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Is it a burger or is it a meatloaf patty??..

In the last several months I have heard it rather authoritatively stated that "you can't mix a bunch of stuff into your [ground meat]...if you do that you are just making meat loaf...it's not really a burger." I first heard this from Bobby Flay in a rerun episode of "Throwdown" three or so months ago. Then I heard Tom Colicchio say the same thing in an episode of "Top Chef" in this last season (actually, Colicchio didn't say it himself---but it was noted on a number of comment cards related to that week's challenge after Elia Aboumrad had the audacity to mix prosciutto, parsley, and shallots into her ground beef). This weekend, a co-worker (and mindless sycophant of any celebrity chef) said the exact same thing.

To me, this smacks of a "chef-ification" of a formerly (and properly)very loosely bandied-about word. Probably millions of us have tasted, if not grown up on, burgers made with Lipton Powdered Onion Soup Mix mixed into the meat. But apparently those those things my dad grilled every summer weekend at the lake weren't burgers after all. Eddie Murphy did a classic stand-up routine on his mama's burgers that had "onions and peppers and all kinds of nasty shit stickin' outta [the patties]." Here in Minnesota, we have classic sandwich (but not a burger, apparently) that consists of a ground beef patty filled with cheese---lovingly known as a "juicy lucy."

This is bullshit. If you start adding eggs and/or breadcrumbs, or other starchy filler, then I could MAYBE see the point. But just because someone adds onions or peppers (as did virtually everyone I knew in my South Dakota hometown), it does not make the end result any less of a burger.

I am very much for calling things what they ACTUALLY are...I'm actually a bit of a prick about it. But this is incorrect and a hijacking of the word "burger" in my opinion. Any thoughts?

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  1. I saw "Throwdown" and was wondering the same thing myself.

    If you make a burger with something other than beef, can you still call it a burger?

    I make a turkey burger with panko breadcrumbs and seasonings. The turkey needs a binder or it will fall apart. It's delicious, and I serve it with guacamole and a bun. It sure LOOKS like a burger, but it is not beef, and I add a filler.


    1. Well, it's not a meatLOAF patty. That makes even less sense. Here's where I see a difference. If the additives emphasize the meat, it's a burger... if they start really changing the texture, it's something else. I used to make burgers with a seasoned soy sauce and saltines, but not so many that it took on a meatloaf texture. Just enough to hold some of the juices. Non-chow type people would never know it was in there.

      2 Replies
      1. re: amkirkland

        I'm with you. I agree that to be a good burger, the added stuff needs to still be about the meat. When you start changing the texture, you're losing the burger quality. However, I must say that burger also is about shape. If it's that flat patty shape, I think it will be called a burger. Think of black bean burgers or veggie burgers, etc. I guess burger means "meat or meat-substitute mixed with flavors or seasonings (or not if it's meat) shaped into a patty and cooked in some way that retains the shape." I don't think that they are all necessarily good, but I think that anything of this type can legitimately be called a "burger."

        1. re: amkirkland

          In defense of my use of the phrase "meatloaf patty"---I felt it was necessary to get my point across. I didn't want anyone to read my post and have a vision of an actual loaf (or slice of a loaf) in their head. I felt that the phrase "patty consisting of a meat mixture similar to meatloaf" was wordy.

          I completely agree with your criteria: that additives which enhance or emphasize the meat itself are permissible. Any dramatic changes in texture are not. But it still begs the question---what do you call it if you do all the forbidden things mentioned, yet form it into a patty, grill it, and serve it on a bun????

          Do I hear the phrase "meatloaf patty?"

        2. That depends on if you choose to listen to those over-the-top "celebrities" or not and whether or not you decide that what they say actually means anything.

          I choose to not listen to them. And what they say goes right over my head. They're overblown, overpaid and over-adored to a point where it just makes me ill. A burger is a burger, and meatloaf is something totally different, at least in my house.

          1. i once saw an episode of bobby flay's show where he made a "kimchi" that involved peanut oil and several other very extreme departures from the spirit of kimchi. so if he takes issue with people dressing up their burgers, please pay him no heed. personally i am totally satisfied with an all beef patty. however, i wouldn't turn down a burger that had some sort of binder, or cheese, or prosciutto, or herbs, or anything. put it between a bun with some sliced onion, lettuce, cheese, bacon, or whatever, and call me happy.

            1. I saw if you add egg or another binder it ceases being a burger. Thats not to say its wrong but the texture and taste changes it immensely. If i was served what was called a burger and it tasted like a meatball on a bun, I'd be upset.

              1. -----

                My take is a burger is short for hamburger which is ground beef. Seasoned or mixed doesn't change much as long as it is served as a sandwitch. Patty however should be 8 oz or under IMHO or it is a Ground Steak

                Meatloaf is made as a formed loaf of ground beef- period. Seasonings or fillers acceptable. Or is that dude that sings "Two Out Of Three, Ain't Bad" ;-)

                Meatball is a round ball of burger/meat.

