Thursday, 13 August 2009

Bun Fighting at Byron's Hamburgers

It was actually the 12th August when we went

I've commented before that I think that McDonald's do the best burger buns. Sorry, but I think it's true. The slight sweetness of the pappy bun, coupled with the sesame seeds is a tasty vehicle to deliver the patties of meat to my mouth without falling apart ashamedly in my hands. Happily, I am not alone in these feelings. Helen of Food Stories shares my view and it spurred her on to come up with the idea of putting a 'gourmet' burger patty in a fast food bun. She expressed this idea on Twitter, and Tom Byng of Byron Hamburgers stepped up to the plate to accomodate the experiment.

Not only did accomodate he the experiment, he went a little further and upped the game. Marcus Miller bakes all of Byron's buns, and they came up with eight different buns for us to test. Eight! When we were presented with the agenda, we were overwhelmed.

Of course, to get a fair playing field, Helen sourced some Burger King buns. Sadly, McDonald's flat out refused to give her any buns so they were not included in the experiment. Our very, very scientific methods involved a plain tasting of the bun, then a quarter of an assembled burger each. As there were five of us, another assembled burger was made up so that we could try the burger as a whole. Hand-feel and how well the bun conveys the patty is also a very important part of a burger, after all.

As there were 9 buns to test, I won't go through them all as I imagine that would be rather boring. Instead, my top three -

1. The Brioche Bun. It was amazing. Yes, the puffed dome was soon deflated once you got your fingers around it, but the sweet buttery bread complimented the patty perfectly. I made obscene comments about this.

2. The Burger King Bun. Sadly so. It held it's puffed shape well, it made for an extremely attractive burger. It had the sweetness of the brioche, but it did taste a little dry and synthetic. And it made me feel dirty.

3. The Byron Bun. It was slightly sweet, had a nice doughy texture and stood up to the burger patty well. It had no overwhelming flavours to detract from the meat and it did it's job nicely.

Other options included wholemeal (wrong, wrong, wrong), sourdough, sourdough with onion (which was rather too much of a lingering sour flavour) and sesame seed which almost pipped the Byron bun to the post.

And the worst?

The Ciabatta. It was horrid. I ate the meat and pushed the bun away. I don't think there's ever any need for a ciabatta burger bun. It was floury, stodgy and the slightly crispy crust upset me. It wasn't like other ciabattas I've seen with a more open crumb, but it was close enough. And if that wasn't bad enough, we turned it over to find bottom soaked through and falling apart. It was an insult to the beautifully seasoned and cooked beef.

So there we were, fit to bursting. How better to finish off the meal than with a Knickerbocker Glory?

Thanks to Byron Hamburgers for indulging us with this experiment. We had wondered if we'd have to do it on the sly and risk embarrassment and being chucked out. They themselves stood up to the test well; of the 18 burgers we sampled, all but one (which more like medium well) was cooked to a juicy pink and were all well seasoned. If that's not a true test of consistency, I don't know what is.

So there you have it. Others round the table rated the Burger King bun as tops, saying that it held it's structure better than the brioche. Now, if only we could make a more sturdy brioche...

Stay tuned for the Big Brioche Burger Bun Battle. Try saying that after a few...

Byron Hamburgers

300 King's Road

Tel: 020 7352 6040

Other locations: see website for details


Helen said...

That BK bun still makes me laugh every time I look at it. Shame on you McDonald's, shame on you.

neil said...

For my sins I used to work in Burger King. I had an annoying conversation once with some posh PR woman about how much better burger king and Mcdonalds buns were compared to all the gourmet offerings these days. I especially was critical of any company that used Ciabatta. She disagreed with me on almost every level and I only wish I had her email to post her these results.

Boo said...

what a fun idea! I agree about the ciabatta buns, ew, messy. You'd think that McDonald's would have jumped at the chance to compete with the others, they probably would have won judging by your comments, shame on them indeed. Just another reason to hate them, though I do love a sausage and egg Mcmuffins for my sins...

Tom said...

1. Forward this story to BK - see them milk it for all it's worth
2. Watch McDs play catch up
3. Receive truck load of McDs buns with love from Ronald himself
4. Match with great patty
5. Enjoy

Will said...

... But where can you buy a Brioche Bun?

TC said...

It pains me about the BK bun, but I guess they do have some burger making practice! I'm eating my burgers naked at the moment thanks to a gluten intolerence, but it sounds like an interesting experiment.

Luca said...

I'm going to have to try the brioche burger Lizzie. It sounds and looks wrong to me but then again in France we have foie gras with brioche and it works well.

Interesting that you say the Burger King bun had the sweetness of the brioche. I've had the occasional BK and it is no way as sweet as the brioche we have with French family.

Ciabatta - great with steak sandwich but never tried with a burger.

youngandfoodish said...

Yours was a noble undertaking. Hamburger buns are more than a bread group. They constitute a quality of life issue.

Personally like brioche buns if they're not too sweet.

Kavey said...

Oh what a fun experiment!

I'm afraid I'm very much a BK girl, I quite like my whoppers but am really not at all enthused about McD's. So quite pleased to see BK buns do well (and BK enter into the game).

And I love love love brioche so may have to try this one at home.

Do Byron usually offer brioche or do they intend to start doing so?

Dan said...

Really Interesting Lizzie, what a shame McDonalds wouldn't play. I also feel that their buns are pretty damn good, and would stand up well in a taste test. Sweet, light, seeded.

Lizzie said...

Helen - Bad Maccy D's. AND I prefer them to Burger King!

Neil - she sounds horrible. What a shame you can't shove this in her face... :(

Boo - you can't beat a sausage and egg mcmuffin. Or their hash browns. I love it.

Tom - Brilliant idea. I reckon McDonald's buns would probably last all year, there's so much sugar in 'em.

Will - I don't know. Maybe make one? Or perhaps Marcus Miller will start selling them?

TC - We wondered who eats burgers without buns (or 'skinny' burgers). Now I know! Sorry to hear about your intolerance.

Luca - The BK bun definitely wasn't as sweet as the brioche, but was sweeter than the plain. I think sweeter breads definitely work better.

YoungandFoodish - Noble indeed it was. I think I gave myself stretch marks, I was so full afterwards.

Kavey - I don't know I'm afraid. I hope so!

Dan - Glad to hear that there's another one to join mine and Helen's gang!

pigpigscorner said...

WOW! I thought I am the only one who loves Mcdonald's buns! That's so much fun!

Ollie said...

It was a complete revelation. That brioche was amazing, but BK's just had everything going for it - squidginess, shape, colour, seeds, sweetness. The perfect. Ciabatta is wrong on every level.

Niamh said...

This sounds like a lot of fun! I've never had a brioche burger bun, I must investigate.

Wild Boar said...

Buns aside, I didn't enjoy the burgers at Byron much. Was only there once a few years back at the Kensington branch but found it inferior to GBK's then. But I do think that GBK has been on a downhill slide recently too.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried the brioche burger bun recipe on Smitten Kitchen?

Lizzie said...

Wild Boar - Really? I really dislike GBK's burgers. They never cook it to medium as requested and I find them a little flavourless. Perhaps they were better a few years ago.

Anon - no, but it is in my bookmarks to try.