Jessie Maywalt, bread manager at Rosemont Bakery, brushes balls of dough with egg wash while making hamburger buns at the Portland bakery on a Friday in May. The bakery makes the buns seasonally for all seven Rosemont Markets. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

With grilling season officially underway this weekend, it’s time for some juicy backyard burgers. But skip the lackluster supermarket burger buns – it’s also time to up your bun game.

Even dedicated grill chefs sometimes make the mistake of treating burger buns as an afterthought, maybe figuring the beef patty is the star, and that enough condiments and cheese can cover a variety of sins. But you pay the price when inferior buns prove dry and crumbly, falling apart and making a mess of the burger. Or the proportions are all off: The bun is so big you taste nothing but bread, or so small the meat hangs an inch off the edge.

A quality bun is key to a good burger experience, and some of the best you can buy are made right here in Maine.

“Supporting local businesses is important, and the flavor and texture of good quality, locally baked buns is leagues beyond anything you can get at the grocery store,” said Lars Taylor, executive chef of Big Tree Hospitality, which uses buns from Little Spruce Baking Co. in Biddeford for burgers and sandwiches buns at some of its properties.

Taylor also notes that health matters. While you may not be counting calories at a summer holiday barbecue, the natural, simple ingredients in bakery buns are far preferable to additive-laden industrial bread. “You have to be mindful about what you’re putting into your body. A lot of the (mass-produced) store-bought breads have tons of preservatives,” he said.

Burger buns from local bakeries cost more than those you find at the supermarket. You can get eight store-brand buns from Hannaford for just $1.69, for example. But if you care about your food and you love a good burger, the extra cost of locally baked buns feels like a sound investment. (And for vegans and vegetarians, a good bun will also elevate a veggie burger.)


“They’re worth it because you’re going to feel better about what you’re putting into your body, you’re going to feel better about supporting a local business, and it’s going to taste better,” Taylor said. “If there’s any question, do a side-by side (taste test). I think you’ll find you’d be willing to spend a little extra for that quality.”

We talked with seven local producers about their burger buns and what sets them apart.

Jessie Maywalt, bread manager at Rosemont Bakery, places balls of dough onto a sheet pan while making hamburger buns at the Portland bakery. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Available at: Big Sky’s Woodfords Corner bakery at 536 Deering Ave. and Bow Street Market in Freeport

Price: $3.95 for 4 buns (at bakery)

Best suited for: Thicker, pub-style burger patties


To meet seasonal demand, Big Sky bakes and sells their hamburger buns every summer weekend (Thursday-Sunday) into September. “During the winter, we just don’t get enough people coming in to buy hamburger and hot dog rolls to warrant baking them,” said Big Sky owner Joseph Rank. “But during the summer weekends, for the very short window we get, people are excited to get outside and grill.”

Big Sky’s milk- and egg-enriched burger bun in action. Photo courtesy of Big Sky Bread Company

Rank said Big Sky’s hamburger bun dough is enriched with milk and egg whites. “It’s a light, fluffy roll,” he said. “It holds up very well to a juicy burger or any kind of heavy sauce. The flour we use has a high gluten value, so it really holds its structure well.”

Big Sky’s rolls are built to handle thicker burgers, but can work just fine for a smashed or thinner burger patty. “When I use it, I always put thinner burgers in it, but it has the structural integrity to be able to hold the weight of a heavier burger,” Rank said.


Available at: Barber Bros. Meat & Provisions, South Portland; Eddie’s Variety; Moran’s Market; Rosemont Market & Bakery; Quality Shop

Price: Around $3 for 8 buns (price determined by retailer)


Best suited for: Thinner/smashed patties

Botto’s traditional hamburger rolls have been paired with Maine burgers since the 1950s. Co-owner Steve Mathews said most of their bun production is for wholesale accounts like Harmon’s Lunch in Falmouth and Roy’s All Steak Hamburgers in Auburn. Botto’s burger bun sales quadruple in the summer, he said.

“It’s crazy for two, two and a half months, depending on the weather and if Mother Nature is good to us,” he said.

Little Spruce’s shokupan bun all loaded up. Photo courtesy of Little Spruce Baking Co.

Botto’s makes retail deliveries five days a week, so you can expect the product on the shelf to be fresh. “They’re not loaded with a lot of preservatives like a lot of the bigger bakeries,” Mathews said.

The Botto’s bun works well with thinner or smashed patties, as opposed to pub-style burgers. “It’s not a roll designed for a real thick patty,” Mathews said. “It’s not too big or too small. It’s just right for that three-ounce patty.

“It’s not a real spongy roll like some of the others out there,” he added. “It’s soft in texture, and it toasts up pretty good. It’s night and day if you hold it up to more industrialized hamburger rolls. It’s more homestyle.”



