5 Tips for Easier, Better Burger Grilling

 

12328084_970499479704112_337775783_n

The family backyard barbecue marks the arrival of spring and summer for many of us. And as amateur domestic chefs, there are few things that thrill us more than firing up the grill (either gas or charcoal) and cooking our favorite homemade burgers to share with the most special people in our lives.

Unfortunately, grilling can be a hassle along with the fun. It takes skill and patience to cook good beef on a grilltop. And it takes energy and time to guide and maintenance your grill through the process.

But grilling burgers doesn’t have to be all pain and no pleasure. Here are five very quick and super simple tips I’ve discovered that I guarantee will both improve your cooking results and increase your enjoyment in the grilling process. Cooking is a science, and you should experiment and find your own tricks, but it doesn’t have to be a rocket science process.

1 – MIX IT UP: Season and blend your own beef. No doubt, it’s easier to use frozen or pre-prepared fresh patties. But if you really want your burgers to impress your diners and yourself, buy fresh ground beef and mix in your own seasonings. It takes a little more effort but not much more cost, and you’ll thank yourself when everybody (you included) takes the first bite.

2 – TAKE SHAPE: Press a thumb print into the center of each patty before cooling (see tip No. 3) and cooking them. This indentation will help your patties hold their shape during cooking, instead of swelling in the center and shrinking on the outsides.

3 – COOL IT: Flash freeze your burger patties after you hand-shape them. We’re not talking long here so that your burgers turn into frozen patties. Just 15-20 minutes or so in the fridge or freezer or long enough to cool the meat so that it holds together better on the grill. This will keep you from dealing with your fresh meat trying to fall apart on the grill.

4 – DON’T CROWD: Don’t put too many burgers, or other foods, on your grill surface at any one time. Your meat, and everything else for that matter, will cook better with space around it. No matter your cooking method, you get better heat on your food if you’re not distributing it to more items. So be sure you allot enough time and be patient with the cooking process.

5 – KEEP IT CLEAN: When you’re done cooking and after your grill cools down, go ahead and clean it up before putting it away for next time. (I use a charcoal grill and have found that soap pads and warm water work wonders on a dirty grill top. I clean it and then store my grill grate in our pantry until the next use. And I go ahead and remove all of the used coals from the bottom of my grill to be ready to add fresh coals the next time I grill.) You’ll thank yourself when you get ready to grill next time and you don’t have to go through a long process to clean before you begin cooking.

What are your best tips for grilling out? Share them in our comments section or on social media. Find us @foodiescore on Facebook and Instagram, or on Twitter at @Foodie_Score.

Flavor-Packed, Restaurant-Quality Texas Burgers

IMG_2213

Texans are known in the culinary world for their ability to create powerful flavors in meats. That’s a good explanation for why this Weber recipe for Texas Burgers is one of the all-time favorites in our house. This has become one of our favorite ways to season our burgers, no matter how we cook and top them. We’ve used this blend of seasonings for burgers cooked on the grill and in the oven, and we’ve now topped these delicious sandwiches with more varieties of toppings than makes sense to list here.

What makes this combination so good? It all starts with just a little bit of kick. You don’t want to give your burgers a funny taste that strays too far from what beef tastes like. But you don’t want a bland burger with no flavor. This blend is just the right amount of taste without going too far.

So far, my favorite way to top these burgers is the assortment you see in the picture above. A few pieces or a small bed of shredded lettuce, a hunk of fresh-sliced cheddar cheese and the desired amount of your favorite barbecue sauce. Per my experiences as a Texas barbecue consumer, I’d suggest a sauce that’s a bit more smoky than sweet, but not one that’s heavy on vinegar. Honestly, one of my favorites for this recipe is Heinz’s Kansas City BBQ Sauce, right out of the bottle. Top off your burgers with a couple of pickle chips for an extra little crunch if you like.

Most importantly though, be sure you can enjoy the flavor of your beef. Here’s how you can do that. The yield for this recipe is 4 burgers.

Ingredients

1.6 pounds of fresh ground beef (I like at least 80-20, and 90-10 is even better)

1 tablespoon chili powder

½ teaspoon garlic salt

4 hearty buns (I like Brioche)

12 pickle chips

BBQ sauce (of your choice)

4 pieces of freshly sliced cheddar cheese

lettuce (small pieces or leaves to shred)

Process

1 – The most important step is to blend your own burger meat and hand-patty the burgers yourself. The best burgers I’ve ever had – at home or in a restaurant – were clearly hand-pattied. So get your hands dirty and mix your beef, chili powder and garlic salt together. Start by tearing the ground beef into small pieces in a bowl, then top with the seasonings, and finally incorporate by hand.

