Despite being a self-professed Gourmet Pommie Steve Flood is a big fan of his adopted homeland. 

The aspiring chef’s food philosophy is thoroughly suffused with Australian food culture, particularly the availability of fresh, world-class seafood. 

But there’s one element of Aussie cuisine Steve just cannot abide: the hamburger with the lot. He’s not having it. “The traditional Aussie burger would have God knows what in it. Beetroot? Pineapple?” he says, sceptically. 

“The pineapple, I’ve never understood it. I won’t even eat it on pizza. Save the fruity flavours for your Fuze Tea. And it’s genuinely quite difficult to eat a burger with so many different things in it. A slippery piece of beetroot could ruin that shirt, and the egg-yolk’s got to go somewhere.”

Will and Steve
Will and Steve of the Gourmet Pommies at the Fuze Tea product launch.

What Steve values most in a burger is the quality of the produce. 
“I think all chefs are coming back to more simple kinds of cooking these days, trying to stay true to ingredients and their flavour without being overwhelmed by lots of different things around it,” he explains. “It’s more now about the produce than the actual protein.”

That said, Steve’s in no way a burger fundamentalist, and he’s more than willing to stray into some controversial territory with his order (fried chicken, for instance, he’s OK with, whereas brioche buns are a no-go). 

With that in mind, here’s the Gourmet Pommie’s thoughts on the perfect burger.

The meat

The most important element of the hamburger is, of course, the patty. Despite the deceptive naming convention, the burger is strictly made from beef, and increasingly high-grade beef at that. “The type of beef being used now is top-quality,” Steve says. 

“There’s wagyu burgers, there’s brisket, there’s all kinds of different cuts being used. I’ve experienced a lot of steak sandwiches over here that are incredible. I don’t think anyone can justify poor-quality meat given the increased focus on what we put into our bodies.”

Health concerns aside, however, lean beef really doesn’t do the trick. “A burger does need a certain amount of fat in it in order to stay moist,” Steve says.

In his opinion, the beef patty needs to be cooked over an extremely high heat, ensuring the meat is caramelised on the outside and a tender, medium-rare pink within. 

“It’s not that easy to do, because often the patties are reasonably thin, so you need a top quality grill or broiler,” Steve says. “It almost burns it, but if you take it off quick enough, you get the caramelisation without the bitterness.”

The most important element
The most important element of the hamburger is, of course, the patty.

While other burger pros prefer to bind their patties by adding salt or throwing the mince before cooking it, Steve’s a fan of the home-style binding agent. “I would use an egg yolk as well as a spoonful of dijon mustard – it tends to bring out the meatiness,” he advises. 

Steve reckons the veggie burger doesn’t normally cut the proverbial mustard. He doesn’t have a problem with the taste of veggie patty, it’s more on the grounds of texture that he’s objecting. 

“I had a sweet potato burger recently, but when you really think about it, soft on soft doesn’t work,” he opines. “I think cooking these days is all about getting these layers of texture, and a veggie patty, it’s just a little bit mushy.”

Meanwhile, he’s all about the chicken burger. “I’m a massive fried chicken fan. I make no excuses for it. The crunchier the better,” he says. 

“If you’re using good chicken soak it in buttermilk to break it down before you begin, you can’t really beat it.”

The bun

Despite the seemingly unstoppable rise of the brioche bun, Steve’s just not buying it. 

“I avoid the brioche – it’s just a bit too sweet, and as soon as it gets a bit greasy it doesn’t have much staying power,” he says. “I like to keep the bun quite neutral, and I think adding the brioche bun gives you this massive hit of sweetness that knocks it off balance.”

Brioche bun - unstoppable?
Despite the seemingly unstoppable rise of the brioche bun, Steve’s just not buying it.

Instead, in his forthcoming cookbook, Steve suggests using a traditional Turkish bread bun. “It’s aerated, but as soon as you char it on a barbecue or grill plate, you’ve got those nice bar marks, and they add a little bit more flavour to it,” he says. 

The bun is the exception that proves the rule that homemade is always better. Steve believes you just aren’t going to make one as well as a baker. “People study for years to perfect the art of making bread,” he says. 

“If you really want to make good bread, you’ve got to make a starter and leave it for two weeks. It’s kind of unachievable considering you’re only going to be making four bread rolls. 

It’s a lot of effort for not a lot of return. Sometimes, if you can’t beat it, there’s no reason not to go out and buy it.”

If you’re not into the Turkish bun, Steve suggests going with a wholemeal or sourdough roll, rather than the super-light white roll or brioche. “It’s more filling, and it has that crunch on the outside,” he says. 

The sauce

Steve believes it’s hard to overdo the sauce. His preferred method involves ketchup and mustard spread on one side of the bun and aioli (rather than mayonnaise) on the other. “I don’t think that’s overkill,” he says. 

His reason for favouring aioli over mayonnaise comes down to sweetness and freshness. “I’d always go for an aioli rather than a mayonnaise on a burger,” he says. “I think it has that extra sweetness, especially the one we make. You can add some dried spices to it, or jalepeno chillies. There’s so much you can do with a really simple basic aoli to jazz it up in a couple of seconds. It gives it a really good kick.”

Aioli vs mayonnaise
“I’d always go for an aioli rather than a mayonnaise on a burger,”Steve says. “I think it has that extra sweetness”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s a fan of hot English mustard. “I like English mustard, the really hot stuff, but in extreme moderation,” he says. “You get too much and it blows you away.”

Homemade tomato sauce would be Steve’s preference, though its expense makes it harder to justify next to a bottle of commercially available ketchup. 

“The problem with making your own ketchup is that it’s very expensive,” he says. “I’ve costed it, and making a litre at home would be about $30, but you can buy it for $5 from the supermarket. But then you have to look at the health aspect – there’s so much sugar in ketchup.”

The cheese

Steve isn’t overly picky over cheese selection, as long as it melts properly. “You don’t want to bite into a burger and have a thick bit of cheese that’s not melted,” he says. “You need to deal with that during the cooking stage – you have to get that cheese on the patty while it’s still on the grill.”

The pickle

Though it might be the most divisive ingredient, Steve believes the pickle is essential to a good burger. 

“Everything is about the balance of salt, sweet and sour. I think pickles bring the sourness,” he says. “When you bite into it, you get this hit of acid that bites through the fat of the burger or mayonnaise. It brings a bit more balance.”

The humble pickle
Though it might be the most divisive ingredient, Steve believes the pickle is essential to a good burger.

You don’t have to go with the standard-issue gherkin, however. Steve advises on making your own pickle relish. “You can get any sort of pickles in there,” he suggests. “Celery, radish, carrot. It no longer needs to be a gherkin or a baby cucumber or a cornichon.”

The extras

“Different days you want different things,” Steve admits. “But putting bacon into anything, for me, makes it better.”

It’s hard to disagree. Steve also believes that some good-quality caramelised onions make your average burger better. 

“If you want to take it a little bit further, I think the onions are very important for a traditional burger,” he says. “I’d definitely like to see caramelised onions in there. 

He suggests slicing onions into thick discs then baking them in the oven for half an hour with a little bit of butter and balsamic vinegar, where they’ll cook down beautifully and fit neatly on the top of the burger. 

“I think the onions need a bit of attention rather than throwing them on raw, because they can be a little bit harsh,” he says. 

Controversial? Perhaps. But he’s not a Gourmet Pommie for nothing. 

The Gourmet Pommies are ambassadors for the new Fuze Tea range.