Burger dynamics 101 and the Angry Anus

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Hungry Jack’s Angry Angus that arrived with “ANUS” written on it.

The gourmet burger is now mainstream. Even Hungry Jacks has its own salt and fat packed version dragging down the reputation of Angus beef.

It’s the latest trend in food, knowing the provenance of your ingredients – with Maccas being the first mainstream brand to name Angus beef as a selling point back in August.

The recently launched Hungry Jacks version, the Angry Angus, is masked with controversy particularly tawdry, mine delivered with the word “ANUS” hand written on the wrapping. The angry, in what now shall be known as the Angry Anus, refers to the chilli. And thankfully it masks the flavour of some meat like matter doing a poor impression of bacon, luminous cheese and a beef pattie which is almost incidental to the whole cynical $4.95 construction.

Not all these fast food burgers are bad. McDonald’s is an altogether classy affair and was launched to bloggers with style. The $6.45 Grand Angus and $6.75 Mighty Angus received a pretty warm reception (with the exception of me).

And what these fast food joints know best, over and above countless cafes and celebrity chefs, is that you need to get the dynamics right. It’s all about burger engineering – both physically and in flavour. You’ve got to build it right.

On flavour Hungry Jacks brought out the angry chilli and salt card. McDonalds uses raw onion and pickle. High-end chefs, who don’t have to analyse the composition of their food to the nth degree, fat and salt.

Given the choice I prefer the latter and it delivers – although at price. Some two years ago when Neil Perry’s Melbourne Rockpool Bar & Grill opened with its $15 Wagyu (literally Japanese beef) burger I declared in print that it was the best in Australia. It was still pretty good at $17. But now with the burger, made with breeder David Blackmore’s bull blood Wagyu, at $22 is way over the top.

But a large portion of the public don’t think so. Since January 1 this year  9333 Wagyu burgers and 542 Mishima (beef even rarer and more prized than wagyu) burgers were sold in Melbourne alone. SinceRockpool Bar & Grill’s opening mid March 4,031 Wagyu’s have been sold.

For my money, anyone who takes this everyman knockabout food and charges more than $15 for it is taking the mick.

Plus I made an important discovery at Neil Perry’s Sydney temple of meat, the construction side of burger dynamics. When this hunking great gobshite met for burger love there with Lorraine from the blog Not Quite Nigella, the wagyu burger was too big for her perfectly normal sized feminine hands.

The lid was flipped and the knife and fork manipulated. It was wrong. Next visit toSin City she took me to Justin North’s Plan B for a $10 Wagyu burger. Small and delicious, it’s my choice in the Sydney CBD now (although its damn near blinkin’ impossible to get a seat). In Melbourne, I like chef Shannon Bennett’s $12 Wagyu burger with chips at his Café Vue.

So much for Heart Foundation ticks.

It’s all come a long way from when, hung over, I first slopped pineapple, beetroot and fried egg down my trousers wolfing an overdeveloped Aussie Burger from the surf lifesaving club on some mid Queensland beach.

Since then I’ve searched high and low for burger bliss, the correct dynamics in the hand as well as the mouth.

I can tell you that I admire the ethos of Grill’d but the burgers are too healthy an affair – they need more fat. And I’m pretty sure the real winners are those local greasy cafs, such as the cult Andrew’s in Melbourne’s Albert Park, that specialises in, well, burgers.

My top prize goes to the 53 year old Caravan Café in Seymour. It doesn’t look like much with its primitive toilet block architecture. But the $7 burgers, with their secret ingredient, are better. So much better than an Angry Anus.

What’s your top burger?

This post is also featured in The Punch “Building the ultimate burger”.

34 Responses to “Burger dynamics 101 and the Angry Anus”

  1. Nathaniel Stockley

    Noticed Danny’s in StKilda has been advertising their burger via a chalk board out front featuring a Matt Preston endorsement.
    Can’t recall the exact wording, but something along the lines of “Voted the best burger in town by Matt Preston”.

  2. Jen@Palate

    There’s a plague of high-end burger joints over here in Perth at the moment. Jus Burgers is leading the charge-2 stores so far & more to come.

  3. Erez Gordon

    I’m not sure if it’s still there but I doubt it.
    There used to be a little burger joint on the throughway to the beach from Hastings St in Noosa Heads. It was called Betty’s Burgers and she concocted these giant towers of meat, bread and sauce that were just perfect for an adolescent boy with the appetite of a third world country.

  4. Ed

    Forager, Got it ” a foot long section of lightly charred poop shoot”. A welcome distraction.