2 – Once everything is nice and mixed, divide the meat into four equal amounts (if you want all of your burgers to be the same size) and roll each one into a ball. Then, if you don’t have a burger press, use your hands to press the burgers into patties less than an inch thick (any thicker and cooking will take longer and be more difficult to gauge).

3 – Cook your burgers with your desired method and to desired doneness, either on a grill, stovetop or in the oven. I prefer using the oven method – cooking them in an aluminum foil packet – and seeing all of the grease that drains off. You end up with a well-cooked burger that maintains its juiciness without all of the fat. The oven process can also be ideal to save time and hassle with the grill, and if you cook the meat in a packet to catch the juices, you won’t have a dirty pan or grill grate to clean up later.

4 – Lightly toast your buns, then top with your burger patty and a piece of cheddar cheese. Put your burger and cheese in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to melt the cheese perfectly and re-soften the now-toasted bun (this is a trick I like to use to toast a bun and then remove any excess crunch…I don’t like a toasted bun that creates all of the pieces that fall off, meaning parts of the bun I don’t eat).

5 – Add the lettuce and top with the barbecue sauce and pickles and serve.

We’ve tried a lot of burger combinations at our house, but this simple two-seasoning, hand-pattied option has become our go-to method for a delicious homemade burger. And if you’ve read to the very end, I must leave you a golden coin of information that may be the best part of all. The recipe above costs me less than $2 per serving, without sacrificing good meat, good bread, fresh cheese and other ingredients for toppings. Good luck finding a $2 burger this good at any restaurant. (I suggest you try this recipe instead!)

Simple Citrus Shrimp Burgers

img_8247When I lived near the Crystal Coast region of North Carolina in the early 2000s, I had my first experience with a shrimp burger in Morehead City, the site of the annual N.C. Seafood Festival. (This year’s festival starts today and runs through October 2.)

I had never seen or heard of anything like it. These incredibly crispy, fried shrimp stacked on a hamburger bun, sometimes with nothing else and sometimes with a variety of accompanying toppings.

As a pure cheeseburger lover – meaning I enjoy beef, cheese and bun most of all – I had a hard time calling it a burger. But regardless of its name, it was good, and I ended up trying a variety of shrimp burgers during my time “Down East” in the Tar Heel State.

I decided recently that I wanted to venture creating my own shrimp burger at home. I didn’t expect the first trial to be all that great, but I wanted to share the shrimp burger with others, and I wanted to do it from my own kitchen.

So, here’s what I came up with on a recent Friday night, and what my wife Molly and I thought about it. I don’t know that it’s worthy of something as prestigious as the N.C. Seafood Festival, but it was good enough to earn praise in our home (more on that way below). One thing to know before reading further: Many shrimp burger recipes mix the shrimp in a food processor to create a patty with the shrimp. I took a different route based on the shrimp burgers I ate in Eastern North Carolina.

The Burger Ingredients

20 medium-size shrimp, deveined and without tails

all-purpose flour

dash of salt

dash of pepper

dash of paprika

1 egg

dash of worcestershire sauce

dash of lime juice

dash of lemon juice

1/8 stick of butter

Cooking oil

2 large hamburger sandwich buns

The sauce

1 teaspoon of mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon of ketchup

1/2 teaspoon of red wine vinegar

The process

1. Your shrimp need to have no external coverings, including tails. Saute the shrimp on medium heat on your stovetop in a pan with butter with a dash each of salt, pepper, and lime and lemon juices.

2. Cool the shrimp. (You can flash freeze in the freezer, but don’t let them get too cold or icy. You want them where they just aren’t hot or too warm to dredge.)

3. Mix the egg and a dash of worcestershire sauce in a bowl and toss in your shrimp.

img_82444. Once the shrimp are coated enough with egg mixture, toss them into a separate bowl with a mixture of all-purpose flour and a dash each of salt, pepper and paprika.

5. When your shrimp are well-coated with flour, add them to your frying pan in a thin coating of cooking oil of your choice (can use the same one you sauteed in if you clean it out beforehand). You don’t need too much oil for something as small as shrimp.

