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Burgers: Toppings on the Bottom or the Top?

I tried to do a search on this and came up with nothing (although, I'm sure something exists). What's the deal with putting burger toppings (onion, cheese, etc) on the BOTTOM of the burger. It drives me nuts, but it seems to happen pretty much everywhere (at least here in California). Does anyone know where this originated? Is it a California thing? Do most of you really prefer your toppings on the bottom of the burger?

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  1. Oakland,CA. here. Emphatically NOT on the bottom except for a shmear of mayo. All other toppings go on, well, top. Where were you served this upside down burger? adam

    1. It probably just speeds up the process. If the line cook can put all the stuff on the bun while the burger is cooking than slap it all together it'll get to you a few minutes sooner than if he has to carefully place your tomatoes on top of the cooked patty.

      2 Replies
      1. re: babette feasts

        Right. Isn't that the way McD's does it?

        Generally, I find that it's better to put slippery items on the bottom -- they stay in place better. Cheese has to go on top, since it's melted by putting it on top of the patty as its cooking.

        I actually don't eat burgers that often, and I prepare a full burger (patty on a bun) even less often. However, I made some earlier this week and found myself thinking about this very issue when I went to assemble them. In the end, the thin-sliced onion and pickle went on the bottom with a splash of ketchup, and another splash of ketchup went on top (cheese was inside this particular burger).

        1. re: babette feasts

          That sounds logical until you consider that you can just build the burger on the top half of the bun rather than the bottom, especially a McD puck bun.

        2. I make my soy burgers this way, because the burger weighs everything down, ensuring that the top bun doesn't fall off. Bottom bun, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, burger, top bun.

          1. I put mayo and lettuce on the bottom to "waterproof" the bun, but everything else goes on top.

            1 Reply
            1. re: theferlyone

              Mayo definitely on the bottom but not the lettuce. Allowing the burger juices mingle with the mayo make the most delicious and perfect sauce for hamburgers on the planet. A good, hearty bun will absorb and deliver those juices to the eater, no need to waterproof.

              Mmm... I'm making myself hungry.

            2. I actually put toppings both on the bottom and the top -- sliced onion and lettuce usually goes on the bottom, sometimes the tomato as well.

              If the tomato goes on top of the cheeseburger, it can slip off too easily. Just a matter of convenience.

              1 Reply
              1. re: linguafood

                Same here. Some on bottom, some on top. If they are all on top, the bun slides off. I like to carefully pick which condiments go on top and bottom to mix the flavours in the right way. I like my pickles with my mustard and cheese and tomatoes with the onions, etc.

              2. cheese on bottom
                toppings on . . . . top

                1. I zap my Morningstar burger in the microwave for 1 minute, then broil it for a few minutes each side. This causes it to "cup" a little. The "cup" holds my TOPpings very well!

                  1. I work in a bar where we are known for our burgers. They also happen to be the only menu item (not even fries). Topping go on the bottom of the bun, so that any employee knows exactly what goes on any burger. I suppose we could us tickets but this is how it's always been done, and inertia is powerful. If I make a burger at home, everything but lettuce goes on top.

                    1. I think most sit-down places in NYC serve the burger with the bun top on the side and the patty bared to the diner so she can add additional condiments if desired. Some restaurants include lettuce and tomato under the burger patty (which can cause the patty to slide around a bit). Others present the lettuce and tomato resting on of the upside-down top bun top. And still others serve the lettuce and tomato completely on the side.

                      If you order a burger topped with something moist like caramelized onions or chili, though, these always go on top of the burger patty, with the bun top on the side, to minimize the amount of time spent in contact with the bun.

                      When I make them, I like a leaf of lettuce against each bun so the juices from the patty don't make the bun soggy. Tomato goes on top so the patty doesn't slide around on it so much.

                      Interesting thread. There are so many questions I'd never contemplate were it not for Chowhound.

                      1. oh boy, so many burgers, too many methods. Here are different ways jfood does toppings.

                        - he usually melts the cheese on the bun, not the burger. Now here's one trick for fried onions. Open the bun and have the flat inside up on the counter. Place a little fried onion on the bottom and then place a slice of cheese on top. likewise you can place onions on the top half or just cheese. Place the two sides of the buns on the warming shelf of the grill. Mels and seals in the onions. Likewise the cheese protects the bun from the juice.

                        he usually places the other topping, if any, usually just a slice of fresh tomato, and some heinz ketchup.

                        1. From the 5 Guys training video:

                          Hot items: Fried oinions, sauteed mushrooms go on the bottom half of the bun,
                          Cold Items: lettuce, tomato, pickle, raw onion go on the top half of the bun

                          Buns are dressed while the burger is being cooked. This way the hot items won't wilt the lettuce or other vegs...............

                          Makes perfect sense to me

                          1. They're not called "bottomings" for a reason, fullmix.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: John Manzo

                              and it's an all-beef "hamburger". Place it where you want and can stay put.

                              1. re: jfood

                                especially since I eat the burger and accompiaments with a knife and fork and toss the bun <VBG>

                            2. What I hate is the slippery, mealy tomato slice - he ruins EVERYTHING if he's on top!
                              If it's a good tomato slice, off it goes and I'll eat it. Also a mound of freakish RAW onion. I don't care for raw onion in there too but he doesn't ruin everything because he's dry (possibly ruins if very stinky)
                              Can you just flip it over and eat or will the fact that the puffy mound 1/2 of the bun is hitting your face first really irritate you?
                              Secret? I have been known to cut my burgers in half. This takes precision, timing and sacrifice of some toppings. I don't do it often but if it's a gargantuan burger I refuse to fight to get it in my mouth, so out comes the knife.
                              I'm so sorry. Look away.

                              1. I had never given it much thought, as I always put toppings on the top and get them that way at restaurants. But in one respect, toppings on the bottom makes sense -- I like my ketchup in direct contact with the burger, and toppings on the bottom makes it easy to pop off the bun, apply ketchup and eat.

                                1. I put the toppings that I want hot on the bottom (onions, bacon, cheese, cooked mushrooms etc) so that I'll put the hot burger down on top of them and they'll get warmed up. The toppings that I want to stay cold (tomato, pickle, lettuce) go on the top side of the bun so that they only get put together when I'm actually eating it.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Kajikit

                                    That sounds like a good system. Especially if the cheese is below the burger, it won't make the tomato & lettuce slip off. I'll have to try that next time '-D

                                    1. re: Kajikit

                                      And one little thing I find useful - cut the top half of the bun before putting it on. Less tendency for topping to make a mad lateral dash for freedom. Some also advocate putting the relish / mustard / sauce on the bun as it is more uniform and less likely to cause an eruptive disruption.

                                    2. I put toppings on top of my burger because the main thing I want to taste is the meat (as it will be closer to my tongue). But if I was a cheese or bacon freak, I'd probably put it on the bottom as the taste would be more prominent.

                                      1. Condiments on the bun, either top or bottom, or both (I’m versatile;). Dress the burger with veggies and/or cheese on the top, but the bun must be firm not flimsy. Some of the worst burgers I’ve eaten have been very tasty, but messy as hell (which is ok if you’re dressed for it).

                                        1. I worked in a bakery/deli for a number of years and there was definitely a science to building a sandwich. We were taught that the vinegary items should always go on bottom and the juicer on top. The idea was you taste the things on bottom first as you bite in and the food contacts your tongue, then as you chew a bite the upper items offer a creamy, crunchy or cooling sensation. So mustard/dressing/pickled peppers on bottom, lettuce, tomato on top. If it was a hot sandwich and the customer wanted mayo, a little on each side of the bread to keep other things from being absorbed or sticking on the bread.