  5. Forager

    Gosh, they really are coming clean if they’re not hiding the fact they put anus in burgers anymore.

    On that note, as a Bourdain fan I recommend you check out his No Reservations Namibia episode. It is gold.

    But back to the serious business of burgers – I quite like Plan B’s offering too.

  6. OhMoiGoooad

    Did someone say Anus was unAustralian?

    Still, pretty narrow demograph for the Anus Burger, nevermind Angry ones…ok, I’ll stop now.

    :-P

  7. Ed

    Neil, the broad may just justify a visit toCanberra. Sounds great.

    Tim, hope the burger turned out well. Ifeel like a Steak tartare coming on.

    Injera, I think it was 2 or 3 years ago that Danny’s opened in St Kilda. I’m not sure how well they are doing down there. Maybe this week I shall cycle to the original for the authentic experience.

    Bad Lieutenant,

    It doesn’t please me. It’s a shame to see all these breed bloodlines diluted.

  8. Bad Lieutenant

    Nice name Neil, congrats.

    Ed. you’ll be pleased to know that REAL angus are extinct. The Queen mother owned the last herd but, unfortunantly there were Canadian/American genetics added to that herd about 7 or 8 years ago. Americans, being American, wanted everythging to be bigger and better and so decided that the small dumpy Angus, with terrific eating qualities, wasn’t good enough for them and so began adding genetics from other larger breeds, mainly European types of Black Limousin, Gelbvieh etc with lean meat and extra muscling. These were able to be added to the Angus stud book after a few generations but the new animals, whilst black in colour (please note English English not American English) have very little to do with what the Angus breed looked like as recently as the 1960′s.

    Unfortunantly REAL HEREFORD appear to be headed the same way with just three or four herds left.

    Not Neil, Bad Lieutenant

  9. Injera

    I also love the Danny’s burgers, but it’s been a while. Had no idea there was more than one Danny’s, either. While Burger Republic on Errol Street lived, it was loved, but the replacement (Urban Burger) can be hit and miss.

    Have put Plan B down on my Sydney itinerary!

  10. Ruth

    Oh, LotF chips are a different kettle of TVP-imitation-fish altogether: delicious and wonderfully junky. Actually, now I think about it, the chips themselves are just OK — it’s the sauces that make them so good. And all vegetarian/vegan. Grill’d also does good chips, though again, it’s mainly the seasonings and sauces.

    Best chips in Melbourne would be an interesting debate. Anywhere that does their own hand-cut is off to a good start, IMO. I used to work at a pub that cut their own each day and cooked them in organic coconut oil, which were amazing, but it got too expensive (and the staff all eventually got nauseous at even the faintest whiff of coconut after a while).

    There’s actually a booming market for vegan and vegetarian junk food and sweets in Melbourne at the moment. The East Brunswick Club now do an extensive trade in vegan pub food — fish and chips, parmas, even a Philly cheese steak — while Grumpy’s on Smith St ONLY do veg/vegan food. Plus Trippy Taco, La Panella, Tart’n’Round, vege2go, Plush Pizza, Sugardough, Fritz gelato… if you bake it, they will come.

  11. Tim

    sod it. after reading all of this its settled; burgers tonite at mine – big fat juicy rump with relish, bacon, cheese and roasted tomato between a crusty baguette. this after the BEPS fete tonite of course!

  12. Neil

    When in Canberra, it’s hard to beat the Kingston Foreshore caravan outlet called BrodBurger (http://www.brodburger.com.au/). Brod used to be the chef at Griffith mod-Oz cafe Element before heading out into short-order territory.

  13. Ed

    Simon, I thought I reassume positive blog posts on the Angus. I wasn’t PR’d.

    The Maccas versions are infinitely better than Hungry Jack’s Anus. But I tend to get my burgers elsewhere.

    Thermomixer, this morning I would like some of those wipes, frozen. Sichuan food last night.

    Felix, jealous that you are only a block away. It is perfect.

    Barabara, Lamaro’s fan, rather than the other Barbara that we all know and love, I’ll refer to Jack’s point. Although if you had a profile on Gogle or a link people would be able to link through and there would be less suspicion. The Tolarno is now atBarney Allens.

    Lorraine, I know I should have toned down the headline but you know it’s the prickly side of me coming out.

    Jurgen, Actually, I forgot about those Barney Allen burgers.Those mini ones they do are particularly popular with the girls.

    Billy, I’ve eaten some good burgers at the St Kilda Danny’s. They do nice one with lamb. I should get up there while I’m living up north.