6. Once one side is well-fried, turn them over and fry the other side. You can add a hearty dash of both lemon and lime juices over the shrimp as they fry but before the coating solidifies.

img_82457. Remove your shrimp and drain the grease off as desired.

8. For your sauce, mix 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise with 1/2 teaspoon of ketchup and 1/2 teaspoon of red wine vinegar in a small mixing bowl. Mix throughly until all blended into one solution. You can add a dash of paprika to this sauce and mix it in well, too, if you like.

9. Spread the sauce on the inside of each half of your sandwich buns.

10. Add the shrimp on top by placing a layer one-shrimp-deep on the bun. Add the extras on top. You can always add lettuce, tomato, onion or any other topping you desire before serving. We went with the basic shrimp burger.

This recipe yields two shrimp burgers.

Be brave and try it! Let me know what you think!

Molly’s Take: I’ve never actually had a shrimp burger, so when some friends came over and we were discussing Matthew’s new dinner idea, everyone was curious. Is it formed into a patty? Is it just shrimp on a bun? Is it shrimp on a burger? To be honest, I didn’t know myself! But I found out soon enough that Matthew’s style of shrimp burger is tasty, crispy fried shrimp on a hearty bun, with a happy helping of tangy sauce to boot. I loved the simple three-ingredient sauce, as it complemented the shrimp’s subtle lemon and lime flavors. Overall, the shrimp burger was quite delicious and I can’t wait for Matthew to make it again. I’m sure next time, he’ll have even more new additions!

Matthew’s Take: Having had a variety of shrimp burgers in coastal North Carolina, where the seafood is fresh and the cooking traditions with it run deep, my recipe isn’t quite ready for primetime. But it was pretty good! And the sauce was a pleasing addition to the citrusy, breaded shrimp. This is definitely one I’d try again. Perhaps the best part of this recipe is that you can adapt it any way you like. You don’t even have to fry the shrimp, which was a new experience for me. I ended up with a thin, crispy coating. As unhealthy as it may be, I’d love to have a thicker coating next time. And I might try some fresh veggies to top the sandwich was well. You can make this one your own!

Juicy Oven Burger Sliders

There’s a strong possibility these cheeseburgers will remind you of something you’ve tasted before if you’re familiar with a wide variety of basic restaurant cheeseburgers. Molly found a recipe for Aunt Kathy’s Oven Burgers online, and I modified it slightly to fit exactly what I craved at the time we tried it out. The result was one of the best burgers we’ve ever made in the #FoodieScore kitchen.

As much as I love a nice, thick cheeseburger, there are times when more of a slider sandwich hits the spot. There’s something about the bite-size option that’s really simple and satisfying. (And I don’t feel bad about eating more than one!) So, that’s the route we took on this burger creation, which is the first to find its way to our #FoodieScore blog by way of Pinterest. Most of our burger creations have actually started as recipes from one of two cheeseburger recipe books I have in our kitchen, or as on-the-fly tests that have popped in my head due to a craving for a specific ingredient combination.

This burger is unique for its sauce and its cooking method. Here’s how we made it. (You can always modify this recipe to meet your tastes and needs.)

Burger ingredients
(yields 6 sliders)

1 pound of fresh ground beef (Never use frozen beef for a great hamburger.)

6 small, fresh hamburger buns (A smallish regular burger bun will do.)

3 slices of American cheese (Change cheese depending on taste, but American offers a nice gooey factor.)

roll of aluminum foil

Sauce ingredients
(adjust accordingly for more burgers, bigger burgers or more/less sauce)

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 tbsp ketchup

1/2 tbsp mustard

2 slices of dill pickle, finely diced

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp paprika

1 pinch of cayenne pepper

Directions

1. Mix a couple of dashes of salt and pepper into your ground beef and then separate and roll into six individual balls of meat.

IMG_7867

2. Press the meat balls into flat patties and round the edges.

3. Add the meat balls, three at a time, into a large skillet on medium-high heat on the stovetop. (Repeat this step and the next until all patties are cooked.)

4. Cook the patties until they’re almost done, and you can leave the slightest bit of pink in the center because they’re not done cooking. Drain the burger patties.

5. In a mixing bowl, combine all of your sauce ingredients with a whisk.

IMG_7868

6. On the inside of the top half of each bun, spread a generous portion of sauce.

7. Place each burger patty on the bottom of each bun and top with half a slice of cheese. Then put the sauce-covered top bun on top of the burger and cheese-covered bottom bun half.

