Building a Better Burger

Istock photo

Students create new recipe for a Wisconsin restaurant chain.

In its pursuit of a better burger, a Wisconsin restaurant had to look no further than the UW.

Gilly’s Frozen Custard sought help last fall after a market study suggested that the restaurant’s beef didn’t stack up to the quality of its custard. Jeff Sindelar, a UW associate professor of animal sciences and a UW-Extension meat specialist, proposed a friendly competition that could also serve as a hands-on learning opportunity.

In January, sixteen student volunteers split into five teams to develop a new recipe. They faced a few parameters: the burger had to be a quarter-pound, hand-pattied, 100 percent Angus beef, juicy, and replicable within a certain price per pound. Students began by experimenting with the different cuts, grinds, and fat- content levels of beef. From there, the challenge required trial and error to find the right flavor profile — and coming to work with an empty stomach.

“We ate a lot of burgers,” says Abbey Thiel x’14, an undergraduate food science student who is hoping for a career in product development.

After several rounds of judging, Gilly’s selected the recipe from Between the Buns — a team of Thiel; Cherry Lam x’15, a graduate food science student; and Seth Schulz, an associate outreach specialist.

Gilly’s adopted the recipe — adding special seasoning and slightly altering the grind — for its Green Bay and Sheboygan locations.

“You put a lot of time and effort into projects for school, but it really doesn’t go anywhere after you hand it in,” Thiel says. “So, it’s pretty cool that [Gilly’s is] selling my burger right now, and all the customers are eating a burger I designed.”

Published in the Fall 2013 issue

Tags: Food, Research, Students, Teaching and learning

Leave a comment