has worked to build an international culinary team that continues to raise the bar in dining. He takes his respect for nature's simple, clean flavors and instill it into the philosophy of the numerous kitchens he oversees.

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