There are three great appeals to fast food — speedy service, low prices, and consistency — but we all know that in practice, things don't always go as planned. For one, a recent report suggests that fast food service is getting less friendly, which has a surprisingly direct impact on how quickly and accurately orders are completed. Additionally, research by MoneyGeek has revealed that the cost of a burger combo, the most ubiquitous menu item in the fast food world, can vary dramatically from city to city, with the most expensive metropolises charging more than double the prices of the cheapest region. https://52wooster.com It might seem surprising coming from multinational chains like McDonald's and Burger King, but Restaurant Business Magazine explains that individual franchise locations establish their menu prices based on a variety of local factors, the most significant being the cost of labor. If you buy a Big Mac in a state where the hourly wage is $14 or above, you can expect to pay roughly 26% more than customers in states that have the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The cost of real estate can also add to menu prices, and since many of the cities with the highest real estate costs also enforce a higher minimum wage, you end up with major price disparities by region. big lots survey The most expensive cities to live in also have the most expensive fast food, so the cities that charge the most for a burger, fries, and drink probably won't surprise you. https://biographyly.com MoneyGeek recently analyzed fast food prices in America's 50 largest cities and determined that San Francisco charges the most for a burger combo, with an average price of $15.30 to purchase a burger, fries, and a drink. As a whole, California is the last place you want to go for an affordable meal, as the Golden State is home to four out of the top 10 cities with the most expensive burger combos. Los Angeles holds the number two spot at $14.59 per combo, while Long Beach ranks in fourth place and Sacramento falls at number eight. New York City holds the third-place position, charging $14.22 for a combo. bj's survey These numbers largely reflect the overall cost of living in each city. According to a July 2022 report from the San Francisco Chronicle, the city by the bay is the most expensive place in the world for real estate developers. And Insider claimed that the median household income in San Francisco is 74% higher than the national average in 2019. Meanwhile, New York City ranks as the most expensive city for renters, according to Bloomberg. connexuscorp.com So, where can you find a cheap burger in this day and age? According to MoneyGeek's data, Tulsa, Oklahoma is the place to go for affordable fast food, averaging just $6.55 for a burger combo. dollar general survey Statistically, there's something special about hamburgers. As The Washington Post points out, while people in the United States have steadily consumed less and less beef between the mid-1970s and today, hamburgers have bucked that trend and only increased in popularity. dollar general survey In fact, NPD's receipt harvesting service, Checkout, found that over a 12-month period spanning 2018 and 2019, restaurant customers were almost twice as likely to order a burger than a chicken sandwich. So, it's not surprising that many at-home cooks would try their hand at creating a mouthwatering, restaurant-worthy burger from the comfort of their own kitchen. And, theoretically, this seems like a simple three-step process: grind the meat, shape the patties, and cook the patties. And yet, more often than not those home burgers never seem to achieve that savory dish found in many restaurants. gaylessandwichshopchicago.com The truth is, like so many foods, there's an alright way and a professional Iron Chef way to prepare a hamburger. Does that mean every restaurant makes hamburgers the exact same way? Of course not. But if you truly love a particular restaurant's burger, there's an excellent chance that the chefs there are using at least some of the tricks below to craft an especially delicious dish. Win $500 One of the reasons why it's so easy to cook hamburgers at home is because it's simple to find pre-shaped, ready-to-cook hamburger patties at the supermarket. But even though they're convenient, they might not yield restaurant-level burgers. dollar general survey As Ben Turley, the co-owner of The Meat Hook butcher shop, told GQ what you feed cattle makes a difference when it comes to your hamburger's flavor. Commodity beef comes from cattle that ate things like soy, sugars, and corn. Because of this, the meat has a sweeter flavor than cattle that ate grass. But even then there's something else a hamburger chef must keep in mind: Did the cattle eat grass all of its life? According to Verde Farms, grass-fed beef is from cattle that ate grass in the beginning but were then fed either supplemental grain feed or were given only grain. Grass-finished beef is from cattle that only ate grass. pizza ranch survey While opting for grass-fed or grass-finished beef can make all the difference in crafting a truly savory hamburger, Turley told GQ that even professional chefs might be getting commodity beef since it's the majority of meat on the market. With that said, working with professionals like farmers and butchers can ensure that a chef gets the most ideal beef for their hamburgers. kroger survey Some people are conscientious of their fat consumption, and, for others, it's not a big part of their thought process when choosing what to eat. With that said, if you love the flavor of a particular restaurant's hamburger, it's almost certain that they used a certain amount of fat in their burger's patty. kroger survey Hamburger authority George Motz is a documentary filmmaker who directed "Hamburger America" (via New York Times). He explained to the Times that the ideal amount of fat for a patty should be 20%, or you might wind up with a less juicy, drier burger. However, as Michael Symon, who in addition to hosting ABC's "The Chew" is also a proprietor of a small chain of hamburger restaurants, told the Times that around 30% fat can lead to issues like "shrinkage." He did say, however, that a patty can be 25% fat. laurenbeam.org Besides the fat, what cut of beef goes into a hamburger can vary from restaurant to restaurant. For example, some establishments use meat blends that can include short rib, strip steak, brisket, clod, and hanger, per New York Times. The Minetta Tavern in Manhattan has a Black Label blend that is in part made from dry-aged New York strip steak. However, Motz recommends using ground chuck steak for the ideal hamburger patty. lucillerobertsexpress.com Imagine this: Two friends love