8. Wrap each completed burger individually in foil and place all wrapped burgers on a baking sheet.

IMG_7861

9. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 12-15 minutes to melt the cheese and cook slightly.

10. Remove your burgers from the oven and serve.

Matthew’s Take: I expected this burger to offer gooey cheese and a delicious combination of pan-fried and oven-juiced meat. I did not expect baking the full burgers in foil to crisp the buns ever so slightly. I actually worried the sandwich might be a bit soggy with a sauce and a wrapped soft bun, but it was actually toasted perfectly. The sauce was delicious. The meat was juicy. Everything about this cheeseburger was delightful. And on top of that, it was fairly cheap and simple to make. I give it an A+ for taste, an A+ for ease and an A+ for cost. This would be a great cheeseburger on the cheap to make a batch of and serve for a group of children at a birthday party or other gathering, or just for your family one night during the week. And with the method of cooking and wrapping, you can save burgers you don’t eat in the fridge once they cool, take them out and heat them up for lunch or dinner for the next several days. I don’t know who Aunt Kathy is from the original recipe, but she had a great burger idea! What a #FoodieScore!

Molly’s Take: These oven burgers were a fantastic find on Pinterest. I took one look at a picture of the cheesy interior and decided we had to try our own variation. The original recipe called for twice the amounts of sauce, but I knew we wouldn’t need that much. Our recipe is halved already, and it’s the perfect amount of sauce for six burgers. Now, how do they taste? In a word, fantastic. The way the cheese melts and the juice cooks into the burger due to the oven method intensifies the flavor. And the sauce means you don’t need any other toppings once it comes out of the oven. I, too, was surprised at how the oven baking method using tin foil caused the buns to toast on top. Remarkably, nothing was soggy. It was perfectly cooked. These would indeed make a great party option, whether for a picnic or a cookout. The foil will keep them warm until ready to eat, but it’s also super easy to store them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. This was one of my favorite burgers that we have ever made together, and definitely one we’ll try again. Confession: I even ate two!

Cheeseburger with Homemade Cherry Cola BBQ Sauce

IMG_7099

(By Matthew)

My favorite cheeseburger hands down is a basic burger: maybe something with cheese, lettuce, tomato, a little mayo. That’s usually what I seek out the first time I’m visiting a spot known for its cheeseburgers. Next on the list after the “classic” version is some version of barbecue cheeseburger. I love the combination of meat, bun, cheese and barbecue sauce.

My taste for barbecue sauce on cheeseburgers is why the “Bronco Burger” was an attractive option when we recently planned a cookout at our house.  The Bronco includes, among other delicious features, a homemade cherry cola barbecue sauce that offers a bit of a kick. The accompanying mozzarella cheese provides a cool down effect that pairs nicely with the sauce.

This burger recipe was a fun one to make alongside Molly. As I grilled the burgers in the backyard, she made the barbecue sauce in the kitchen. Let’s dive right into what you’ll need to make your own Bronco Burgers, along with the process for putting the burgers and sauce together.

Burger Ingredients

1.5 pounds ground beef of your choice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon prepared chili powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sandwich Ingredients

mozzarella cheese of your choice

hamburger buns

sweet onion slices

dill pickle chips

Barbecue Sauce Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1.5 cups ketchup

1.25 cups cherry Coke (or your preferred cola)

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup cherry preserves

1/8 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

IMG_7100

Sauce Directions

1. Melt butter in pan

2. Add onion and garlic and saute.

3. Whisk in remaining ingredients.

4. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Cook until mixture thickens.

The sauce will take you about 45 minutes. It takes a while to thicken in some cases.

Serve warm.

IMG_7091

Putting your burgers in the fridge or freezer to get them nice and cool before putting them on the grill will help them hold together better as they cook. This is especially important if you’re cooking with fresh ground beef.

Burger Directions

1. Mix your cumin, chili powder, onion powder, salt and pepper into your meat.

2. Patty out into the size of burgers you’d like to eat.

3. Use your fingers to make an indentation in the centers of both sides of the burger patties to prevent them from forming a dome as they cook.

