Buns 101

I want to show you how easy it is to make beautiful buns for your next sandwich or burger.

Read Time: 8 minutes

This week we’re going to do things a tiny bit differently. We’re still going to make a sandwich, but first, I’m hoping to teach you some tips for your next (OR FIRST) batch of sandwich/burger buns. We’re all going back to school and this time you’re not going to get in trouble for showing your buns to the teacher.

The goal of this week’s post is to show you how easy it is to make hamburger buns or sandwich buns at home. I also put a bit of effort into making a couple of (hopefully) instructional videos as well. My video editing and voiceover skills are VERY MUCH a work in progress, so please bear with me.

The main video is at the bottom of the tips, but if you want to go ahead and watch it, here you are.

The bun recipe

Ingredient-wise the bun recipe below is the simplest one I’ve been able to come up with. It requires six ingredients, and it makes six burger buns. You can easily double the recipe, but I also added it to my bun calculator so you can turn the recipe into whatever number of buns you’d like. For example, in the last batch of these that I made, I used the bun calculator to adjust 6 buns into 8 and it worked perfectly.

I do have a potato bun recipe that uses a couple of specialty ingredients to make buns that have a longer shelf life, but for now, let us focus on the simplest one. This is the recipe we’re working with today. Follow along for Big Bun Action™.

2 hours and 45 minutes
Simple soft hamburger buns

With only six ingredients, this is the most simple, soft bun recipe I could create. Perfect for your next burger night or grilled chicken sandwich.

Get Recipe

Let’s talk about my bun tips.

Here are some tips I’d teach the class if this really was Buns 101

This section is about tips for making batches of buns. If you want to see the process in action the video is down below, but what you’ll be reading here are specific suggestions on important parts of the bun-making process.

1. Look for recipes that use grams

If you don’t already have a kitchen scale and you’re interested in baking, buy one. This is the kitchen scale that I own and I even bought one for my mom (HI MOM!). If you pay attention when watching bakers/cooks on YouTube, you’ll see that many of them also own this same scale, because it’s easy to use, lightweight and you can buy it in several different colors. Mine is orange.

Buy a scale and start using recipes that measure ingredients in grams and you’re already close to being able to replicate recipes consistently from batch to batch.

2. Learn to measure flour

One of the more common questions I get from folks on social media is, “why is my bread/buns so dense?” There are several factors that could be at play here, but if you’re not using a scale, I would be willing to bet that your dense baked goods are due to you adding too much flour to the dough. If you’re not going to buy a scale, or you’re at your friend’s house, or if you just ordered a scale but it hasn’t arrived yet, you can still bake. You just need to know how to measure flour by volume.

Here’s some content and a video from King Arthur Baking about how to measure/scoop flour.

King Arthur Baking suggests: “fluff, sprinkle, scrape” as their technique to measure flour without a scale. Here’s the process in different words:

  • Fluff the flour in your flour container to get rid of clumps
  • Spoon or sprinkle the flour into your measuring cup
  • After the measuring cup is full, scrape the top of your measuring cup to have an even scoop of flour

This means you SHOULD NOT be simply scooping or shoveling flour with your measuring cup and dumping that into your recipe. Scooping with the measuring cup will pack flour into the cup. You should be spooning or sprinkling the flour into your measuring cup. This allows you to measure flour without packing it into a cup measure. The packing process causes you to use too much flour.

Remember: don’t scoop with the measuring cup. Spoon flour into the measuring cup and then scrape the flour off after the cup is full.

3. Don’t let the dough dry out

This means that you should cover the dough whenever you’re not touching or working with it. Keep it covered in a bowl when it’s rising and when it’s resting so that the outside of the dough doesn’t dry out.

There are two big factors in making good dough. One is flour and the other is hydration. If you’re putting in a solid effort to make a good dough, then you should be conscious of both factors. Allowing your dough to dry out will greatly affect the hydration in the dough. For these reasons, when I am shaping buns, I cover them with a clean kitchen towel.

