The Controversial Etiquette For Eating A Burger At A Fancy Restaurant

It takes a lot of courage for someone across the pond to tell an American how to eat a hamburger. Since they were introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, burgers have been a hand-held, iconic American food staple for over a century — and the backbone of the globally enjoyed American-style fast food franchises like McDonald's and White Castle since the 1940s.

The U.S. consumes roughly 50 billion burgers annually (per History), arguably making us burger-eating experts. While the 'ideal' way to hold a burger has been previously debated, a new controversy is brewing for the Brit who suggested burgers should be de-bunned and cut with a fork and knife.

In a recent post on Instagram, British etiquette coach and author William Hanson demonstrated what he considers "proper etiquette" when eating a burger at a fancy restaurant. With a thick all-American cheeseburger in front of him, Hanson remarks, "Unless you are in the circus, nobody can fit anything this big in their mouth," and proceeds to deconstruct the burger by removing the top bun and cheese, avoiding the lettuce and tomato, cutting a daintier bite-sized piece.

If you've enjoyed a grilled burger in the backyard while holding a cold beverage in the other, it shouldn't surprise you that viewers had strong opinions on Hanson's suggestion and didn't pull punches. 

How people feel about this controversial opinion

Unfortunately, we can't publish most of the profanity-riddled remarks the well-dressed William Hanson received after posting this video. His advice appears to have struck a chord with Americans, spawning aggressively 'patriotic' comments referencing the Revolutionary War and pilgrims coming over on the Mayflower. Instagram pounced on his unorthodox suggestion that you should eat a hamburger with a fork and knife, leaving comments like, "If an American eats their burger like this, they should have to give up their citizenship," and "I always suspected our independence was burger-related," as well as, "Stay on your side of the Atlantic."

Striking a balance, a few viewers suggested thick burgers should be cut in half, which makes them easier to bite, a technique another Brit, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, demonstrated when served a mammoth cowboy burger on "Kitchen Nightmares." 

Disregarding the expletives, there's a solid argument for why the burger is meant to be hand-held versus deconstructed with a fork and knife. To fully appreciate it, you should experience all of the burger's components and textures simultaneously — the soft buttery bun, seared beef patty, fresh tomatoes, salty and gooey cheese, and (hopefully) pickles. As Hanson demonstrates when he removes the top bun, his method fails to construct the perfect bite. 

The 'ideal' way to hold a burger

Although people should feel free to enjoy their burger blends in any way they deem fit, three researchers working for the Japanese television show "Honma Dekka!?" — who were "experts in fluid mechanics, engineering, and dentistry" — spent four months studying the effects of biting into a thick burger (per Kotaku). The scientists were tasked with finding the 'ideal' way to hold a burger to prevent the patty and toppings from pushing out the backside. Using a 3D hamburger scan, they analyzed the 'typical' way we hold a hamburger, placing the thumb underneath and four fingers on the top bun, and found a better way to eliminate spillage. 

Referred to as the "claw" method, this technique uses both hands, placing the thumbs and pinkies under the burger and the three middle fingers on top. While the "claw" may initially feel awkward, the researchers say holding the burger uniformly keeps its contents between the buns, not on your lap. 

The researchers warn against squishing the burger too tightly, which could result in the loss of condiments. Since this method requires both hands, they advise enjoying your side of French fries first.