July 26, 2011 at 10:25 AM ET
Like all great food ideas, Bryan Flannery’s began with a love of bacon.
Flannery, also known as “the burger whisperer,” had a passion for bacon burgers, but wished there were an easier way to get one on the grill. “Being a guy, I tried to come up with a way to simplify the process and have one less pan to wash,” he said.
So he cranked up his grinder, adding raw bacon to prime chuck to fully blend the two equally awesome ingredients. What came out was less than appetizing, but this Frankenstein approach to the challenge inspired Flannery to think beyond traditional ground beef – to a new world of fats-and-flavors combinations.
It was then that the Burger Builder, capable of mixing 25 different ingredients, was born. The online service – which enables foodies to order custom meat blends over the Web – separates tasty ingredients into three tiers: Basics (ground meat), secondary meats (additions that wouldn't hold up if ground solely, like pork shoulder), and fat blends (which Flannery refers to as “flavor bombs”).
The secret to a tasty blend? Fat, Flannery says; it controls roughly 80 percent of the moisture and flavor of a burger. For instance, suet is extremely dry anddelivers a buttery smooth texture, whereas brisket and Wagyu fat are very moist.
“I like to advise customers to do is pick a fat and work backwards from there,” Flannery explains, adding: “A dry fat will allow addition of more moist or fattier cuts as other parts of the blend without getting the end product overpowering.”
The Burger Blender isn’t just a ticket to hedonistic, carnivorous anarchy, mind you. There are rules: A burger must be made of at least 50 percent basics (the first tier), and no more than 25 percent fat blends (the third tier). That means you cannot order an entire burger made of apple wood bacon (no matter how yummy that sounds). Those guidelines restrict the maximum fat content possible to about 30 percent, and as well as limiting the number of truly wacky requests.
For instance: “One customer wanted a blend of 50 percent Wagyu short ribs and 50 percent brisket fat,” recalled Flannery. “I had to turn that one down; it would have violated the Geneva Burger Convention.”
As for upcoming ingredient additions, Flannery has his eyes on the prize: Marrow. “We've had a couple customers beta-test it for us, and we're still trying to determine the right amount for the marrow blend in order to keep total fat content within a safe range, “ he said. “Once people get their feet wet, they realize how much fun it is to create their own proprietary blend.”
You can custom-order – and ship – your own meaty combo by visiting The Burger Builder.