This post is sponsored by Weber Grills. Rest assured, all opinions are my own.
A great burger is one thing I never stop enjoying. When you think about it, burgers really encompass a whole repertoire of possibilities, much like tacos. I recently set out to create two of the best burger recipes I’ve ever made. Personally, beef will always be my favorite, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy alternative burgers. The result, a beef based “bacon jam cheesesteak burger” recipe and a pork based “roasted tomato caprese burger” recipe.
The recipes may be a little longer than your simple traditional “burger and cheese” recipes but many steps can be done ahead of time to make grilling quick and easy when it’s time to cook.
Tailgating from home
This year, we will be tailgating from home and burgers are a must! I’m going to fire up my Weber grill with charcoal and grill up some food for my family and friends. I’m a big fan of a simple cheeseburger but sometimes I appreciate something with more complexity in flavor.
The Weber kettle is nostalgic and a classic. Even though my kettle wasn’t the first grill I personally owned, I love the simplicity of it. I love that many people have generations of great memories of hanging out with family and friends around them. Just think about that for a moment. The original commercially available Weber grill was created in 1950s. There is a great video on Weber Grill’s website (linked) if you’d like to watch it. I find it truly fascinating.
Weber may still have the classic kettles but that doesn’t mean they haven’t innovated throughout the years. Most recently they launched the SmokeFire pellet grill and the Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub.
The Weber Connect is a WiFi enabled smart grilling assistant that can also connect to Bluetooth if WiFi is unavailable. The probes can measure both ambient grill temperature and the internal temperature of the food you are cooking. I used the Weber Connect to make my pollo asado recipe which you can read about here.
Every good tailgate needs a couple great burgers…
Crafting the best burger recipes
There are a lot of things to consider when crafting a great burger:
- What percentage of fat in the blend is ideal (lean-to-fat ratio)?
- Is ground chuck best for a burger?
- Using blends such as ground brisket, short ribs, sirloin, round
- Other proteins such pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, veal, vegetarian options
- Grill or pan fry
The maximum fat content in any ground beef is 30% (70% lean) by law. The lean-to-fat ratio is usually written as XX% / XX%, where the first percentage is the lean and the second percentage is the fat. For example, 80% / 20%. It’s important to remember that fat in the burger not only contributes to flavor, but also moisture content in the finished burger. With little fat in a burger mix, the tendency to produce a dry burger is more likely.
Common percentages include:
85% lean/ 15% fat
80 % lean/ 20% fat
75% lean/ 25% fat
Type of meat for making burgers
Ground chuck is readily available in most grocery stores and is a great option for a great tasting burger recipe. Brisket, short rib, sirloin and round are other cuts of beef that is ground into burger meat. When choosing which to blends to buy it honestly comes down to flavor. In the last couple years, blends are gaining popularity and more readily available for purchase. You always have the option of grinding your own blends but sometimes this is more costly.
Risk of eating undercooked beef
The safe recommended internal temperature of ground beef is 160°F per the United States Department of Agriculture. Yes, I fully realize that many people choose to eat a hamburger which has been cooked to a much lower temperature.
The risk of under-cooking ground beef is the risk of E. coli and Salmonella. Bacteria on the outside of a cut of beef is mixed throughout the meat when ground. In the case of a steak, the outside of the meat is cooked at a high temperature and the bacteria is killed. However, this isn’t the case with ground beef. Bacteria isn’t killed until the meat is over 140°F.
So, what do you do? Personally I order my burgers medium-well. Just be aware of the risk if you do order your burgers rare, medium-rare or medium etc. you may be putting yourself at risk. In fact some states have banned restaurants from serving rare burgers because of foodborne illness outbreaks. The elderly, immunocompromised are at the highest risk of complications.
Ground pork typically has a higher fat content than most beef blends with 30% fat in the blend. Both ground pork as and ground poultry are mild in flavor compared to beef. The safe internal temperature for pork is 160°F. In fact, the recommended internal temperature for pork, beef and lamb are all 160°F. When forming pork into burgers it is easier to handle if you put some oil on your hands first. With the high fat content they can be quite sticky.
Ground turkey and chicken
Ground turkey and chicken much like beef are available in different lean-to-fat ratios. Generally speaking they typically range from 93-99% lean. Both can be made with a variety of dark and white meat which can affect the color of the product. Both are available also in all white meat grinds. Ground poultry more commonly sold at much higher lean percentages.