                Salisbury Steak http://www.answers.com/topic/salisbur...

                ""A patty of ground beef mixed with eggs, milk, onions, and various seasonings and broiled, fried, or baked."" -I believe this is what Clifford is after.-

                Sausage is pork!!! Accept no orphaned fowl / birds in it!!!


                4 Replies
                1. re: RShea78

                  i'll agree with eveything but the pork sentiment. Sausage means salted, so I'll accept any meat.

                  1. re: amkirkland


                    Sorry but sausage by itself is ground pork. Anything beyond that a specifier is needed such as Beef Sausage, Turkey Sausage, Toefood (or what ever that fake crap is) Sausage, and so on. Sausage and salt has no bearings on each other, but seasonings / herbs is more along the line and can be quite spicy if wished for. Fresh sausage is free from any seasonings.

                    Problem has became apparent over the last 10 years. Prior to that I could pick up a package of sausage and knew it was always pork. Now I have to look at the ingredients and let so much stuff rot because it isn't sausage when they let some turkey or chicken fall into the grinder with my pork.


                    1. re: RShea78

                      What I meant is sausage MEANS salted. Not an argument, just an etymological statement.

                      1. re: amkirkland


                        Well, if you believe salting your crackers is sausage, you gotta be cracker sausage. ;-)

                        (It is another hijacked word that gets my goat)


                2. Somehow, in my very hesitant opinion, the egg is the dividing line. I'm not going to amplify or try to rationalize that.

                  1. true--hamburgers contain spices,ketchup,herbs but no egg--addition of egg and bread crumbs,etc. leads to a meatloaf-hamburger round-meatloaf-loaf-style

                    1. I love to dress up hamburgers and probably they would qualify as meatloaf-burgers.
                      I actually do feel that, for a hamburger at a more elemental level, I hardly touch the meat.
                      The more ground meat is kneaded, or even molded into patties, it becomes tougher.
                      Ideally you can form a "patty" right on the grill, no salt or other seasonings until it is on the grill. Of course, pre-salting ground meat makes it tough, too.
                      Then it must not be touched (tougher, yet) until it is time to be flipped.
                      I also like to cook it on top of chopped onions that will carmelize.

                      1. A hamburger is a hamburger, ground chuck and a bun. Add cheese and its a cheeseburger. Anything else and its someone's version of a hamburger. This, as it should be, based on an entirely commercial view. P.J.Clarke's (the original, not the prettified tart that replaced it) had an absolute rule 20%fat ground in from New York strip trimmings and a little butter (one hotel patty) on the griddle. Melon's, another icon in the burger world is almost the same, but without the butter. This is not elitist, but good old New York makes the best hamburgers in the world, and always has, truth.

                        1. I think jucy lucy's aren't analogous to mixing Lipton onion soup or bread crumbs or even some kind of binder like egg into the ground beef itself--a jucy lucy is a cheese-stuffed burger. It would only be analogous if you were shredding the cheese and mixing it into the ground beef as you were shaping the patty...


                          6 Replies
                          1. re: The Dairy Queen


                            TDQ, you should have tried my aunt's cheese-stuffed burgers and be totally turned off either by the burnt cheese offerings or where did the "cheese" inside the burgers go...

                            Thank goodness for an growing of age, outspoken cousin (her son), who called them hole-y burgers and refused to eat them. Last time my aunt made them he got up from the table and ate some fresh hamburger, right from the fridge.

                            Later he found her an "out of this world" recipe that used onion powder and a dash of A1 sauce as a topping. Auntie's burgers were dynamite after that.


                            1. re: RShea78

                              Surely I've never had your Aunties cheese stuffed burgers, but I enjoy jucy lucys, when made right. I think you have to use the right kind of cheese, have the right thickness of burger patty, and allow a proper resting time, and then they're fabulous. I find them to be so much tidier to eat than a regular cheeseburger, too.

                              Nevertheless, I'm glad someone guided your Auntie to a more acceptable recipe for burgers!


                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                              It is analogous solely in that it is adding something to the meat. It is the rigidity of the statement itself that was bothersome. I think my biggest problem is that too often these celeb chefs are taken as gospel anytime they say anything that resembles a definitive statement.

                              1. re: Clifford

                                I understand your point about celeb chefs (frankly, I don't follow any celeb chefs), but, I don't see why putting cheese in the center of two hamburger patties pressed together--which is what a jucy lucy is-- is any more adding cheese to the meat than slapping it on top of the patty and calling it a cheeseburger. It's certainly not the same as mixing it in with the ground meat itself.

                                But, as I say, I understand your overall point.


                                1. re: The Dairy Queen


                                  TDQ, the Juicy Lucy from what I gather, is made from cheeses like Real Cheddar that will separate, and isn't appealing as a greasy top-melted cheese.