    Mike, fair enough. I make a mean burger at home. Chopped rather than ground and I leave it raw (tartare) and serve with Maccas fries.

    Lucy, I’ll be in Hobart in a few weeks and shall look out for Alleycat.

    Jack, good point. Paul Wilson said they’d more on the menu at Match but brought them down to two because they’d gone mainstream. And if burgers are passé what’s next?

    Foo, glad to tickle you. The something went through my mind.

    Barbara, what happen’s now there are two of you on the internet?

    Steve, good points. I’ll be writing something to clear this up sooner SBS. All this wage is a load of wan and a big slab of it as steak isn’t the best way to eat it. threes a lot of marketing and PR bullshit behind it. It’s basically foodies tricking people to buy expensive products.

    I haven’t tried Kermond’s and will.

    Frank, I have a hankering for some beetroot and meat between buns right now. But not something too massive as the Aussies often end up. I hadn’t thought of it sculptural imperialism. Bt it is. Will save that up for another time if you don’t mind me stealing the phrase.

    Ruth, I love that “Vegetarians love junk food too”. How do you rate the chips at Lord of the Fries?

  14. Ruth

    Steve, Slate recently did a piece on exactly that subject: http://www.slate.com/id/2231807/

    The US is afflicted with the Angus beef plague worse than Australia.

    BusinessWeek had a really good article on how the McDonald’s Angus burger was born: http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/sep2009/id20090914_256776.htm

    Though it was Burger King (HJ’s) who did it first in the US.

    Best burger? As a vego, I can’t really offer much of an opinion. Grill’d actually has one of the best vege burgers going around for the exact opposite reasons you don’t care for them: it’s far junkier than many of the too-healthy, savoury lentil blandness burgers other places serve. Vegetarians like junk food, too, damnit! Grilld’s burgers are generous with the condiments and flavours, use good rolls (HATE getting a cheap white supermarket bun — Lord of the Fries, I’m looking at you), while still being really fresh.

    In Melbourne, the faux-mince Sloppy Joes at Las Vegan bakery are amazing, and there’s very little “healthy” about them (except that there’s no cow anus in them). I defy even carnivores not to enjoy them.

    And just as a matter of interest: This is supposed to be the best burger in the world: http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2009/01/the-little-owl-best-cheeseburger-west-village-nyc.html (according to the Guardian, anyway: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/sep/13/best-foods-in-the-world).

  15. Barbara

    I forgot you can’t say anything complimentary on a blog without arousing suspicion! No I don’t work in PR, I’m sure I’ve miss-quoted at least one of the ingredients and I’ll re-read it again, but I’m pretty sure the question is ‘what was your favourite burger, ‘
    So yes – there may have been some enthusiasm in there.
    2nd is the Tolarno bar burger, but best of all, any burger I ate in the states. Yellow cheese is the business.

  16. Frank Acariatre

    It’s unAustralian to use pickles(rightly called dill pickles as opposed to mustard pickles) in a hamburger and also to ignore beetroot.The American fast food people have adulterated good old Aussie taste. For a person with taste the fast food burger is generally mush. When Maccas first arrived on the scene 99% of people chucked away the pickles which were an uncommon taste.A classic case of cultural imperialism!

  17. Steve

    What I find remarkable is that the mainstream market has finally embraced the notion that one ‘breed’ of cattle is somehow more attractive than another, without presumably the understanding or knowledge of any discernable point of difference?

    This is surely due to being fed a diet of foodie media regurgitating ‘catchphrases’ & ’buzzwords’ which imply an informed position but don’t have any real understanding at all of the complexities of beef production-Wagyu for instance anyone? What does that actually mean to the consumer?

    To my understanding, Hereford beef are the most farmed beef cattle in this country with Angus a close second. I think latching onto a particular breed of cattle to verify then get leverage on its provenance is a cynical attempt to capture the zeitgeist of the times.

    Ask yourself this, Macca’s buyers: What breed of cattle did the beef come from before their marketing department ‘Think-Tanks’ were influenced by the bloggers & their commenter’s informed you of? The honest answer is: you probably never thought about it at all, it was just meat & that’s my point.

    Some shady people(advertising) have realized that by highlighting what is essentially the core ingredient of a ‘profit delivery device’ & latching onto the cause célèbre of the times have appeared to dodge, Matrix Style, bullets of scrutiny & somehow remodeled a fast food item into a seemingly artisinal offering.

    Wake the Fuck Up Everyone!