Fermentation is happening when the dough is rising. When yeast gets active and eats sugars in the flour, it produces co2 and heat. The small amount of heat will keep a sealed environment moist. Keeping this process under wraps (literally) will keep the dough hydrated and preserve moisture in the rising dough.

When I am letting the dough rise, I will either cover it with plastic wrap, or a bowl cover or if I am letting buns rise on a sheet pan I will use a second inverted sheet pan to cover everything, therefore keeping the moisture inside the container and not drying out the dough.

4. Bun shaping

The goal of shaping burger buns is to get the top to be round and tightly domed. The final shaping process will mold them into spherical dough balls with taut round tops. Ensuring that the tops are tight means you will be more likely to have smooth finished buns.

A fresh batch of buns right before the oven.
The same fresh batch of buns that have just been pulled out of the oven.

You can check out the YouTube video I added demonstrating how I shape buns, but the takeaway here is that you should remember that you can use the friction of the counter or surface when rolling the balls to tighten the surface of the dough.

A batch of buns fresh out of the oven.

5. Flatten or not?

The bun on the left was flattened prior to the final rise and the one on the right that is rounder was not flattened.

Do you want flat buns or round buns?

In most of my sandwiches or burgers I want flatter buns that are more like the types of buns that you buy in a store. If you pay attention, next time you’re buying buns, you’ll notice that commercially made buns will be flatter than they are round. This is usually what I’m shooting for.

A flatter bun with the same gram weight as a rounder bun will have a larger diameter which means your burger or sandwich can be a bit wider and still fit inside the bun properly.

I demonstrate the flattening process I adhere to in the video above.

Really round buns that are shaped like balls will make for non-traditional-looking final sandwiches, but they will still taste the same.

This is probably one of the least important tips I have for Buns 101, but it’s an aesthetic one that only really matters for the appearance of the end roll. You can’t really eat aesthetic, but you do look at it a bunch.

6. Butter after baking

The butter painted on after baking does two things. First, it’s adding flavor to the outside of your bread. Secondly, it’s softening the outside crust of the bun.

You don’t have to add butter to the outside of the finished baked buns. I can see why some folks might not want extra fat on the outside of their bread, but it really does add flavor and softens the outside, creating a bun that feels like it is soft and ready for sandwiching.

This is immediately after the butter was painted on.
45 minutes after adding butter.

7. Rest and cool before packaging

Once your bread is fully baked, you need to give it time to rest and fully cool off before packaging it up or putting it away in your breadbasket.

I like to rest baked goods on a cooling rack for at least 2 hours after baking. I can see how this might be difficult to just leave food uncovered, but with bread, it’s important. The bread is still baking for quite a while after you remove it from the oven, and it will steam up inside a bag or package if the inside of the bun is warmer than room temperature.

Six smooth buns ready for burger time.
Remember Burger Time the arcade game? I do.

With hamburger buns, it’s not a huge deal if they get packaged too early, but when you are baking other bread where crust texture is more important you can really ruin it by packaging it up before it is 100% cooled down inside and out. As I said above, just to be safe, I wait at least 2 and sometimes up to 3 hours after baking before I remove it from the cooling rack and add it to a bread bag.

8. If you need it, here’s my video of this recipe

This video attempts to highlight the whole process of making these burger buns without the use of a stand mixer or any specialty tools other than a kitchen scale.

And now we’ll talk about the sandwich I made with some of the buns from my testing.

The sandwich for these buns

Since this is a sandwich blog and not just a bun blog, I also made a simple sandwich for my simple burger buns.

This is a super easy sandwich to make, with just four components. Chicken, brie cheese, sliced apple, and a balsamic reduction. You can make the reduction or buy it and if you choose to purchase yours at the store, you can easily have this sandwich on a plate in less than 15 minutes. You could also skip the balsamic reduction and just use something like honey mustard as well and that makes a great sandwich too.