                                  FYI, Wiki refers to them as a cheesesteak with some local reservations or bragging rights.



                                  1. re: RShea78

                                    Have you had a jucy lucy RShea? If not, I recommend you get out to the Twin Cities one of these days and try one. They are practically a staple of my diet; I have one about once a month. I know I shouldn't, but I can't resist them.

                                    I've seen that Wikipedia entry before, and, unfortunately, I've always thought it was a poorly-written one.

                                    First, a Jucy Lucy is certainly not a cheesesteak. I think what they were trying to say there is that Twin Citeans might brag about inventing the Jucy Lucy the way Philadelphians might brag about the cheesesteak having been invented there. I'd even take issue with that, though; Minnesotans, in general, are not braggy people.

                                    What a JL is, literally, is two very thin ground beef patties pinched together around the edges so that they house a little piece (not a slice) of cheese that is "sandwiched" in the very center. None the bars in the Cities will share their JL recipe (and there's a lot of debate about where, exactly, they were invented, as the Wiki entry does accurately say. Most folks thinks it's Matt's, but many disagree,) so there's a lot of debate about whether the hamburger patties are par-cooked before being pinched together around the cheese, then put back on the grill at a very low heat just to melt the cheese, OR if the cheese is put in the center of two raw patties and cooked the for the entire duration. In either case, if done properly, the cheese isn't heated to the point of separating.

                                    The cheese remains in its pocket in the center of what now appears to be a single burger and maintains its individual integrity. It doesn't mix in with the meat anymore than, say, the pork at the center of a pork bun, mixes in with the doughy outside, or the cheese in a grilled cheese sandwich mixes in with the bread, even if it melts. This is why I refer to it as a cheese-stuffed burger. The cheese is not mixed in with the meat.

                                    Regardless of who invented it, there's a lot of debate about who does the best Lucy. Every bar has its own version of the JL--my favorite is at the Nook in St. Paul called the Moliter burger (named after a professional ball player who grew up in the neighborhood and played ball at the high school across the street). The Moliter is made with pepperjack, which I think withstands the heat better than cheddar.

                                    Also, any bar that serves JL's will, if you're not a regular at their bar, ask if you've had a JL before and, if you haven't, inform you that the cheese can get very hot and advise you to first eat your fries or drink your beer or whatever and give the cheese some time to cool. Otherwise, it will, indeed, come oozing out and scald you. You can see in the photo of the JL that accompanies the Wikipedia entry that the cheese has oozed out. But, even so, it's not mixed in with the meat.

                                    The second major issue I have with that Wiki entry is that the Groveland Tap's Cajun Lucy does not feature "jalapeƱo peppers floating in pepper jack cheese." My guess is that whoever wrote the Wiki is from Minneapolis and is not a regular at either the Nook or the Groveland Tap, and has, in his or her mind, confused the Nook's Moliter Burger (stuffed with pepperjack cheese) with the Groveland Tap's Cajun Lucy which is not stuffed with cheese, but instead with jalapeno peppers. Again the jalapeno peppers keep their individual integrity at the center of the two patties and do not become mixed in with the meat. The Cajun Lucy does have cheese, but it's a slice plopped on top of the patty in the way cheese is for a traditional cheeseburger.


                            3. In addition to the ingredients (I def. think that the addition of an egg to the ground meat moves the finished product from being a burger to being something more akin to a meatloaf), I think that cooking method helps to differentiate the two - can't imagine baking a burger or grilling a meatloaf (unless I were camping and then I'd be open for improv).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ElsieDee

                                That reminds me of a cooking show I saw once where, for "camping meatloaf" they had you halve an onion, hollow it out, fill it with a seasoned/eggy meat mix, re-assemble the onion, wrap it in foil, and throw the whole ball in the firepit.

                                I've always meant to try it, but now I'm wondering what you'd call it... Not a loaf, not a burger, not fried, not really just baked... Maybe Woodfired Meat Lump?

                              2. Visually, I see a burger as a patty, no matter what ingredients are in it, and meant to serve one person. It can be grilled, broiled or fried.

                                Meat loaf, as the name implies, is shaped in a loaf, and is meant to serve more than one person and is cooked in the oven. More ingredients and fillers, such as breadcrumbs are added to the meat.

                                Various Google definitions of hamburger describe it as a patty served on a bun. Some chefs just want to reinvent the wheel and now that burgers are served in top-notch restaurants, they believe they have the final word on it.

                                1. -----

                                  Sorry, but meatloaf here seems to be getting the worse end of the hijacking than the burger is.

                                  MEATLOAF, usually is seasoned mound of ground beef and is served SLICED. Like bread has an outer crust to it and I generally toss the crust of both as being unpalatable.

                                  Anyone care for some bolognaburgers or bolognacheeseburgers? Gasp!