4. Refrigerate your burgers until you’re ready to grill them.

5. Grill until burgers are done as you desire.

6. Arrange burgers with cheese, pickles and onion on your buns and then top with preferred amount of barbecue sauce.

 

Molly’s Take: One step is left out of this phenomenal burger recipe: Enjoy! The sauce is killer and, despite the time it takes to cook, surprisingly easy to make. Drizzled on top of a perfectly-seasoned burger bursting with flavor and combined with the smoky taste and the texture of mozzarella, all sandwiched between a solid, fresh bun — this sauce is the microphone that makes that burger sing. Add in some pickles and onions and you’ve got a flavor explosion the likes of which I’ve never had at home in a homemade burger. In other words, if you’ve got a minute and a hot grill, try this and tell us what you thought.

Matthew’s Take: These Bronco Burgers are as tasty as any barbecue-sauced cheeseburgers I’ve had, and it’s all because of the barbecue sauce. The spice mixture that goes into the patties has its own role in this #FoodieScore experience, and the mozzarella cheese, pickles and onions create a nice mixture of textures and flavors, but it’s the homemade sauce that provides the lasting impression. And the best part? You can refrigerate the sauce and continue to use it on pork, chicken and other foods for a few weeks after making it. This is a winner if you like barbecue cheeseburgers. I give this one an A for taste, an A- for cost (you may have to buy some spices and items you won’t have on hand), and I give it a B for ease. The sauce took Molly some time and attention to cook. But hey, that’s the point. It wouldn’t be the same with a bottled barbecue sauce.

Cheese-Stuffed Juicy Lucy Cheeseburgers

IMG_4526

(By Matthew)

Basic cheeseburgers can be one of the easiest dinners you make for yourself or your family. The Juicy Lucy cheeseburger, however, is one of the more complicated burgers to pull off.

The Juicy Lucy, a cheese-stuffed burger, is known to have originated in Minnesota. Two restaurants, Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club, take ultimate credit for the specific take on the American classic.

I’ve cooked Juicy Lucy burgers on the stovetop before, but until last week I had never tried them on the grill. I worried a bit about all the cheese melting out while cooking on a grill top over an open flame. Some of the cheese did melt out, but not nearly as much as I expected.

There are a few keys to cooking a Juicy Lucy, particularly on a grill. We’ll share the whole cooking process below, but here are a few important tips that stand out.

  1. Be sure you tightly seal your two patties together around your cheese to help keep the cheese in the middle as it melts.
  2. Be sure to chill your Juicy Lucy-prepped patties in the fridge for a while prior to putting them on the grill. That further keeps your cheese tightly sealed.
  3. Don’t plan to turn your burgers more than a time or two while they’re on the grill. The more you turn them, the more likely you’ll start to tear up your meat and leak your cheese from the center.
  4. You’ll want to make your patties as thin as possible so they cook quickly and get done before your cheese melts enough that it wants to leak into the grill.
  5. If your cheese does begin to leak, you will likely experience flame-ups if you’re using a charcoal grill. Be prepared to put out those fires.

IMG_4507

Here’s what you’ll need to make your Juicy Lucy Cheeseburgers. These amounts will be enough to make four quarter-pound burgers.

1 pound of fresh ground beef of your choice

1 block of Cheddar (or your favorite) cheese to slice fresh

Marinade of your choice (we used a half cup of Worcestershire sauce and pinches of salt and pepper on each patty)

4 buns

Condiments and toppings of your choice

IMG_4508

Directions

  1. Make eight equal patties from your ground beef and coat as you wish with your marinade.
  2. Slice your cheese thin and form it into stacks of two or three pieces each.
  3. Stack slices of cheese (not too thick) in the middle top of one of the patties.
  4. Cover that patty with another patty.
  5. Crimp the edges of the two patties together to seal them together and envelope the cheese.
  6. Repeat the process with the other patties to prepare four total Juicy Lucy cheeseburgers.
  7. Put your burgers on a plate and cover with tin foil. Place them in the fridge while you prepare your grill. Allow the burgers to chill for at least 20 minutes to help further seal the burgers and the cheese inside.
  8. Have your grill hot before you put the burgers on the grill top. Allow your burger to cook well on one side before you flip it to allow the seal to strengthen between the patties. You’ll be able to slightly pull up the side facing down with a spatula to check on the doneness of one side before you flip the burger.IMG_4515    
  9. Once you flip the burger and have your patty done on both sides, be sure, as you would with any cheeseburger cooking, to be sure your juices are running clear.
  10. By this time, you will also likely have cheese running out of the burger. As long as you don’t have too much cheese leaking out to lose much, you’ll be in good shape.
  11. Put your burgers on your buns and serve with the toppings you choose.