Grilled and seasoned chicken

Look at all the steam. Indoor grilled chicken thigh, right here.

I’ll be straight here, for these sandwiches I used my Bojangle’s copycat Cajun seasoning to season these chicken thighs. Is it 100% authentic Cajun flavorings? Definitely not. Is it 100% good on a piece of cooked chicken? Definitely.

You can season chicken in this sandwich with whatever your favorite all-purpose seasoning happens to be. Often, I’ll just use salt and pepper on grilled chicken, but you can use your favorite barbecue rub or even something like a steak seasoning if you want. Just keep it simple and add some flavor to the chicken prior to sandwiching.

Apple slices

I used Fuji apples for this sandwich. But this sandwich is a favorite in our house, and we’ve made the same combination many times with all sorts of different apple varieties. You can go from really tart to a sweeter style of apple. Honeycrisp or even a tart green apple would work just fine. There’s sweetness in the balsamic reduction that will work with either tart or sweet apples.

Brie and Balsamic reduction

A tiny circle of brie and some balsamic reduction.

As I said before, you can buy your own balsamic reduction and I did use a store-bought version for at least one sandwich in this group of sandwiches. It’s not cheap, but neither is regular balsamic vinegar. You could get by using something like a vinegary barbecue sauce if you wanted, but there’s something about balsamic and brie that really works well together.

Making your own balsamic reduction is easy or you can find it at many grocery stores in the Italian section. The recipe for this sandwich down below has instructions for making your own, but it’s just these three ingredients cooked together and reduced to a thicker liquid.

Balsamic reduction

  • 13 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey

The chicken, brie, apple, and balsamic sandwich plan and recipe.

This is one of those sandwiches which you should keep in the back of your mind because the flavors just work fantastically. This is something that you will want to bring out in the future for a quick weeknight sandwich.

This is a fantastic sandwich. I hope shadowing it with all this bun content doesn’t distract people from making it at home!
This was a big chicken thigh. I figured it out and still ate the whole thing though. It wasn’t that difficult.

Here’s the recipe for my chicken, brie, and apple sandwich. This one is a big deal at my house, and I hope some of you will embrace it as a new sandwich standard for your household as well.

45 minutes
Grilled chicken, apple and brie sandwich

A fantastic, grilled chicken sandwich with creamy brie cheese that is balanced by sharp, crisp bites of apple.

Get Recipe

And here’s one of the same buns on a few other sandwiches.

First, it’s my fried chicken sandwich.

This is a fried chicken thigh with mayo and pickles.

Ten steps to great fried chicken sandwiches

Here’s my second choice of items to stuff inside a freshly baked hamburger bun. I think you should bake some buns and try one!

Other sandwiches with these buns

I asked around on social media to see what folks thought should go on simple hamburger/sandwich buns and the responses were all over the place. But the main three replies were:

  • Sloppy Joe
  • Pulled pork/barbecue sandwich
  • Breaded pork tenderloin

And it just so happens I’ve already written about versions of all these styles. So, you can choose your poison sandwich.

Sloppy Joe

Now you Joe, and Joe-ing is half the battle

Here’s some sloppy joe content which is super awesome for traditional hamburger buns.

Eastern North Carolina cheater chopped pork sandwiches

Another perfect sandwich for hamburger buns is a pulled pork sandwich. Go read and make my version.

Eastern NC BBQ
Breaded Pork Tenderloin

Who’s your sandwich?

And then another fantastic sandwich option for hamburger buns would be the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich native to the Midwest.

Bake some buns!

Check back next week when we could possibly be getting regional on some beef.

Support this sandwich blog and unlock behind the scenes content. Follow along with what I am working on next. Click the banner below to join our Patreon community.

Enjoyed reading? Subscribe and I'll email you the next time I post a new sandwich.


3 comments on Buns 101

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.