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Hamburger buns: Expectations for a great one?

After the umpteenth disappointing bun at a specialist burger restaurant I'm starting to think the problem is my own expectations of what a hamburger bun should be like.

My own feeling is that as an integral part of a hamburger, the bun should stand out at least in similar prominence to the patty. This means a good bready taste and a density and texture relatively similar to the patty itself. Obviously a bun can't have exactly the same texture as a lump of meat but I would like to see something fairly dense, with a doughy, soft consistency that is strong enough to stand up to any contents that may be put into it, including rare, juicy patties and other toppings as appropriate. It definitely should not be easy or even possible to flatten or fold it, certainly not under the weight of its contents alone, and it shouldn't "open out" when attempted to be picked up. The flavour should have enough strength to be noticeable - and I definitely think it shouldn't be something with a "twist" like sourdough or whole wheat or rye or onion or anything else. I do prefer sesame seeds it will be said - although that's not essential.

But essentially everywhere, even the places that make a point of making their own, seems to provide instead the same thing - a hyper-fluffy, mostly-air bun, somewhat on the dry side usually, with very little if any flavour of its own, designed at best to be a vehicle for its contents (if, indeed, it has the robustness to fulfill that task) and generally seeming to be seen as an "incidental" to the burger that the less noticed, the better.

So I'd like to enquire - is this latter what you expect in a hamburger bun, and if so, do you have any particular reasons? For that matter, could you articulate any reasons if so why you'd less prefer my own type, or what you would criticise it for, with respect to the "canonical" hamburger? No criticism is to be understood here - just curiosity and a desire to understand what people really expect out of a great bun

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  1. Lightweight for me. At home I have started using Oroweat Specialty Crustini sandwich rolls (this is not crostini), because they are lightweight and have less sugar than regular hamburger buns. And, they are the right size. They aren't really sturdy enough for the job, but I don't mind. I don't want the bun to dominate the hamburger.

    1. I either want something benign or special. The worst offender would be something to large, tasteless, or stale. I want to enjoy the bun, buttered and grilled is especially tasty. Don't toast a stale bun and then serve it to me. I can do that at home.

      Unless the bun is something special I don't want it to be that noticeable.

      1. The only bun I want anywhere near my burger is a Martin's potato roll. Otherwise I prefer a burger on buttered, toasted bread (rye for patty melt style but sourdough or something else interesting is fine too, as long as it's a fairly thin slice) or without a bun at all. I lead a low-carb lifestyle now, but even before LC I was never a fan of hamburger buns.

        1. We have basically the opposite requirements for a burger bun but then it seems we have basically opposite requirements for burgers too. My ideal burger is 2 thin patties griddled crispy, with a slice of fried onion and plenty of dill pickles. A "diner-style" sandwich that's wrapped in wax paper and is handy enough to be eaten behind the wheel of a car without dripping on your pants.

          For this kind of burger a white factory bun is all that's needed. The key is elasticity; it's got to have wet strength to stand up to the grease. The bun should be steamed under a domed bowl on the griddle with the meat and onions to get a little stretchy. The warming period is crucial. Even a 10-second microwave session will do in a pinch, just never ever serve a burger bun of any kind cold out of the bag.

          1. I like a Kaiser roll or a pretzel roll. If anyone thinks a Kaiser roll is just white bread in the shape of a dome, please, can I take you out for a burger sometime?

            Also, if the burger's flavor is masked by a pretzel roll, or a Kaiser, you need to be using better meat.

            I like a bread with a good chew to it, and also, real Kaisers and pretzel rolls can hold up to the kind of burgers I'm into - 1/3 or half pounders. The thin patties have their place, but my preference is the big boys, med rare - the kind where the bun turns pink from all the blood. Standard buns turn into pink, bloody used paper towels for my ideal burger. Aside: do mcdonald's buns get more sugary every year? Are those buns or cakes they are putting their "food" on? Yuck!