Gardeners' World: Monty Don gives advice for growing gherkins

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The study — which was commissioned on behalf of 20th Century Studios to celebrate yesterday’s launch of The Bob’s Burgers Movie — was conducted by experimental psychologist Professor Charles Spence of the University of Oxford. Prof 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?”

Do you put pickles on your burgers? Let us know what you think in the comments section

In his study, Prof Spence surveyed burger lovers — revealing that more than half (51 percent, to be precise) prefer to remove pickles from their burgers before eating.

The main reasons given for this anti-pickle stance was not liking either the taste of pickles, cited by 23 percent of respondents, or their texture, a complaint that affected 16 percent of those surveyed.

Only four percent of people said that they had never tried pickles but “didn’t like the idea” of them — while 12 percent reported that they preferred to eat gherkins on their own.

Pickle preferences appear to differ between age groups, with those aged 35–54 being the most supportive of the notion that pickles are a “classic burger topping” — and 37 percent of this group said that they prefer burgers with pickles in them.

In contrast, the group found to be least likely to want gherkins in their burger were those respondents aged between 18 and 24.

Prof Spence said: “The evidence suggests that different sensory elements — e.g., 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.”

Elaborating on the benefits of pickles, Prof. Spence points to the writings of professional food developer Barb Stuckey.

She has argued that the sour taste of pickles provides the perfect counterbalance to the umami flavour of other burger ingredients like meat, tomato and cheese.

Prof Spence admits that “the thing about sourness is that it is often associated with spoiled food”.

However, he added: “Pickles’ acidity helps to cut through the rich umami notes, resulting in the two tastes balancing each other out perfectly.”

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The psychologist also explained that the crisp crunch of a pickle can help signal freshness to our brains, while the green colour can add to the overall visual palette of a burger, making it more varied and attractive.

That said, Prof Spence does concede that pickles on their own are hardly visually appealing.

He said “There can be few people out there who have fallen in love with the sight of the dimpled skin of a gherkin.

“Given that the first taste is with the eyes, it is perhaps just as well that the nobbly pickles tend to be hidden away in the middle of the bun.”

Prof Spence concluded: “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.”

With the pickle question resolved, one can only hope that Prof Spence might now turn his attention to settling that other contentious fast food issue — pineapple on pizza, yes or no?

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