Food & Nutrition

Let’s go out for … burgers

Patty strategies for burger lovers.
Published April 28, 2016

It's a fixture in backyard barbecues, a staple of fast-food culture and even makes appearances on the menus of snooty French bistros. Why is the burger so ubiquitous? Because of its versatility and ease of preparation. A neighborhood diner can fry it up, slap it on a bun with mayo, pile it high with lettuce and tomato, and it will taste just as good as an intricately prepared, grilled Kobe burger on a baguette with Brie and truffles. It's just the Way of the Burger.

But with so many options in front of us, how can we sit down and properly order this American icon? Follow these simple steps.

Allot Yourself A Decent Amount Of Points® Values
A small cheeseburger on a bun with condiments and vegetables is going to run 11 Points at McDonald's and 31 Points at TGI Friday's. There are ways to dress up some of the healthier options to bring that number down considerably (substituting turkey for beef, for instance), but when you start knocking off Points values, you're also more likely to knock off flavor. And if we're going out instead of just whipping up a few patties at home, then losing the flavor kind of defeats the purpose.

Types of Burgers
(Remember to add 2 to 5 Points values to any numbers below to account for the bun.)

Chuck/beef: This is the classic All-American hamburger that we've all come to know and love. It's simply ground beef with anywhere from 20% fat and 10 Points value per 4 oz. cooked. 

Wagyu/Kobe: Fancier restaurants and bistros are beginning to make their burgers with Kobe beef. The cut, from Japanese cattle, offers better flavor because of the increased marbling but comes with a much higher price tag.

Bison/Buffalo: Leaner and healthier, the bison burger may need to be dressed up a bit, as the lack of fat in the cut can lessen the flavor. Still, a leaner cut of meat will end up being healthier for you (4 oz. of ground bison is about 4 Points). 

Ostrich: It's markedly harder to find an ostrich burger than a bison one, but when you do, your Tracker will thank you, as a quarter-pound of ostrich meat runs a Points value of just 4.

Turkey: A quarter-pound of ground turkey will run you a Points value of just 6, and it's both tastier and a little less weird to eat than the ostrich. If you opt for 4 oz. of 94% lean turkey, it's only 4 Points value. 

Veggie: Because veggie burgers are a ground-up mash of beans, olives, onions, peppers, grains, cheeses, and pretty much any other non-meat option the chef would like to throw in, ranges can vary from 1 to 10 Points value. 

How can I make it healthier?

  • Casting aside the bun and eating just the meat may save around 5 Points values.
  • Eating at a restaurant where the burgers are grilled and the fat is allowed to drip off will end up being healthier and tastier than at a diner or fast-food joint where the burgers are fried.
  • Watch your toppings: bacon, heavy cheese and pan-fried mushrooms all add more Points values than the staples of lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion. If you really want to shave Points, ditch the mayo and just stick with mustard.

How You Want it Cooked
On a scale from "bloody" to "burnt to a crisp," there are five general options you have when ordering a burger: rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well and well. Generally, "medium" will get you enough crispiness on the outside and pink on the inside to make that perfect complement, but it never hurts to ask the waiter to suggest a temperature, just in case the chef seasons the burgers in a way that would make one temperature better than the rest.

Order as much tomato, onion, pickle, and lettuce on your burger as you'd like; they're going to run you 0 Points value each.

Mustard is also a free pass, but ketchup will run you a Points value of 1 for a tablespoon, while mayonnaise can cost a Points value of 2 for 4 tablespoons of a fat-free option,  or for 2 teaspoons of regular.

A slice of American cheese is going to run you a Points value of 4, depending on the type used. Cheddar, blue, pepper jack, Brie and even feta cheese are all in the same neighborhood. Ask your waiter if there's a low-fat cheese option, or forgo the cheese altogether and dress up your burger with a little barbecue sauce (about 2 Points value for 2 tablespoons) instead.

"Fries or a salad?"
A small serving is about 9 Points. Opt instead for a salad, baked potato with salt and butter, or maybe some kind of vegetable offering. The Points values you save on your side dish could buy you some cheese or bacon (3-5 Points values) on the main attraction. And the burger is the reason you're out anyway.

Burger and a beer
Having two light beers (about 8 Points values total) as opposed to two regular beers (about 10 Points values total) just bought you a few Points values you'd need to add some cheddar cheese on top of the burger.

Burgers in pop culture

  • Burgertime: This 1982 video-game classic features a frenzied Peter Pepper being chased by Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Pickle and Mr. Egg as he runs over toppings to make burgers.
  • Ronald McDonald: First appearing in commercials in 1963 (played by now-famous weatherman Willard Scott), Ronald, just like the burgers he hawks, has more than one story of origin. Both Scott and a man named George Voorhis claim to have invented the icon.
  • Cheeseburger in Paradise: the 1978 Jimmy Buffett hit made its way to #32 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • Burgermeister Meisterburger: The mayor of Sombertown in the Claymation classic Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, Meisterburger outlawed all toys and inadvertently spawned the creation of several Christmas traditions.