    A burger launch from these places can not ever be a reason to celebrate, no matter what the incentives, it is in fact a time to uncork that rare bottle, play you fave melancholic crooner, write your will, & leave one secure that you are about to leave a world that truly embraces the lowest common denominator

    A Danny’s, Kermond’s or an Andrews’s burger is always the maddingly insufferable do gooding resuscitator in these things culinary

  18. Foo

    Finally some truth in advertising. We always suspected it was lips and…well…soft tissue. Just so long as it is genuine Angus soft tissue then I suppose they can get away with it.

    Thanks for the laugh ED
    Foo

  19. Jack

    Firstly, does ‘Barbara’ do the PR for Lamaros? Sounds too much like an ad to me…

    I think burgers will be passe soon enough, I want real meat and to know what I am eating not just parts of a 1000 “Anus” (I seriously laughed out loud seeing that photo!) cows.

    I think Rockpool did mini -slider- versions of their burger for the Spring Carnival, I’d like the sound of those more than the bigger version so I don’t feel so guilty about not being able to stop eating the whole big one!
    Need to try the Plan B one next time in Syd.

    Thanks for taking a blow to the gut for the team Ed!

    Jack

  20. Lucy

    It’s definitely gotta be the burgers at the Alley Cat Bar in North Hobart. I’m not a massive burger eater, but I’ll gulp down one of their tasty creations any day….

  21. Mike

    I’m going to get on my high horse and proclaim the burgers I make at home to be my top burger. I grind the meat (yes, with fat!), but it’s not snobby meat. I use kosher pickles. I use lettuce and other vegetables (when available) freshly picked from the garden. I make sure the meat is cooked how I like and I’m free to “smash” it should the mood strike. I don’t make the bread, I’m lazy.

    But for bought burgers, I do like Grill’d but they’re far too big and you’re right, not enough fat but at least they’re not greasy. Plus they don’t ask how I want the meat cooked (fail).

    Recently visited the US, where they are the king of burgers. Didn’t have a bad burger there. Turkey burgers are the up-and-coming thing too. You heard it here first.

  22. Billy @cloudcontrol

    I was mightily unimpressed with the McDonald’s Angus (as you’ll hear on an earlier episode of my podcast: http://boysfornoise.com/?p=86), so I don’t think I’ll even try the Hungry Jack’s version.

    I think burgers (like pizza) exist in this gastro-space which is these days subject to something of a high-art/low-art discourse. Which is overthinking the issue, really, but suffice it to say I think there’s something to be said for nutritionally poor and simply constructed hamburgers. I’m not a huge burger fan, but my favourite in Melbourne would probably be from Danny’s, on St George’s Road in North Fitzroy. There’s not anything spectacular I can point out about it, but it’s super-satisfying, and lacks the pretension of these ‘gourmet’ burger joints.

  23. Jurgen

    The burger at the Toolshed (behind the Outpost) in Noojee is really bloody good. It’s massive, well-constructed, and a *steal* at $11.

    Closer to home, I like the Barney Burger at Barney Allen’s in St Kilda. Simple and tasty.

  24. Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella

    Ed you naughty boy, I saw the title and thought “What on earth am I going to read about?”. It’s never that appetising to read “anus” around burger meat- there’s enough rumour about what is in sausages and burgers already :P Good to see that you rate the Plan B burger!

  25. Barbara

    hi there,
    The Lamaro’s bar burger, hands down. Michael Lambie is behind it, so it’s already off to a good start, but its what happens from there that makes it amazing. For one, it’s not massive. Which is good cause you don’t feel so bad about the rest: Soft, wholemeal bap style bun. Delicious juicy, not too lean meat pattie. Mustard, beetroot relish, smeared on one side, the other side smeared with tomato relish, a kicking aioli, sandwiching caramelised onion, soft melted cheddar and a few token leaves of baby spinach, for the ladies. Thick golden, rosemary salt flecked chips to dunk in more of that Aioli and you’re pretty much in heaven.

  26. felixexplody

    I’m totally with you on the Plan B burger: great value for the quality, tasty, and the perfect size: big enough to satisfy, small enough to ease the guilt of consuming the deceptively big and tasty pattie with melty, melty cheese…*drools* Also, did I mention that it’s half a block away from where I work?

  27. Thermomixer

    What a Bummer !!! Would you like some btm wipes with that?

    Not really a burger commonsewer, but will keep my radar on for leads.

  28. Simon

    Thanks for taking another one “for the team” :)

    I presume the warm reception that you’re referring to have more to do with the fact that PR was involved than satisfaction for the burger itself. I presume you suffered no such handicap in your case.

    I take it that you rate the McDonald’s Angus varieties over the Hungry Jacks/Burger King one?