HOME COOK : The Perfect Burger: Plain and Simple

I don’t care if you eat blueberries on your calamari or strawberries in your pasta. But please don’t tell me about eating a hamburger with avocado, sauerkraut, bacon, chili, Jack cheese or any of these weird, improper ingredients. For I am a hamburger purist.

My hamburger credentials come from the home of the one and only authentic hamburger, which was developed in Glendale, in August of 1936. The originator of the perfect hamburger is Bob Wian, the man who turned one little rickety hamburger stand into a chain of 1,136 Bob’s Big Boy restaurants across the country.

The Perfect Burger

In order to make this hamburger you must have the following ingredients. You cannot allow yourself any creative license:


1. One sturdy, fresh, tender bun (it must have structure to stay intact).

2. Lots of mayonnaise (a dry hamburger is not acceptable).

3. If onion is desired, it must be chopped and stirred into the mayonnaise so it doesn’t slide around and become unevenly distributed.

4. Freshly ground beef. The meat must have enough fat to make a juicy patty, and the patties must be salted well before cooking.


5. Clean, crisp, fresh iceberg lettuce, shaved so it is evenly distributed.

6. Liberal spread of relish (Bob made his own red relish).

7. If you must have cheese on this hamburger, only mild Cheddar, please.

I guarantee that if you make this hamburger once you will never again fall back into making or eating those “gourmet” beef sandwiches called hamburgers.


The perfect burger, of course, is accompanied by the perfect fries.

Perfect French Fries

1. The perfect French fry must be about 3/8 inch square and no more than four inches long. Those unpeeled fat fries are fake, and so are those effete thread-like shoestrings.

2. Fresh oil or fat is a must. Recycled fat is not acceptable.


3. The outside of the French fry must be crisp, golden or light brown, and the inside must be tender and taste like potato.

4. French fries must be hot.

5. French fries must be liberally salted; don’t waste mega-calories eating unsalted fries.

The Perfect Milk Shake or Malt


A milk shake is made with ice cream, flavored syrup and milk. Soda fountains around America began to sell shakes during the last part of the 1880s. In the beginning liquor was often added (even today, many bar drinks are nothing more than milk shakes with liquor). After the turn of the century, milk shakes became wholesome and spirit free. Here’s how to make one:

1. Use first-rate ice cream that is smooth, creamy, and fresh. Old ice cream often forms ice particles, and this will ruin a milk shake.

2. Flavoring syrup cannot be fake or weak. Be generous in use.

3. Keep it cold. It is important to bring together all the necessary components to create deep clear flavor; rich, thick, fluffy and smooth texture; and very cold temperature.


4. In order to make a decent milk shake at home you cannot use a blender or a food processor. They will immediately thin the drink and ruin it. The thick air-filled mixture that only a fountain milk shake mixer can quickly achieve can be duplicated, as Hershey’s 1934 cookbook directs, by making a milk shake in a jar and shaking it vigorously. This does work--but it is quite strenuous.

6. Technically a malt is a milk shake with one to three tablespoons of malt added. But my definition is that a milk shake is thick but can be drunk through a straw, whereas a malt cannot be drunk through a straw for the first 10 minutes. Then the ice cream melts a bit and the air dissipates from the mixture.

Horlick’s Malted Milk may be obtained in a 13 ounce jar for $7.50 from the Vermont Country Store, P.O. Box 3000, Manchester, CTR., Vt. 05255-3000, (802) 362-2400.