IMG_4523

Matthew’s Take: I’ve made Juicy Lucy Cheeseburgers on the stove, but the taste of these grilled burgers by far tops anything I’ve ever attempted. The difficulty level also tops anything I’ve ever attempted with a burger, not because the steps are difficult, but because it requires some planning and precision to ensure your burgers are ready to stand firm against the grill without leaking out all the cheese. You will likely have cheese leakage because I did, too. But there was still a nice layer of cheese in the middle of the burgers. It was a smart move to patty the meat thin because it helped the meat cook better in the center with the cheese in the middle, too. I’ve been told at restaurants that serve the Juicy Lucy to expect a pink center because the burger is so thick it doesn’t cook to the center. At home you can control that factor. I give this Juicy Lucy Cheeseburger an A+ for taste and an A for cost. But I give it a C for ease because it does take some patience and practice.

Molly’s Take: These cheeseburgers were truly Juicy and delicious. It was so awesome to find a cheesy surprise in the middle of my burger. The cheddar was a great choice, too. I do think they’re harder to make than some, but not impossible. And Matthew did a great job, especially on the grill. I was also glad he made sure they weren’t pink on the inside, as I’m not a fan of pink/under-cooked burgers or meat. I give this burger, and Matthew, an A+. Give them a try if you’re adventurous! And especially if you love cheeseburgers, like we do.

Restaurant-Quality Vermont Burgers With Maple-Mustard Glaze

Burger

We’re big fans of dipping sauces, and this burger recipe uses a glaze that would also make a delicious dipping sauce for fries, chicken nuggets and tenders and anything else you like to submerge in a tasty topping. The sauce, along with the stellar burger seasoning mixture, also makes for a restaurant-quality sandwich all of your friends will want. And we know because after we tested the recipe and posted it to social media we received inquiries about its contents, solely based on pictures of the finished product. So, without further foodie blabber, here’s how you make it. We cooked indoors this time, but these would make fantastic grilled burgers for summer.

Ingredients

Burger

1 pound ground meat (we made 1/2-pound burgers for two of us, and you can modify for your serving size)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon mustard (recipe calls for ground dry mustard, we used regular store-brand condiment mustard out of the bottle and it tasted great)

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt (tread lightly to not over-season depending on how much meat you have)

1 teaspoon pepper (tread lightly to not over-season)  cheeseGlaze

2 tablespoons of mustard (recipe calls for ground dry again, and again we used mustard straight out of the condiment bottle)

1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons of maple syrup (recipe calls for pure maple syrup, but to save money we used maple-flavored store-brand syrup and it tasted great)  bunsToppings

King’s Hawaiian sandwich buns (recipe calls for pretzel buns, but those are hard to find in our small town and rural county)

bacon

cheddar cheese

lettuce (if you want to get fancy, the recipe calls for baby arugula)

chopped onion

Step one: Mix your burger patty ingredients, incorporating the onion, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper into your meat.

Step two: Dash a light coating of oil in your pan, and place your burger patties in the pan.

Step three: Cook your bacon. We actually chose to bake the bacon in the oven for this recipe, and it turned out great. More grease also appeared to cook off of the bacon.

Step four: Mix your glaze ingredients and taste to ensure you like it before you baste your burgers.

Step five: Once you turn your burgers (the only time you’ll need to turn them if your meat is fresh and not frozen), baste the sweet-tangy glaze on top. Keep basting lightly as they cook until you remove from the pan.

Step six: Toast your burger buns to prepare for making your sandwiches. Sometimes we prefer to not toast a bun if the bread is particularly fresh and room-temperature because it actually has a better consistency and more flavor for the sandwich.

Step seven: When the patties are almost fully cooked, top with a slice of cheddar cheese and let it melt just enough before removing the burgers from the pan (or grill, if you’re cooking outdoors). Bacon

Step eight: Top your burgers with the onion, lettuce and bacon. Serve.

