The Burger Lab: The In-N-Out, Telway, White Manna Ultimate Animal-Style Slider Mashup

Robyn Lee and Christine Tsai, except where otherwise noted

There was a time when we were a country divided. West Coasters told us you couldn't find a good burger on the East Coast, and us East Coasters said the same about your pizza, not to mention what those strange folks in the middle were doing.

But in these enlightened days, we're fast discovering an entire nation full of great food, and what better way to bring it all together than in a single sandwich?

That was exactly the idea behind my offering at this year's Serious Eats All-Star Sandwich Festival: To combine the best elements from three of my favorite burgers in the world into one glorious mashup of a sandwich.

Before we get to the recipe, here's a bit of background on each of the three burgers I'm talking about.

From the West Coast: The In-N-Out Double Double, Animal Style

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

What more is there to day about this sandwich? In-N-Out is the undisputed king of high quality fast food, with a near fanatical devotion from its legions of followers ranging from Californians, to displaced Californians, those wishing they had fast food burgers as good as Californians, to those in the lucky few states beyond the California borders that have In-N-Outs in their towns.

Yes, their regular burgers are great, but the key to In-N-Out's fast food supremacy is their most popular Secret Menu item: Animal-Style burgers. What exactly does that mean? Well, ask for any burger animal-style and your patty will be grilled in mustard and get a spoonful of grilled onions on top, along with extra pickles and In-N-Out Spread on the bottom.

What we're stealing: Mustard-grilling and In-N-Out spread. Rather than adding extra pickles, we're just going to add some pickles and pickle juice to our sauce.

From the Middle: The Slider From Telway in Detroit, MI

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Telway is a mini-chain of slider joints in the Detroit area. Their sliders start out much like any other slider—patty smashed on the griddle, topped with onions, flipped so it can steam with the buns stacked on top. The key here is the towel trick (one that I usurped previously for my More Ultimatest Sliders).

After the buns go on top, they place a towel over the whole getup. This traps in the steam produced by the onions at the bottom of the stack. The result is burger, cheese, and buns that are all softened with onion-scented steam, for the softest, tenderest, pillowiest, onioniest possible experience.

What we're stealing: The onion towel.

From the East Coast: The Slider From White Manna In Hackensack, NJ

Nick Solares

One of the most storied sliders in the world, the tiny steamed burgers from White Manna in Hackensack, New Jersey, are a certified masterpiece, and one of my favorites. What's the key here? It's the masses and masses of ultra-thin sliced onions that the patties are steamed over, along with the Martin's potato rolls. Thin slicing lets the onions release their juices rapidly, creating tons of steam, permeating burger and bun with flavor. And we all love Martin's, right? There's no better burger bun in the world.

What we're stealing: The ultra thin-sliced onions and the Martin's rolls.

The Mashup

So what do you get when you put all three together? The In-N-Out, Telway, White Manna Ultimate Animal Style Slider Mashup.

That would be: 2-ounce patties of fresh ground beef (ours was an awesome short rib/brisket/chuck blend from Pat LaFrieda), smashed onto a dollop of yellow mustard, seasoned with salt and pepper, topped with a blizzard of thinly sliced onions, flipped so the onions are on the bottom, topped with American cheese, stacked with buns, covered with a towel to steam, then served with a big squirt of In-N-Out style burger spread.

Sound delicious? Indeed it is. See, great things can happen when we can get the whole country to work together, right?

Click through the slideshow for step-by-step instructions, or jump straight to the recipe.