1. Make It Big...
When you're shaping patties, say the authors of the new book The Burger
, it's best to form them slightly wider than the buns, because they'll shrink during cooking. For the same reason, it also helps to make the edges of each patty thicker than the middle, which some people do by adding a dimple to the center, so when the meat cooks and contracts, the patty will end up having an even thickness.
2. ...Or Make It Small
Purists will tell you these diminutive burgers are only sliders when they're steamed and covered in thinly sliced onions. Whatever you call them, though, mini burgers are a fun party food and the ideal addition to a buffet that already includes other mains such as grilled chicken or pizza. If you can't find buns that fit your burgers, cut standard hamburger rolls using a 3-inch round cookie cutter (you'll get two or three minis, depending on the size of the larger bun), or buy Hawaiian sweet rolls, which are just the right size.
3. Do Well-Done Right
If you like your burgers cooked past medium, add grated cheese or finely chopped vegetables to the meat to keep it moist. Some people even add chipped ice to their ground meat, around two crushed ice cubes per pound of meat (if you do this, you'll need to cook the burgers immediately).
4. Meet Cheese's Best Friend
Caramelized onions are both rich and sweet, and require very little attention while you're cooking them. They go well with sharp white cheeses (which is one reason French onion soup is so delicious); try them with Manchego.
5. Combine the Burger with the Barbecue
Why limit sweet, smoky, slightly spicy barbecue sauce to chicken and ribs? Brushing burgers with the condiment adds flavor and will help the edges turn just a bit crispy, thanks to the sauce's sugar content. Spoon a little extra onto the inside of the buns for an added kick.
6. Remember, There's a Reason You Don't See Bacon-Cheese Lamb Burgers
Ketchup and American cheese aren't exactly naturals for lamb, since the meat has a stronger flavor (some call it gamy, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, we promise) than beef and therefore demands a bit more oomph from its supporting cast. Middle Eastern and Greek flavors—think feta or curry—are ideal. We're also taken with Boston chef Jamie Bissonnette
's Lamb Burger with Blue Cheese, Olives and Tzatziki. He mixes blue cheese and finely chopped olives into the ground meat, forms patties and grills them. He spreads a yogurt sauce like this one
7. Reconsider the Mushroom
In recent years, grain-based burgers formed with lentils, quinoa and more
have become so popular that it's easy to forget about the reliably delicious portobello burger. Chef Spike Mendelsohn roasts the mushroom caps with thyme, makes mini sandwiches out of them with Cheddar and Muenster, and breads and fries each one lightly so their edges turn crisp.
Get the recipe: Vegetarians Are People Too 'Shroom Burger
8. Banish Bland Turkey
Ground turkey is a healthy alternative to beef (it's even leaner than chicken), but make sure to choose dark meat for the best flavor and texture. Turkey can be much wetter than beef and therefore harder to shape, but adding some bread crumbs and wetting your hands before forming the patties will help.
Get the recipe: Mar-a-Lago Turkey Burger
9. Two Words: Fried Egg
A runny, sunny-side-up egg enhances everything from salads to grilled cheese to, yes, burgers. To time the meat-egg combo right, wait until the burgers are off the grill to fry the eggs; the meat can rest for the one or two minutes it takes to get the yolks just set.
10. Put the Pickles on the Bottom
There are probably a number of reasons chef Marc Murphy
has swept burger competitions with his Big Marc, from the vodka-spiked ketchup aioli to the Cheddar bun, but the trick we're stealing is placing the bread-and-butter pickles under the burger instead of on top of it. They catch the juices from the meat and keep the bun from getting soggy.
11. Turn Any Condiment into a Burger-Ready Sauce
If you've ever thought, "Gee, this pesto/hot sauce/tapenade would be great on a burger," but assumed the thin sauce would just slide right off, try mixing it with aioli (a garlic-egg-lemon juice spread) or simply mayonnaise. Either one has the smooth, spreadable consistency that adheres well to both burgers and buns.
Next: Grilled pie, grilled lemonade and more new recipes to try this weekend