Most seem to agree on two things: The cheese goes directly next to the patty to maximize melting potential, and sauce should be spread on the bun, ideally on both the top and bottom bun halves. (If you have two condiments, you can do one on each.)
Schools of thought begin to diverge after that—and deciding which one to subscribe to depends on your own priorities. If you’re mainly trying to avoid a mess of juices spilling out from the patty and soaking your bottom bun, The Sporkful podcast host Dan Pashman recommends putting the cheese right below the patty. This, he told The Takeout, helps by “creating a seal” to contain the juices. Toasting your bun can also prevent it from disintegrating so easily. Fred Trussel, head chef at UK burger joint Patty & Bun, advises placing the lettuce beneath the patty to collect the juices.
Gordon Ramsey also prefers his lettuce beneath the patty, but with a slice of tomato between the two. If your primary concern is keeping your fixings from falling out, however, you might not want to follow his example. As The Kitchn explains, putting the tomato on top of the melted cheese (which is above the patty, in this scenario) will lock it in place; and a nice large lettuce leaf draped over it “acts like a blanket” to further mitigate slippage. Having a layer between lettuce and patty will keep the lettuce from wilting quickly, too.
Other toppings like onions and pickles are generally stacked above the patty. That said, The Kitchn believes pickles should go underneath the patty so their acetic flavor doesn’t detract from the tomato’s milder one. On the subject of flavor, placing all your toppings above the patty means your taste buds will encounter the meat right away. If you, like Pashman, consider the patty the “star” of the whole show, it makes sense to position the less important performers higher up the stack.
If you have the resources and curiosity to experiment with all the different stacking methods, go for it. And if you’d rather just see the results of someone else’s taste test, you can watch The Food Theorists conduct one in the video below.
[h/t The Kitchn]