The Ultimate Rule For Saucing Hamburgers

With summer right around the corner, the mind wanders away from winter's stews and hearty braises, venturing out to the grill. Where once visions of sugar plums once danced in our heads, they're quickly replaced with bratwurst, charred zucchini, smoked chicken thighs, and glorious burgers. While a burger is probably not the pinnacle of the grilling arts, it may just be the most popular, at least among the grill master set. 

Why? It seems burger making is just the right level of difficulty for many people. It involves skill to some degree, whereas hot dogs and sausages slide right out of the package and onto the grill, but there is still a very low barrier to entry with a hamburger. You might only be rolling together some raw ground beef. 

Though you can likely learn to do more, nothing is inherently wrong with a super simple all-beef patty, and it gives everyone a starting point. Plus even the simplest of burgers can be customized and improved with a number of veggies or condiments. One of the easier ways to elevate a good burger is to add a sauce, but the application is almost as important as picking out the right flavor profile.

Where does the sauce go?

Shake Shack culinary director Mark Rosati opened up to Food & Wine about the rules he follows to ensure that his burgers are always a hit. When it comes to sauce, Rosati understands that there are a lot of different ways to go and not all sauces are created equal. Thus, he applies different standards to their application. 

If a sauce is creamy or loose like mayo sauces, and ketchup, he puts it on the bun. The reason is that those sauces don't need extra exposure to heat which would render them too runny. But "jammy" sauces — think bacon jam — should go right on the patty. There, the heat from the burger can melt the sauce a bit and awaken the flavors, much like what happens to a slice of runny American cheese.

If you're looking for more ways to sauce up your burgers this summer, we've got you covered. Maybe you like a tart bite to cut through the flame-grilled richness. Then Shake Shack's signature sauce delivers a briny bite that satisfies. Sticking to the theme of brightness, Rachael Ray's go-to burger sauce flips the script and uses sour cream or yogurt in place of mayonnaise. But, no matter how you sauce, just make sure you follow Rosati's simple rule for hamburger heaven.