The Onion Burger: A Piece of Oklahoma in Sydney
23 April, 2020
The Oklahoma Onion Burger isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s a downright eyesore. If there existed a beauty pageant for vegetables, the humble onion wouldn’t be allowed on stage. However, when prepared correctly, as the main ingredient of the almost 100-year-old Oklahoma Onion Burger, the unassuming bulb compensates for its lack of show with a whole lot of go.
The Oklahoma Onion Burger was conceived in the mid-1920s in the town of El Reno, a thirty-minute drive from Oklahoma City. The burger was born out of the economic climate of the time, which also contributed to its first, less than inspiring name, the ‘Depression Burger’. Beef was at a premium but onions grew effortlessly. In order to make his limited beef supply stretch further, local burger restauranteur Ross King, began adding large quantities of thinly sliced onion to the minced beef as part of his ‘Depression Burgers’, which were sold to motorists passing along the much-famed Route 66.
'Purists vehemently assert that if the additional flavour of any condiment is required, it hasn’t been done right'
The process of preparing an Onion Burger is far from complex, but its edibility depends on getting certain things right. Beyond dispute is that the grill must be hot, very hot, and the onion sliced paper-thin. The beef is placed on the grill in the form of a ball of mince. The shredded onion is then placed atop the beef, and together they are smashed down onto the grill, with the onion lodging itself within the mince. A general consensus as to how much onion is required per burger is ‘a lot’, or for the more scientifically minded around half a standard onion's-worth. The patty is then flipped, so the onion directly contacts the hot plate. American cheese is placed atop the patty, followed by the top, and then bottom bun. The magic occurs as the beef and onion cook in tandem, in a mutually complimentary way. The onion gifts tenderising moisture to the beef, in return the fat from the meat softens the onion as it caramelises inside the patty. Furthermore, the vapour from the cooking onion serves to steam the bun and bestows it with its flavour tones. The burger is then compiled into its final form, with no further additions. Of note is one specific omission; when it comes to the Oklahoma Onion Burger, the use of sauce, of any kind, is borderline blasphemous. Purists vehemently assert that if the additional flavour of any condiment is required, it hasn’t been done right.
The Oklahoma Onion Burger, even in most states on America, is grossly under appreciated. Whilst Sydney burger fanatics will be hard-pressed to find one at their local haunt, there is one burger outlet serving them as a ‘secret special’. Wing Mill, which we listed as having the number one cheeseburger in Sydney (see here), will smash and sizzle a fine, off-menu, authentic, Oklahoma Onion Burger. All you need to do is ask politely.
Photography: Chew Crew Media @the_chew_crew
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