- Ordering a customised burger can earn you a fresher burger.
- Bring your own condiments for a quick burger upgrade.
- Think creatively – sides and apps can make great fast-food burger toppings.
Fast-food burgers can be a bit, well, blah. Whether you’re loyal to a favourite chain or only pass through the drive-through on rare road trips, there’s no reason you can’t upgrade the standard off-the-menu fast food burger to be chef-worthy. And you don’t even need to know how to cook to make that lacklustre burger so much tastier.
We asked chefs for their best (and easiest) tips to upgrade fast-food burgers with minimal effort (and expense) – this is still fast food, after all.
Don’t order directly off the menu.
“At most fast-food restaurants… you can guarantee a fresh burger [rather than a pre-made burger] if you order it with any modifications, be it no pickles, no onions, no salt, or even well-done,” said chef Lucas Sin of Junzi Kitchen.
“To avoid cross-contamination, modified burgers are even cooked on a separate griddle.” Talk about VIP burger service.
Chef Sin says he and other chefs have the habit of bringing their own sauces for fast-food burgers, but you don’t need anything fancy to take the standard fast-food burger up a notch. “Most condiments you find in your fridge, when mixed into a bit of mayonnaise and vinegar make great dipping sauces: wasabi, curry paste, barbecue, tahini, or what not,” Sin said.
Chef Leah Morrow, executive pastry chef at the Brooklyn Bread Lab suggests adding avocado to any fast-food burger to amp it up. No avo on the menu? Bring your own. A ripe avocado is easy to slice open and spread with plastic utensils.
Get condiments on the side.
Unless you’re eating your burger right away, ask for the condiments on the side, “so that the burger doesn’t get soggy,” advised Dianna Daoheung, executive chef of Black Seed Bagels. Plus, then you get the exact right amount of sauce when you finally get to eat your burger. Ask for lettuce and tomato on the side too if you want to preserve optimum crispness.
Add the right hot sauce.
“Not all hot sauce is created equal!” said Eric Sze, chef-owner at 886. The goal is always to accentuate, not overpower, the burger.” To add acidity, Sze will use pickled chilies; or for “extra oomph” he adds garlic sambal. “Sometimes I just want some FIRE, so I’ll apply generous amounts of Sriracha or Cholula.”
Simone Tong, chef-owner of New York’s Little Tong Noodle Shop, has a method for adding texture to her fast-food burgers: Order a single patty burger and remove the top. Add a sunny-side-up egg on top of the patty, then top it with melted cheese. Load that up with lettuce, onion, kimchi, and then another layer of melted cheese. Top that with potato chips and recap it with the top bun.
“This creates lush flavour and a broad range of textures,” she said. Can’t chef your fast food up that much? Add kimchi or flavored potato chips for flavour and texture.
Double up with nuggets.
To add texture and flavour to a fast good burger, Ferris chef Greg Proechel suggested adding either nuggets or fries on top of your burger. He’s also a proponent of sneaking in wine, to “immediately upgrade any burger, anywhere, ever.”
Use apps or sides as toppings.
Chef Patrick Rebholz of Yardbird advocates for adding more than fries to your fast food burger: Scan the menu and see if smaller orders like fried pickles, onion rings or mac and cheese are available to top your burger with.
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