Menu podcast

in: Food & Drink, Living, Visual Guides

The Best Order to Stack Your Burger Toppings

The big keys to cooking a great burger center on using the right meat and grilling technique. But once you’ve got those fundamentals in place, the architecture of your burger can also enhance the taste and overall eating experience. 

Plenty of people structure their burger willy-nilly, and really, there’s no wrong way to do it. But there are ways that make it more or less likely that you’ll have issues with things like soggy buns, suboptimal flavor melding, and, most vexing of all, escaping toppings; it’s not fun to have those toppings squirting and falling out as you try to get your delicious meat sandwich in your mouth.

There are a lot of opinions about the best order in which to stack toppings on a burger. Folks have their particular method, and their particular rationales for said method. It’s a subject as debatable as what the greatest war movies of all-time are.

That being said, here we add our own entry to that debate, a researched and field-tested argument for the following as being the soundest strategy for building your burger.

From bottom to top:

  • Bottom bun.
  • First condiment of choice. Distribute your condiments (mustard, ketchup, mayo, etc.) between the top and bottom buns. This preserves the distinctiveness of their flavors, prevents an overabundance of goop that will drip and squirt out as you eat, and creates a kind of “mortar” on both top and bottom that will help secure toppings in place. If you’re using mayo, Alton Brown recommends putting it on the bottom bun, as its fattiness will create a barrier that will prevent the bun from soaking up the burger juices and getting soggy.
  • Lettuce. With its placement atop the bun, the lettuce acts as a shield that blocks the patty’s juices from soaking into it and making it soggy. Keeping the lettuce from direct contact with the hot patty also keeps it from wilting, preserving its crispness. 
  • Tomato. Slippery veggies like lettuce and tomato are best placed beneath the burger and are less likely to slip when used as foundational pieces rather than sitting on top of the patty. Placing half of your toppings on the bottom of the burger, and half on top, prevents it from being top-heavy and thus unstable, while the weight of the patty, and the texture of its bottom surface, will help hold the tomato in place. 
  • Burger patty with melted cheese. For best taste, cheese should be melted on top of the patty as it finishes cooking.
  • Onions. The melted cheese on which the onion sits will help keep it in position. 
  • Pickles. Place your pickles within the rings of the onions, and those “walls” will keep them from sliding out.
  • Second condiment of choice. The condiment will help keep the onions and pickles in place.
  • Top bun.

For further help in keeping the structure of your burger together as you eat, learn the best way to hold it; yes, there’s a best way to do that too — proven by science! 

Illustrated by Ted Slampyak

Related Articles