Grilled: Adam Kuban, Founder of AHT
"Grilled" is our series of Q&As of burger-related people. It's been a while since we've done one, but with all the new people reading the site (or so we hope), we think it's time to introduce you to all our contributors, starting with AHT's founder, Adam Kuban (who's also the founder of our pizza blog, Slice).
How has writing for AHT changed your burger-eating habits? How often do you eat burgers now compared to before? When I first started AHT, I ate far more burgers than I do now. I was six years younger, 25 pounds lighter, and had lower cholesterol numbers. I probably ate at least a couple burgers a week.
Now that I'm married and have my wife (and doctor) on my case, I only eat about one burger a month—for the AHT NYC burger review slot that I rotate into once a month.
But more than that, I'm ultra picky about burgers now. Say with pizza, I truly believe that even bad pizza is good on some fundamental level. But with burgers, there's too much to go wrong. There's nothing redeeming about a bad burger. So I'm more cautious about where I venture for burgers these days.
The hamburger is a food item with which most Americans have strong childhood associations. Do you remember your earliest burger encounter? Probably McDonald's, sad but true. I'd imagine that's a lot of folks' earliest burger memory. Oh, and White Castle. I LOVE White Castle and other sliders, because the only time I used to get them was on road trips. Sliders hold a very special place in my heart and in fact are the reason I started AHT—I originally wanted to do a whole site about tiny hamburgers, but I expanded the scope to all burgers.
When did you realize you loved burgers? From as early as I remember, but I specifically remember pursuing the perfectly cooked burger during my sophomore year in college. That's when I really started thinking about what made a great burger—the doneness, the beef-bun balance, topping considerations, etc.
Cheese: American, cheddar, other? God bless American.
Ketchup or mustard? I used to be ketchup but switched to mustard in the last couple of years. Yellow mustard. Ideally, though, a burger should need no other addition than cheese—and the BEST don't even need that.
Preferred bun? White, lightly toasted and buttered. I like sesame seeds, but my favorite Martin's potato rolls don't come with sesame. Come to think of it, I wonder if I could add them.
Grilled, griddled, broiled, or other? Griddled. See my rant about smashed burgers.
How do you like your burgers done? Medium-rare. I like 'em juicy but don't like the too-mushy texture of rare.
Would you do us the favor of describing your perfect burger? Griddled smashed burger, a single or double 4-ounce patty on a pillowy white soft-ass bun. Lightly toasted and buttered. Two slices of American cheese, above and below, perfectly melted. Thinly sliced raw onions and pickles. Maybe some mustard.
What's your favorite fast-food burger? White Castle double cheeseburger.
What topping or condiment should never grace a burger? Avocado. Hate the texture.
What's the best burger you've eaten this year? Astor Bake Shop's.
What's the most unusual burger you've ever eaten? The Fatty Melt.
What's the most overrated burger you've tried? Most underrated? Overrated: The Corner Bistro in NYC. Underrated: Zaitzeff
Imagine that for some crazy reason, you're going vegetarian. Where do you go for your final burger? Shake Shack. Double cheeseburger. Yes.