Minced meat, usually beef, flattened on a roasting plate until the heat manages to form a crust; then just turn it over and repeat the process while the cheese starts to melt on it and then slowly taste it with your bread, pickles, onions and ketchup and mustard to taste. This is the burger that wins among fans. Question if you want it very well done, to the point or rare?, because brilliant burger (squashed hamburger, in English) has its purpose, yes, but it is unique. To talk about the secret of this type of hamburger, it is convenient to first get to know Louis-Camille Maillard, a doctor and chemist born in Pont-à-Mousson, in the north-east of France, in 1878. At the age of 34, this great scientist dedicated his dissertation to the study of the chemical reactions of amino acids and carbohydrates and came to the conclusion that by applying heat to some foods, they not only change their color, but their taste also changes, while their aroma is enhanced. Therefore, the more surface area the meat has on the grill, the tastier it will be. We could continue with the chemistry class but it’s better to put it right on the plate. “By crushing the meat, the Maillard reaction is achieved, which causes the fat of the hamburger to caramelize and form a crispy crust that gives it its characteristic taste,” explains María Martín de Pozuelo, Community manager Junk Burger (José Abascal, 31, Madrid).
This very establishment that opened in the center of Madrid in 2020, just before the pandemic, is one of the culprits for the overwhelming success of these burgers since in March, brilliant burger won the II Spanish Hamburger Championship. Although the restaurant continues to serve the winning dish, its master chef César Peña abandoned the project a few months ago and now grinds his own meat in his new venture, Cesar’s Burgers (San Lucas, 11, Madrid).
They are not alone. In March of this year, a small store, only 23 square meters, opened its doors in the Chueca neighborhood to serve only and exclusively great burgers. The plan of the twins Juan Vicente and Andrés Casanova, who are responsible for the Espicy sauce brand and the entrepreneurs behind this small company, is to offer 100 of these burgers per service. When they run out, Pink’s (Infantas, 40, Madrid) closes the doors. “We loved the idea of opening an establishment where we produce a high quality product. Here, excellence is something that is not discussed, but at the same time it is about everything being extremely simple, going to the core,” explains Juan Vicente.
After him, also in the middle, came Crackles (San Bernardo, 59, Madrid), Burmet’s Madrid restaurant that specializes in American food and has become something of an idea room for the company. “Here we do publications genius one of the most popular burgers in Burmet,” points out Daniel Ramírez, the manager of the place. That’s why one of the most requested carries authentic torreznos instead of the handy bacon. But it is not only in Madrid. The phenomenon also extends to Barcelona, where Folks (avenida de Sarrià, 69, Barcelona) stands out, a small and bustling place where spicy burgers entice lovers of spicy food. Is it fashion or brilliant burger are you here to stay? Experts Adrià and María, who run the Bestburger Instagram account and also the account of the burgers they have eaten since they started announcing their relationship with them on social media in 2013 — “we try one a week on average, so if we do the math, we get more than 400″, assures Adrià—, they are clear: “It stays. From the first moment we tried them, we were impressed. They are tasty and simple and without dozens of added ingredients, which in the end end up detracting from the meat”.
Apart from the quality of the ingredients and the skill of the chefs when it comes to carefully crushing the mince ball, there lies the key to restoring it to its full glory. “The idea comes from the United States,” explains Martin Pozuelo. “In the 1960s, they ground the meat because they had no resources and prioritized hamburger with few ingredients—they only added bread and cheese, and at most pickles and onions—and thus obtained a very satisfying meal at low cost’. Casanova is of the same opinion. This burger, for him, represents a return to the roots. “It’s about making a simple product, something of the highest quality that we want to eat.” We are at a time when everything is excessive, burgers are getting bigger and bigger, dripping with cheddar, they had become a container that holds everything…, and our idea was how to offer a simple product without compromising on excellence. Go to the core. We wanted to go back to the burger you ate when you were a kid.”
“In Spain we have very good products and very good meat. Plus, the public knows how to appreciate good taste,” says Ramírez, from Crackles. This is something they agree on, as well as the percentage of fat that each of these meat plates must carry, in all cases of cows, whether Galician Blonde or Simmental: between 20% and 30%. “The idea is that even though the product is pan-fried, it remains juicy,” says Casanova. The meat is ready so quickly, at a temperature of around 250 degrees, that the cheese finishes melting already in the sandwich.
Almost as important as the main ingredient is the bread. “We are supporters of brioche. That sweetness it brings to them hamburger you can’t get that with anyone else,” says webmaster Junk Burger. At Crackles and Pink’s, bet on bread in the same style, but with potatoes. The latter is imported from the United States. “We bought it from a company that’s been doing it for 80 years. Since then, many have tried to imitate it, but no one has succeeded,” explains Casanova as he sips one of his burgers. “It is very important that it does not disarm in your hands. With this bread, she gets the last bite whole,” she adds, pointing to the remains she holds between two fingers. And how the edges of the meat offer the kind of crispy strands, perfectly caramelized, that Maillard himself, who died in 1936 in Paris, would be proud of. Experts Adrià Méndez and María Caracuel agree on the importance of the bread being able to support the interior. “It needs to be well sealed so it doesn’t break when bitten,” they warn.
As Juan Gabriel Casanova demonstrates, eating his sitting on a bench in Plaza del Rey, just 100 meters from Pink’s, we are talking about a street food product, designed to be enjoyed anywhere. “It’s an off-road course,” says Martin de Pozuelo. You can eat it in our restaurant, at home, on the sofa or at a festival dancing and singing, it always feels like it is”. At this point, Casanova even becomes combative: “We have the team ready to point out to our customers that next to it there are two seats, Pedro Zerolo and King, perfect to sit down for a while while eating.” With this, we want people to use public space again, to restore a square to eat in peace”. A recipe as simple, deep down, as her own brilliant burger.