hamburgers. These meaty sandwiches are their go-to item when eating out. However, when each of them tries to describe their ideal hamburger, they describe two different sounding dishes. mcdonald's survey Now, let's set aside that everyone has different tastes regarding toppings and condiments. Just the burger itself can be vastly different, depending on the restaurant. As The New York Times reports, hamburgers from restaurants tend to be either smashed thin with crispy edges or plump, tender, and charred. So, depending on which version a restaurant wants to feature on its menu, the chef must carefully measure out the patty. For instance, the thinner burger like the kind found in diners usually comes from a patty that's weight is only 3-to-4 ounces while it's still raw. The thicker burger, which is often seen in pubs, is usually 7-to-8 ounces precooked. panda survey reddit But wait, aren't there "monster-size" burgers at some restaurants? Yes, but as Geoffrey Zakarian, the chef and owner of the National Bar and Dining Rooms in Manhattan, told The New York Times, "You want to get some heat to the inside of the burger. You don't want some giant, underdone meatloaf." For that reason, he warned that hamburgers weighing more than half a pound can be a bad idea. raphaelcycles.com Think about the last time that you ate something at a restaurant that had too much seasoning. Even if the results weren't spicy, you still probably experienced a combination of flavors that overwhelmed each other and the dish. However, when it comes to a hamburger, chefs understand that it's not only a question how what you season it with, but when during the patty-making process you add the seasoning. screenfury.com As culinary scientist Jessica Galvin explains on her website, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper can be an ideal seasoning pair for hamburgers. With that said, it's crucial to first form the patty and then add the seasoning to the outside of it rather than mixing the salt and pepper into the patty's meat, via Reader's Digest. Otherwise, the texture of the hamburger could be affected. "What you end up with is a very tightly compacted patty whose texture is similar to sausage," Test Kitchen expert James Schend told Reader's Digest. wendy's survey In addition, Galvin cautions on her website that adding the seasoning too soon to the outside of the patty could also make it more like a sausage texture-wise. She advises waiting until just before grilling to sprinkle the salt and pepper over both sides of the patty for the best results. tell culver's survey Many people associate cooking hamburgers with a barbecue grill. However, chances are if you love how a particular restaurant prepares their burgers, they're probably using a griddle or a flat-top grill. But that's not the only possible cooking tool that might be in a professional kitchen's burger-making tool kit. tell culver's survey The surface of a griddle can help give a restaurant's burger that mouthwatering charring. But, just as important, the griddle also allows the professional burger chef to prepare other elements of their burger masterpiece like sautéed onions and a nicely toasted burger bun. Of course, these are prepared on different areas of the griddle than the burger patty itself, but that's another big advantage — griddles can be utilized as a multi-cooking surface. And if you're a cheeseburger fan, the professional burger chef adds the cheese while it's still on the griddle. The trick is to put a little water on the griddle itself and then immediately cover the patty and cheese with a lid. This way the steam from the water perfectly melts the cheese over the patty. mazzio's survey While flat top grills and griddles are the choices of many restaurants, a cast iron pan is an invaluable burger-cooking kitchen tool used by culinary professionals. Bobby Flay said on The Today Show, "Cast iron has excellent heat diffusion and retention and produces evenly cooked burgers with a really great crust." taco bell survey You've probably met someone who claims that they can tell when a burger is done cooking by its appearance or its feel when they poke it. Now, there's no doubt that seasoned professionals develop a certain instinct for the foods they make, but if your favorite restaurant always cooks your burger to perfection, there's an excellent chance the chef is using a special thermometer. taco bell survey Meat thermometers can be valuable tools for cooking burgers. After all, the last thing anyone wants to do is serve undercooked meat, which, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) points out, can be dangerous. But after going through so much work crafting the perfect burger patty, a professional doesn't want to overcook it either. And, remember, there are several ways to prepare burgers, ranging from rare to well done. But by using a reliable meat thermometer, a chef can know for a fact what temperature their patty is and whether or not they need to cook it longer. taco bell survey One final caution about temperature: The USDA warns that a hamburger should have a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F to get rid of unsafe bacteria. However, only hamburgers that are well done fit this criterion. So, when you order hamburgers at a restaurant, you might want to keep this in mind. toddwolfson.org If you guessed that there's a method for achieving that perfectly flat, juicy, burger that's popular in many restaurants, you'd be correct. Mark Rosati, the culinary director of Shake Shack, explained that the trick is to use two spatulas to smash the burger patty. The first one should be a sturdy metal one that's pressed directly against each burger while the second one presses on top of the first one. virtual-rebel.com While that initial pressing is important, a chef doesn't repeatedly press down on a burger. In fact, that initial smash should happen within the first 30 seconds of cooking the burger patty. Why? Well, think for a moment about the last time you were at a barbecue where hamburgers were being served. Did you often hear sizzling sounds beyond just the normal noises foods make while they're being cooked? If you answered "yes," there's a good chance the person doing the cooking was pressing over and over again on the hamburgers, and in the process, pressing out their juices. This can lead to a less flavorful meal. But the single, immediate smash method can help lock in those juices. lowe's survey Although burger chefs don't repeatedly press hamburgers, they do flip them — but again, timing is everything. As Bobby Flay told The Today Show, "Do not even start flipping the burger until a crust has formed or the meat will fall apart, and you will lose that perfect round shape."