Local Chefs Chime in on What Makes the Perfect Patty

National Cheeseburger Day is one of Rodney Blackwell’s favorite holidays.

He has earned his name as a burger connoisseur for being the founder of Burgerjunkies.com, a blog dedicated to reviewing burgers around the nation.

Blackwell has visited over a dozen cities around the United States and has tasted, photographed, and reviewed every burger he ate along the way, from fast food chains to local mom-and-pop restaurants. Having an eye for good burgers, Blackwell knows the necessities—not just for a good burger, but for a great one.

“It starts with a good foundation. A perfect brioche bun. Use quality meat and some good cheese and you’re pretty much done. Everything else is icing on the burger cake,” Blackwell says. “Things like pickled red onions, bacon and a fried egg usually make me smile a little extra.”

Blackwell is ready to hold the second Sacramento Burger Battle at Raley Field on Sept. 18, 2013 putting a fierce competition behind a classic American meal.  

Burger Battle features all the burger samples you can eat, desserts, beer from local breweries and live music. And don’t worry about the calories; it’s all for a good cause. All proceeds from the event will be donated to Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

“At the burger battle, you can do a side-by-side comparison, talk it over with your friends (who doesn’t love a good burger debate) and then cast your vote for your favorite,” explains Blackwell.

The cook-off event will feature chefs from 15 local restaurants who will fight head-to-head to grill up the best tasting burger in town. Those restaurants include Bacon and Butter, de Vere’s, Broderick, Willies, Relish Burger Bar, Formoli’s Bistro, Hawks Restaurant, The Chef’s Table, Krush Burger, Ettore’s, Ten22, The Eatery, Papa Dale’s Drivin’ Diner, Roxy and Capitol Garage. The highly coveted championship belt will be awarded by an esteemed panel of judges, but the “People’s Choice” category will be up to Burger Battle attendees to decide.

“That’s the coolest thing about this event: you have a bunch of chefs that are trying to make something simple at a really high level. Every burger is going to be good at a minimum and most are great,” says Jess Milbourn, competing burger chef from The Eatery.

But how is it even possible to rate different cheese-burgers? What would make a burger better than all the rest?

Submerge caught up with a few of the competing Burger Battle chefs to find out how the best burger is made. While most chefs agreed on quality meat and freshly baked buns, they all had different opinions on special toppings, such as the addition of bacon, butter or aioli. We asked them for tips on how to make the best burger, the ingredients that go above and beyond a typical burger and what burger they would personally prefer to order.


Keith Breedlove
Papa Dale’s Drivin’ Diner and Papa Dale’s Starlite Diner

Tips on how to make the best burger?
Use quality ingredients that have a great flavor of their own. Meat that has rich flavor, enough fat to keep it moist and good bread.

What are the special ingredients that make a burger go above and beyond the typical burger?
Flavorful sauce.

What is your favorite burger to order?
Bacon and blue cheese burger.

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Raphael Kendall
Capitol Garage

Tips on how to make the best burger?
Keep it simple and let the burger stand out. Season the meat and pair with toppings that accent the seasoned burger.

What are the special ingredients that make a burger go above and beyond the typical burger?
Bacon and cheese are the most popular added special ingredients, but if you make a nice aioli, you can really bring it together.

What is your favorite burger to order?
Veggie burger. I am a vegan!


Davin Vculek
Krush Burger

Tips on how to make the best burger?
Use fresh, high-quality ingredients, season and sear the patty well during cooking, don’t over-complicate your toppings as this will take away from your great burger base (beef and bun).

What are the special ingredients that make a burger go above and beyond the typical burger?
Fresh, never-frozen ground beef and freshly baked buns are absolute necessities to a great burger.

What is your favorite burger to order?
I most often order a regular cheeseburger. I’m a pretty simple guy when it comes to burgers.


Jay Veregge

Tips on how to make the best burger?
Good beef, fresh ground, add butter!

What are the special ingredients that make a burger go above and beyond the typical burger?
The sauce and onions.


Pedro Depina

Tips on how to make the best burger?
Home made bun. Find the best ground meat possible, wood smoked.

What are the special ingredients that make a burger go above and beyond the typical burger?
Bacon. Making a bacon and cheddar cheese in the bun for the competition. We went with that bun last year and I think we are going to do it again.

What is your favorite burger to order?
I had a burger at the Goose and Gander in Napa with bone marrow, and it was really good. It has bone marrow in it, and it was delicious.


Jess Milbourn
The Eatery

Tips on how to make the best burger?
High heat, use a griddle to get a really nice “crust” on the burger. After cooking, let the meat rest. A really great burger gets cooked like a steak. This lets the juices set up in the meat and keeps all the yumminess in the burger and not dripping all over your hands and plate. Salt and pepper, season and let the salt absorb into meat before cooking.

?What are the special ingredients that make a burger go above and beyond the typical burger??
Great bun and fresh, quality meat. There are an infinite amount of sauces, produce, garnish, cheeses, etc., but if you don’t have a great bun and burger everything else just gets lost.


Q&A with Rodney Blackwell founder of Sacramento Burger Battle and Burgerjunkies.com

How did you get started reviewing burgers?
I got started reviewing burgers mainly as a way of documenting all the great burgers I’ve been eating and taking pictures of. I had the idea for a burger review site years ago, but didn’t actually launch it until I started getting more into food photography. As I started sharing more photos on social media and getting feedback, I thought it’d be a good idea to start putting some words with the pictures.

You have eaten many burgers in your day, but where do you order your favorite burger?
I get asked the “favorite burger” question a lot, and it’s such a challenging one to answer since everyone has different burger tastes. I usually ask the person asking what their favorite burger is and try to suggest my favorite burger in that “category.” A few of my favorites in Sacramento include the burgers at Bacon and Butter, de Vere’s, Golden Bear and a recent favorite is the 50/50 (50 percent bacon/50 percent beef) burger at 58 Degrees and Holding.

Being a burger expert, how do you order your burgers? Rare, medium or well done?
Burger confession here. Probably about 10 years ago, I thought well done or medium well was how beef was supposed to be cooked. After a few funny looks at nice restaurants, I finally learned that you basically lose all the actual beef flavor when beef is cooked that much. Once I had my first medium rare steak at a decent steakhouse, I was hooked. Now all my burgers are ordered medium-rare if I have a say in it.

For burger reviews, you don’t just stick to Sacramento. How many cities have you traveled to and eaten a burger?
Probably more than a dozen. Whenever I travel I do my burger research beforehand to find the best burgers in the city I’m traveling to. I’ve had notable burgers in Santa Ana, Las Vegas, Orlando, New Orleans, Ft. Worth, San Francisco, Portland, etc.

Is it hard to compare a fast food burger with a restaurant burger, even with your Burger Junkies rating?
When I review burgers, I put them in categories like “Fast Food Burger,” “Restaurant Burger,” “Fancy Burger” and “Burger Joint Burger,” which helps to keep the comparables more relevant. I think my Burger Junkies rating scale helps to keep it as scientific as possible.

Raley Field in West Sacramento will host this year’s Sacramento Burger Battle on Sept. 18, 2013. The charity cook-off will satisfy your palate, but will also make you feel like a better person because all your gluttony will be for a great cause. Tickets can be purchased through Sacburgerbattle.com. Please note, this is a 21-and-over event. For more info on the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, go to CCFA.org.