It should be noted that ground poultry has a much softer consistency compared to other ground meats. I do love how ground poultry really takes on the flavor of whatever you season it with. Because it is so soft however, it must be mixed with binders to hold its shape in a burger recipe. Ground poultry (turkey and chicken) must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F.
The only limitation to what to make a veggie burger out of is your imagination really. I don’t necessarily aim to make a vegetarian burger recipe vegan but rather one that just has the absence of meat. Veggie burgers often contain beans, an assortment of chopped vegetables. The aromatics like garlic and onion along with a variety of spices and herbs are used to amplify the flavor.
Varieties of cheese act as a binder as well as add flavor. Sauces and condiments mixed into the veggie burger mix such as hot sauce, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or salsa contribute to the flavor profile. Flour or breadcrumbs also help to hold all of the ingredients together as well as eggs.
Grill or pan fry
When it comes to grills some have the option of using a gas grill or a charcoal grill. If time is not an issue, I love the flavor that grilling a burger over charcoal contributes. In fifteen minutes, a chimney of briquettes can be lit in a Weber kettle. A few minutes later and I’m ready to grill. Light the briquettes in the chimney while prepping and you will be cooking in no time.
If you have a flat top griddle style grill or a plancha it is like cooking a burger on a skillet indoors but with more room. They are certainly handy but you miss out on that charcoal flavor. Some of the best burger recipes I’ve tried have been cooked over charcoal. I believe that is also part flavor, part nostalgia.
One of my favorite things to cook on a griddle pan or flat top grill is a smash burger. To make, season and roll the meat into a ball. Preheat griddle to high and the ball on the surface. With a sturdy spatula you “smash” the ball onto the grill surface then resist touching it. Only once a dark brown crust forms on the underside to you flip it and only once. The result, a juicy burger with a flavorful crust that is fantastic.
“Oklahoma onion burgers”
Try putting thinly smashed onions on the top of the balls and smashing that into the burger. This “Oklahoma” onion burger with those caramelized onions is a flavor explosion. Funny story, I saw people making those for years and had no idea they called them “Oklahoma burgers”. A friend told me a few months ago. The more you know I guess. If you are making these on a charcoal grill like my Weber, you’ll need a flat surface to cook. A griddle style pan or an insert often made in half moons to put on a grill grate will suffice.
Best burger recipe tips
- Don’t overwork the burger. This will contribute to moisture loss and result in a tough burger.
- Put a dimple in the center of your burger patties prior to cooking. This helps to prevent the “meatball effect” and keeps your burger flat.
- Mix in a bit of liquid: Add a couple tablespoons of ice cold water or another liquid of your preference to your ground beef mixture (1lb) to help retain moisture.
- Alternatively try making a “blended burger” with cooked and cooled mushrooms to boost moisture and give your burger some umami flavor.
- Preheat appropriately for medium-high/high heat. A hot grill will result in proper browning of the burger surface making it more flavorful and cut down on cook time.
The Burger Recipes:
Roasted Tomato Caprese Burger
A twist on an Italian classic. Think of this burger as an Italian/American infusion. Tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil which are the hallmarks of a caprese salad remain. The tomato in this burger however, is grilled. The mozzarella is melted. The focaccia drizzled with olive oil and toasted. I’d love this burger on ciabatta but pick your favorite bread or rolls. Don’t skip toasting them however as bread or roll will absorb a lot of juice from the tomato. The resulting flavor is just like bruschetta.
This pork based burger is reminiscent of a meatball and topped with the “caprese” components. The meat is tender and full of flavor. If you are not a tomato fan, make the same burger but top with grilled peppers and onions. It is a delicious alternative!
If you prefer to be more traditional, feel free to keep the tomato raw. I have to tell you though, the flavor of the tomato kissed by the flames of a charcoal fire is something you really don’t want to miss out on.
Cheesesteak Bacon Jam Burger
Another twist but on a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania classic. A beef based burger with finely chopped cooked mushrooms and shallot blended in to give it depth of flavor, topped with cheese, bacon jam, grilled peppers and onions. So maybe in Philadelphia it’s not traditional to have a “cheesesteak” with grilled peppers. Maybe it’s not “traditional” to have it topped with bacon jam either. I never promised it would be traditional. I promised it would be delicious.
