Should you have pickles in a burger? Oxford University food expert settles the matter - now it's official!

An Oxford University food scientist has settled the debate over whether the best burgers have pickles in them.

By Roseanne Edwards
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 11:40 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 4:57 pm
Professor Spence at work in the lab testing gherkins for burgers
Professor Spence at work in the lab testing gherkins for burgers

New research by Professor Charles Spence reveals that plenty of pickles in burgers make for the best ones despite the majority of the nation preferring a pickle-free option.

In time for the cinematic adventure of the greatly anticipated The Bob’s Burgers Movie, released on Friday, 20th Century Studios has revealed that adding plenty of pickles to a burger is the best way to go - backed by science itself.

Findings from Prof Spence’s new independent report reveals that despite the nation's aversion to the humble gherkin, keeping pickles in burgers is proven to give the optimum taste in comparison to a pickle-less alternative.

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Professor Spence tests the burger - with gherkins

A hotly debated topic in the food world that has raged for years, alongside the contentious ‘pineapple on pizza’, the research reveals that the nation is divided when it comes to their view on pickles despite being proven that they enhance the taste of burgers.

The report investigates the optimum way for burgers to be enjoyed, highlighting a number of reasons why adding pickles may be the optimum method to maximise the oral-somatosensory experience of eating a burger: pickles’ acidity helps to cut through the rich umami burger notes, resulting in the two tastes balancing each other out perfectly. The texture of pickles also nicely contrasts with the rest of the burger ingredients resulting in a more appealing bite.

Although a few people may have fallen out of love with the dimply look of pickles, the pop of green helps to add to the wide range of colours in a burger, making it look more attractive which is crucial, given that the first taste is with the eyes. Additionally a crunchy gherkin should add plenty of noise, making a satisfying sonic crunch that helps to draw attention to one’s mouth.

Prof Spence’s research shows that 51% of burger lovers actually would choose to remove pickles from their burgers. The main reasons cited for this include it being the taste, the texture, they’ve never tried them but don’t like the idea of pickles, and they would rather eat the pickles on their own.

The pickle-laden gherkin - officially the best

The research showed that those aged 35-54 were the most in favour of pickles being a ‘classic burger topping’ (38%) with 37% saying they would prefer a burger with pickles in it. Conversely, those aged 18-24 were the least likely to want them included.

Professor Spence said: “Pickles are undoubtedly one of the most contentious additions to a burger with the population seemingly split right down in the middle into lovers and haters.

But what, exactly, is it about burgers that make them addictive to some but abhorrent to others? The evidence suggests that different sensory elements (eg the sight, sound, texture, taste, and smell) all play a different role for different consumers, but ultimately keeping pickles in your burger is the best way to optimise their taste. Their sensory properties compliment the other burger ingredients perfectly.”

“There is no ‘right or wrong’ way to eat a burger, however keeping pickles inside your burger is the best way to get the full potential out of every bite. It appears that the characters on Bob’s Burgers definitely do add pickles to each one - and they’re the experts!”