Available at: Higgins Beach Market in Scarborough (plain buns) during the peak summer season

Price: $7 for 6 buns

Best suited for: Either thinner/smashed or thicker, pub-style patties

Little Spruce makes two types of sandwich/burger buns, one plain and another featuring fried shallot bits. You may have tried the shallot bun at one of their wholesale venues like Goodfire Brewing in Freeport and the South Freeport Village Market, while the plain version is used at Duck Fat, Duck Fat Frites Shack and Town Landing Market in Falmouth.

Both of Little Spruce’s buns use a shokupan (Japanese milk bread) dough.


“They’re extremely soft and buttery,” Little Spruce co-owner Justin Flakne said. “That would be the main distinguishing feature between a shokupan bun and like an American potato bun – it has a lot of butter. And it’s got a component called a tangzhong, which is basically a boiled roux of milk and flour, and that makes them very soft and chewy.”

Flakne said the Little Spruce buns can handle either thin or thick burger patties. “They do really well with smashed patties,” he said. “But they’re puffy enough that they hold their own with a bigger burger and a lot of toppings – you can really load them up.”

Freshly baked hamburger buns, just out of the oven, cool at Rosemont Bakery in Portland on a Friday in May. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Available at: Rosemont’s seven locations, including three Portland stores, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Scarborough and Yarmouth.

Price: $5.99 for 4 buns

Best suited for: Thicker, pub-style patties


Though they carry Botto’s buns year-round, Rosemont bakes and sells its own burger buns in the summer and early fall. Rosemont Marketing Director Finn Naylor said the staff recently had a discussion about how frustrating it can be when a bun is either too large or small for the burger patty.

So when Rosemont decided to feature Pineland Farms burger patties in its markets this season, “we tested the buns with the Pineland Farms patties to make sure they fit and the ratio is correct,” Naylor said, noting that the roughly 3.5-inch hand-shaped buns are just right for the Pineland burgers.

Rosemont’s buns are made daily from a brioche dough, and the tops are sprinkled with sesame seeds. “They’re very squishy and doughy with a very good crumb, like your quintessential brioche bun,” Naylor said.


Available at: Skowhegan Farmers’ Market, online

Price: $6 for 10 buns


Buns from Sassy Sammie’s Kitchen. Photo courtesy of Sassy Sammie’s Kitchen

Best suited for: Thicker, pub-style patties

Baker Samantha Hilton, based in Norridgewock, makes hamburger buns and other baked goods to sell at farmers markets, and also bakes items fresh-to-order through the Kennebec County e-commerce site, Farms To Families Maine.

Hilton said she uses unbleached King Arthur flour for her plain white bread buns, noting that they work really well with thicker burger patties. “I made them for my family at first. We have what we call meatloaf burgers, and that’s what we use them for,” Hilton said. “They’re a thicker, fluffier bun.”

Sole Pane’s brioche knot on the double burger from Kennebec Meat Co. Photo courtesy of Kennebec Meat Co.


Available at: Solo Pane e Pasticceria (Saturdays only)

Price: $2 for 1 brioche knot roll, $1.50 for tender bun


Best suited for: Brioche knot works with either thinner/smashed or thicker, pub-style patties; tender bun best for thin patties

Solo Pane owner Jesse Bania said his bakery makes more than 80 brioche knot buns for Kennebec Meat Company’s Saturday burgers, and they make extra for themselves to sell that day, too.

“They’re almost croissant-like in texture, and they’re just super buttery and delicious,” said Jordan Raymond, owner and general manager of Kennebec Meat Co. “They’re a little pricey, but it’s well worth it because it makes the burger really shine. Even just looks-wise, our burgers are so photogenic with the brioche knot top. It’s like a little sombrero.”

Bania said he prefers the brioche knot with a thicker burger patty. Still, Kennebec uses it for both single smashed patties and doubles (which are more than a half-pound of beef).

Every day of the week, Solo Pane also sells tender buns, which are flour-dusted, not brushed with an egg wash like the brioche knot.

They’re also more delicate, as the name suggests, so better for thinner patties.


Helen Reese, a baker at Rosemont Bakery in Portland, sprinkles sesame seeds on top of balls of dough while making hamburger buns. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Available at: Wildflours and multiple vendors listed on the bakery’s website, including Bow Street Market in Freeport and Portland Food Co-Op

Price: $9.95 for 6 buns (at bakery)

Best suited for: Either thinner/smashed or thicker, pub-style patties

Wildflours makes a multigrain roll that “tastes like homemade multigrain bread,” according to a store spokesperson. “It’s the perfect size for a hamburger. It also works great for sandwiches.”

The dairy- and gluten-free roll works well with both thin or thick patties. “You side-split the roll, and it really is just a matter of personal preference what you put in it,” the spokesperson said. “Some people even like to use our dinner rolls, which are the same bread but smaller, and they make sliders with them.”

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