Why mayonnaise is better on burgers than ketchup
Burgers taste better with mayo.
Yeah, delicious, creamy mayonnaise, scooped straight from the jar, judiciously smeared across a lightly toasted bun and smooshed into a juicy patty—hold the ketchup, hold the mustard. You've gotta try it.
Somewhere down the line, America decided that burgers go with ketchup, whether squeezed from white Heinz packets, pumped from Heinz counter tubs, or smacked with the heel of your hand from a glass Heinz bottle. But in drenching our burgers with ketchup, we've masked the flavour of grilled meat.
"It's concentrated tomato flavour mixed with sugar and vinegar. It's too much for a burger," says chef Alvin Cailan, host of First We Feast's The Burger Show (and owner of a dog named Mayo, so yeah, he's serious about this). Mayonnaise, however, "magnifies the flavours of the beef and the cheese."
Why? Superior flavour balance and texture. The flavour of mayo is more neutral. It carries a slight tinge of acidity, but nowhere strong enough to burn itself into the roof of your mouth, imprinting your taste buds before they touch meat, like ketchup. And its texture is sublime, "an almost viscous texture as opposed to sticky and tangy," Cailan says. Sure, "viscous" might not be the most appetizing adjective for a condiment, but what that means is it holds its own against the crumble of beef, ooze of meat juices, and crunch of lettuce and onion.
This isn't a screed against tomatoes. Layer 'em on. (Cailan peels and purees whole tomatoes and uses that pulpy paste in addition to mayo.) But it is an indictment of overly sweet ketchup, a flavour that's only vaguely reminiscent of tomato.
And if this sounds all too repulsive to you, then consider two of the biggest fast food burger chains in the country, In-N-Out and Shake Shack, serve patties with a secret sauce that's roughly half mayo, half ketchup—halfway to whole mayo perfection.
So go ahead and grill up a patty, then bring on the Hellman's.