The Breakfast BurgerBy Todd • Jan 26th, 2011 • Category: Burger Blog
I’ve never understood why burgers never seem to qualify as a legit breakfast option. Sure, everyone and their mom has some sausage-patty-on-a-biscuit-type-thing concoction, but that’s not really a burger. (I’m looking right at you, McGriddle.) Why do genuine ground beef burgers take a backseat until lunchtime? I set out to create something that would not only rise and shine as a bitchin’ burger… but also qualify as a real eye-opening breakfast. Here’s what I came up with:
It started with a half-pound ball of 85/15 ground round, which I smashed into a raging-hot cast-iron skillet. Yes, I prefer grilling. But firing up a mound of charcoal at 8am seemed excessive, even for me. This needed to be something I could whip up on an ordinary Thursday morning when oatmeal or omelets aren’t enough of a wake-up call. While the American cheese began melting over the seared patty, I cracked an egg into another pan. A third skillet held shredded hash browns, the remnants of a freezer bag leftover from who-knows-when.
Suddenly, with 75 percent of my stovetop occupied and working, I felt like a short-order diner cook. But I almost forgot the key ingredient. It can’t be breakfast without bacon. I fried up some Benton’s bacon I had in the fridge, figuring this early-A.M. experiment was a noble cause for which to sacrifice the last four strips of this mail-order gift from my wife and daughters. (How awesome are my wife and daughters, by the way? Bacon as a gift? I’m a lucky, lucky man.)
Then came assembly, the trickiest part of these DIY jobs, as my Backyard Blowout Burgers proved. I wrestled with the bottommost layer, almost going with the hash browns. But I feared the potato-on-bread combo would just be too much, too soon. I opted for a burger base. Bacon came next, as I really wanted the centerpiece of this morning mash-up to be a good old-fashioned, can’t-mistake-it-for-anything-else bacon cheeseburger. Hash browns went on top of that, since I knew the sunny-side up egg should be the crowning topping. And it all got sandwiched between a bakery burger bun.
Ah, the bun. I really struggled with the bun. Part of me was tempted to go with toast… or, in one moment of temporary insanity, two waffles. But then I remembered all of those “breakfast sandwiches” that I look down my nose at. Biscuits. English muffins. Those weird fake-pancake things that the Clown uses. My problem with them is that they’re trying too hard. They’re too cute. “Hey, it’s a wacky breakfast ‘wich, remember? In case you forgot, here’s a Pop-Tart!” This was supposed to be a burger that tastes like breakfast, not a breakfast that kinda-sorta reminds you of a burger. So I went old-school bun.
Final verdict: A for effort, B- for execution. There’s a lot I’d do differently next time. No regrets on the burger itself. Size-wise, it was substantial- a hearty burger. Right call on the cheese, too; American is almost always the right call.
Everything else could use some tweaking. The Benton’s bacon- God help me for saying this- was too smoky. It’s exceptional bacon, don’t get me wrong. But it overpowers everything… including the kitchen for the next two days. For this, where a mingling and melding of tastes and textures is the desired effect, I’d choose just a decent store-bought bacon that won’t steal the spotlight.
The hash browns? I simply had too many of them. These were big, thick wedges of shredded potato- so thick that they never crisped up as much as I would have liked. As a result, they were quick to fall apart as I worked my way through the burger. A great taste on the burger, but a thinner, crunchier layer would have been even better.
The egg. I loved the idea of sunny-side up, after having it add such a wonderfully-silky unctuousness to my No. 6 Farm Burger last year. And while the shiny yellow yolk peeking out from under the bun made for some pretty photos, it ruptured as soon as I picked the burger up, leaving a golden puddle on my plate before I’d even taken my first bite.
Perhaps next time, I’ll try an over-easy egg… or even just a basic fried egg with no runniness whatsoever, although that seems to take some of the fun out of it. ‘Cos on the flip side, the yolk made a tasty dipping sauce as I got the burg down to appropriately-sized pieces.
I’m still undecided about my bun selection. Nothing wrong with the bun I used, and it definitely made this a true burger, as opposed to a burgeresque “breakfast sandwich.” But I can’t help but wonder what an English muffin would have brought to the table.
But could this morning monster be a regular breakfast staple? It was less than one hour from the time I lit the stove to the time I wiped the last of the yolk off my chin. Maybe not a school-morning kind of quickie-breakfast, but on par with a Saturday pancake-fest or a big Sunday brunch. Time wasn’t a killer, but the mountain of dirty dishes left behind might be:
As I busted some suds, I reflected on what was, for all my nitpicking and second-guessing, a mighty outstanding burger. But if there were a way to do it in one or even two skillets… well, that would just be gravy. Hey… wait a minute. That’s it! Country-style sausage GRAVY…
Ed. Note: The very same week as my sunrise sammie, Burger Business published an article touching on breakfast-themed burgs of note around the country, including an egg-topped offering from Smashburger, as well as one from Carl’s Jr. Gourmet joints are doing it, too: LA’s Burger Kitchen, New York City’s BRGR, Atlanta’s Flip Burger Boutique and the Vortex Bar & Grill, and a preponderance of Chicago restaurants have all gotten in on the egg act. Maybe true breakfast burgers will be the next big thing…