Bacon jam can be bought commercially online and in some stores but it is easy to make your own. I look at it as a way to sneak a few pieces of bacon when no one else is looking. Bacon jam can also be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. Try it on a turkey sandwich. Trust me on that.
I hope you enjoy my tailgating at home best burger recipes. May you be inspired to light your grill, get outside and enjoy every moment with those you love.
Roasted Tomato Caprese Burger
Pork "meatball" burger
- 16 oz ground pork
- 1/2 cup italian bread crumbs
- 1 small onion minced
- 1 tsp italian seasonings
- 1 egg large
- 1 clove garlic finely minced
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 1 tsp black pepper fresh ground
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese fresh grated
- 1 ripe tomato sliced
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper, fresh ground
- 6 oz fresh mozzarella sliced and pat dry with paper towel
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- 3 tbsp balsamic glaze (balsamic reduction) (glaze is available to at many stores or mix 1 cup balsamic vinegar with 1/4 cup brown sugar. Heat to boil in saucepan, reduce by half. Cool and refrigerate until needed)
- 6 slices focaccia bread or bread of choice
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (for toasting bread on grill and to drizzle on mozzarella)
Make pork burger patties
- Combine bread crumbs with egg and milk until mixed. Let sit 2 minutes
- Add all other ingredients except pork to egg mixture. Mix until combined.
- Gently incorporate mixture into ground pork.
- Form into 4 equal sized burgers
- Preheat grill to medium-high and oil grill grate. Set up for 2 zone cooking (direct and indirect)
- Start burgers over direct heat 4 minutes or until browned. Flip once and top with mozzarella. Grill other side for about 4 minutes with lid down on grill. If burger is browned enough, move to indirect side of grill. Remove from grill when cheese is melted and internal temp is at least 160°F.
- Drizzle olive oil over thick slices of tomato and season with salt and pepper.
- Grill over indirect heat just until softened while burgers are cooking. Time will depend on exact heat of grill, but you are looking for them to still maintain shape but be softened (as if roasted). Remove from grill.
- Drizzle olive oil on cut side of bread and grill over direct heat until lightly browned
- Place burger patty on bread, top with grilled tomato, drizzle small amount with balsamic glaze and top with fresh basil
- Serve immediately
Cheesesteak Bacon Jam Burger
- 12 oz ground chuck 80/20
- 4 oz fresh mushrooms any variety, finely chopped
- 1 shallot minced
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 2 hamburger rolls
- 1/2 lb bacon thick cut
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar packed
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 bell pepper any color, sliced
- 1 white onion sliced
- 4 slices American cheese or preferred cheese
Make bacon jam (can be made days ahead of time if preferred)
- In large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until bacon is lightly browned. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Reserve 1 tbsp bacon fat in pan.
- Heat skillet with bacon fat over medium high heat. Add minced shallot. Saute until translucent. Add vinegar, brown sugar and maple syrup. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low.
- Finely chop bacon and add to mixture
- Simmer on low heat until syrup thickens (approximately 30-45 minutes). If bacon pieces are too large, add to a food processor and pulse until desired consistency. Cool bacon jam until ready to use.
Prepare mushrooms for inside burger mixture (can do ahead of time and refrigerate)
- In skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add minced shallot. Cook for 2 minutes or until translucent. Add mushrooms, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper. Saute until golden brown and liquid has evaporated about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. May refrigerate if making ahead of time
- Add cooled mushroom mixture to ground chuck and blend. Incorporate until just mixed. Do not overwork the meat. Divide mix in half to form two patties. Season the burgers with the salt (approx 1/4 tsp kosher salt each or to your personal preference)
- Clean and oil grill grates with a paper towel. Set up grill with direct and indirect zones if using charcoal. Start burgers on direct side. Do not flip until firmed up on one side and developing nice color (approximately 3-4 minutes). Flip to other side. If grill flares up, move to indirect side until finished. Cook to desired doneness.
- Prior to burgers finishing, move to indirect side of grill, add cheese to top, close grill for a minute until cheese is melted.
- While burgers are grilling, lightly oil onions rounds and bell pepper. Grill directly on grate or cook in a small grill safe skillet (such as cast iron) on grill with
- Toast hamburger buns face down on grill for approximately 10 seconds.
- Place burgers on toasted buns, top with bacon jam, onions and peppers. Serve