Molly’s Take: I loved these burgers, mostly for their amazing flavor created both by what you put IN the burger and what you put ON the burger. The maple-mustard glaze is so good, we’ve used it since to dip chicken fingers in. I love how it reminds me of honey mustard, too. I’ve not had better burgers in most restaurants, and it definitely was of equal quality with some of the burgers we’ve had in fancier burger-centric restaurants, like our local Newt’s Pub Burgers. All in all, this recipe makes a delicous, absolutely delectable burger with so many flavors to excite your tastebuds from the first bite to the last.

Matthew’s Take: I’m a barbecue sauce kind of guy most of the time if I’m going to top a burger with anything other than mayo. But this maple-mustard glaze is a major winner for me. It’s like a different kind of honey mustard and, when combined with the bacon, the soft King’s Hawaiian bun and the burger seasoned in this recipe, every flavor works to perfection, both individually and in concert together. It’s not an incredibly cheap recipe, because you need a decent number of ingredients to pull it off, but we were able to offset some of the more expensive items (the pure maple syrup and the dry mustard) without sacrificing the quality of the sandwich. It looks like something you would see in a restaurant, and it tastes like something you would eat in a restaurant. I give the Vermont Burger with Maple-Mustard Glaze an A+ for taste, an A+ for presentation and an A for price flexibility. If you use regular buns instead of King’s Hawaiian or the prescribed pretzel buns, you can save even more money at the grocery store.

The Slug Burger: A Mississippi Tradition

pickled meat

Two cheeseburger cookbooks sit on the counter in our kitchen, each with a slew of burger recipes. Recently, we found a section on burgers from different states. We zeroed in on Mississippi, fascinated by the name “slugburger.” One reason we were so interested is that slugburgers have ties to the Depression-era practice of stretching out meat by adding in other ingredients. That reminded Molly of her grandmother, Loma “Banny” Watts, who used to make what she called “breadie burgers,” a combination of burger, egg and bread. Born in 1910, Banny grew up in that time period in Alabama.

So we decided to try out the slugburger from nearby Mississippi. Here’s our recipe! Hope you enjoy.

Ingredients

1 pound ground meat (we used ground turkey)

1/2 cup cornmeal (you can also use soy meal, grits or another filler)

Flour to coat burgers

Salt

Vegetable oil

Desired burger toppings

Sandwich buns

Step one:

Thoroughly mix meat with cornmeal or other filler substance and a pinch of salt.

MEAT

Step two:

Patty out burgers and coat with flour for frying.

dusty meat

Step three:

Place burgers in the pan and fry until meat is brown and crispy on the outside. Because of the consistency, the meat will still be softer on the inside when done.

oily meat

Step four:

Drain grease from burgers, place on buns and top with onions, pickles and mustard.

The original slugburgers included those toppings, but you can modify the recipe to fit your taste.

ONIONS

Recipe yields about 8 slugburgers.

Matthew’s Take: The slugburger’s connection to our family and the Depression era made it an attractive recipe from the start for me. My grandpa Lee worked in a local diner owned by Windy Powell as a young man, and I imagine they employed some of the same tactics to get the most food out of the cheapest amount of ingredients. When we found this recipe, I searched the Internet for specific takes on it and found what appeared to be the most authentic version in Corinth, Miss. After making the slugburger, I was amazed at how similar it is to a livermush sandwich, a delicacy in the county where we live. Livermush is a meat-cornmeal mixture that crisps as it fries. The resemblance of the two concoctions is striking. I give the slugburger an A for taste and an A for price. But I give it a C for presentation because, let’s face it, fried meat isn’t pretty, even when topped with onions and colorful green pickles.

Molly’s Take: The slugburger reminded me of a livermush sandwich, too, most notably because of its consistency. It’s a very different kind of burger, because it’s flatter and crispier than a typical burger. But I loved that combination on a soft bun with mustard, pickle and onion. Those ingredients seemed to just fit. I’d definitely love for us to make it again, although Banny’s original recipe for breadie burgers (which we hope to post soon!) is still my favorite alternative burger. Making something like this in the same way people did almost a hundred years ago was awesome, because we weren’t just making a burger; we were making a connection to history and those people who had to work so hard to live. We’re blessed today that getting a burger is as easy as going to McDonald’s. I can’t imagine it being so difficult to find meat that you had to stretch it out with other things you had at home. So I loved trying out this burger, because traditions like this, and the history behind them, ought to be remembered. And in the South, food is definitely one of our biggest traditions.

Check out this video for more on the slugburger and its history.

Trail of the Slugburger from Southern Foodways on Vimeo.