How we tested
When it comes to hamburgers, the patty tends to hog all the glory—but we think a great burger deserves an equally great bun. To find the best, we asked 21 America’s Test Kitchen staffers to taste four top-selling products plain and with hamburgers. What separates a good bun from a great bun? First, subtle flavor that doesn’t overpower the patty. Burgers generally have a hearty dose of salt, so tasters preferred buns with minimal sodium and a dash of sweetness.
We preferred slightly wider buns with at least a 3.5-inch diameter, which comfortably accommodated moderately sized patties. One lower-ranked product was only 3.35 inches wide and our 4-ounce burgers hung awkwardly off its sides. What’s more, buns with bottoms that were less than 1/2 inch thick turned soggy under the weight of the burger.
But the key component was texture. Though every product was tender, one product took the crown for being the fluffiest and moistest of the bunch. Its secret? While traditional hamburger buns use water to hydrate the dough, the manufacturer of our winning buns replaces the water with potato flakes, milk, and butter (essentially mashed potatoes). Potatoes are rich in starches that prevent tough, chewy proteins from forming in the bun. The result? A bun with a delicate crumb that is moist but still extremely fluffy.
Though the second-most-popular hamburger bun brand in the country, our winner is found primarily on supermarket shelves in the eastern United States. Fortunately, these buns can be ordered online and stored in the freezer. Our tasters noticed no measurable difference in flavor or texture between a bun that was thawed and one that was fresh, but if you’d rather buy from the store and can’t find our winner, our runner up is a good backup choice.