While some people don’t care about the lettuce in a burger, it is undeniable that it adds additional texture, color, and flavor to it. Additionally, lettuce leaves serve a particular purpose in a burger.
But what is the best lettuce to use in a burger? Iceberg lettuce is the best variety to use in a burger. It adds a lot of crunchiness and is sturdy enough to protect the bun from getting soggy. The taste of iceberg lettuce is mild enough to not interfere with the overall taste of the burger.
Continue reading to learn why iceberg lettuce makes the best lettuce for burgers and how to prep and use it for the best result.
What Makes Lettuce Good For A Burger
Some people prefer their burgers without any lettuce. Or better say, they don’t care about lettuce in a burger. They think that the ‘healthy’ leaf gets in the way of the high-calorie enjoyment burgers usually provide.
Many others, however, find that a leaf of fresh lettuce adds some texture and taste to the dish. You can put many kinds of greens in your burger.
But how to choose one if you don’t have a favorite or have just decided to add the green layer to your best-loved burger recipe?
Generally speaking, there isn’t much in a burger that has a crunch to it. This is why adding some crispiness to it is always nice.
While this is a matter of preference, it is good for the lettuce leaf to add some crunchiness to the burger.
The texture contrast between the crispy fresh lettuce and the soft bun, patty, and other ingredients takes the burger to the next level.
Lettuce has a range of varieties. While many of them have a mild neutral flavor, others can be slightly bitter and even spicy.
Radicchio, on the other hand, has a spicy kick to it. You can use it if you are not afraid to add an extra layer of spicy flavor to your burger.
Heat and some varieties of lettuce don’t go well together.
If you pick the wrong kind, the hot patty will instantly destroy your layer of freshness. Instead of getting the crisp, you will end up with a wilted leaf that will only bother you.
Iceberg Lettuce: The Best Lettuce for Burgers
Iceberg lettuce, also known as crisphead lettuce, is one of the most used varieties in burgers.
It is the crunchiest lettuce you can put in a burger. Aside from the great texture contrast it creates, cool leaves of iceberg lettuce also create a temperature contrast.
As far as the taste goes, iceberg lettuce has a mild sweet taste which works perfectly for any burger.
Iceberg lettuce, as opposed to some other varieties, is not the best option as far as nutrition goes. Romaine lettuce, for example, is much healthier than iceberg.
However, when you are eating a burger, it is not the nutritional value that counts.
With this being said, iceberg lettuce does contain certain vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
The only downside of iceberg lettuce is that has very high water content. However, pat drying the leaves before putting them in your burger will solve the problem.
How to Pick Iceberg Lettuce
If you are planning on using iceberg lettuce in your burger to add the extra crunch, you should know how to pick a good head of lettuce.
Buy a Fresh Head of Iceberg Lettuce
Instead of buying a bag of pre-washed iceberg lettuce leaves, buy a fresh head of lettuce.
It may take you some time to separate, wash and store the leaves. However, lettuce leaves that are attached to the core are juicier and taste much better than the ones preserved in a plastic bag.
Choose Medium Green Leafs
When picking hard-headed iceberg lettuce, pay attention to the color of the leaves.
Outer leaves should have a medium-green color with white around the core area. Don’t pick iceberg lettuce that has deep-green or pale yellow leaves.
However, do keep in mind that the closer the leaves get to the center the paler they are. Inner leaves of iceberg lettuce may be yellow or white.
No Brown Spots and Damaged Leaves
Make sure there are no brown spots on the head. Mushy ribs and leaves with brown edges indicate that the lettuce is going bad.
A few of the outer leaves may be damaged. You can remove them while washing the lettuce.
Pick the Heavy Ones
When looking for a good head of iceberg lettuce, try to pick the heavy ones.
They are generally sold per head and not weight. The heavier the head is the more and the juicier the leaves are.
Look at the Shape
Head lettuce varieties, including iceberg lettuce, should have symmetric shape.
Additionally, you need to look for a lettuce head where the leaves are tightly compact. Iceberg lettuce is not a looseleaf variety. Thus, you shouldn’t buy it if the lettuce head doesn’t seem to have the conventional shape and form.
How to Prepare Iceberg Lettuce for Burgers
If you are not going to shred the lettuce, it is important for you to know how to separate the leaves to leave them undamaged.
Here’s how you need to prepare iceberg lettuce leaves to put in a burger or store in the fridge for later use.
- Pound the core of iceberg lettuce on the kitchen counter or cutting board.
- Make a cut around the core and twist it out.
- Take out any brown bits and damaged leaves.
- Hold the head of iceberg lettuce under the running water to clean and separate the leaves.
- Put the lettuce head in a salad spinner.
- After running the water through the leaves and spinning it in a salad spinner, the leaves are somewhat separated. Gently separate the leaves one by one trying not to tear them.
- Place the leaves on a paper towel to dry.
- Place a few layers of paper towel in a sealable plastic bag.
- Put the leaves in the bag trying not to smash them.
- Seal the bag leaving some air inside and put the leaves in the fridge.
If prepped in the right way, iceberg lettuce leaves will last you up to 8 days in the fridge. So, you can have them at hand whenever you decide to make yourself a burger.
Iceberg Lettuce in a Burger: Where to Put It
There have been many debates about where the lettuce leave goes in a burger.
We recommend you put the lettuce before you put the patty and the slice of tomato. The lettuce leaf will serve as a barrier between the meat and the juicy tomato. It will prevent the bun from soaking the juices and becoming soggy.
Shredded or Not?
There is not the right way of putting the lettuce leaf in a burger. Some people like it shredded, others like the look and feel of the whole leaf placed in a burger.
If you decide to put the iceberg lettuce leaf in your burger as is, follow a few simple rules.
- Dry the leaf really well before you put it in your burger.
- People who prefer shredded lettuce over a leaf in a burger make a point that the leaf always slips around. To prevent it, don’t put lettuce on a bare bun. Add some sauce or mayonnaise before you place the iceberg lettuce leaf.
- Use the inner leaves for the perfectly-sized green for your burger.
- If the leaf is slightly bigger than the bun, break and snap the leaf and ‘manipulate’ it so that it sits well on the bun forming the same round shape.
Shredded iceberg lettuce works just as well for burgers. In fact, many people like it shredded as it adds more texture to the burger.
Shredded lettuce may be slightly messy. However, it does protect the bun from soaking the oil from the patty and liquid from tomatoes or a sauce.
Other Options: Green Leaf, Butterhead, and Romaine Lettuce
If you want to make a textbook burger with the perfect frilly edges poking through, then green leaf lettuce is your best bet. It has a mild flavor that will go well with all ingredients.
Butterhead lettuce, also known as Bibb or Boston lettuce, is another widely used variety in burgers. The leaves are shaped just right for the burger. The taste is mild with a slight sweetness that will only enhance the flavors of other ingredients in the burger.
Romaine lettuce is the healthiest choice. This lettuce variety has a high nutritional value and might be a favorite for those who want to get their vitamins and minerals even when eating a burger. Romaine lettuce will also add some crunch to the burger.