Grilling the very best ground meats requires little else than some olive oil, salt, and pepper. It allows the inherent flavor of the meat to take center stage. There is absolutely no substitute for a juicy, tender patty that oozes delectable flavor from first bite to last.
Every now and then, however, you might want to shake up your summertime grilling by taking a walk on the untrodden path of flavor invention and innovation—and maybe, just maybe, discover the absolute best burger you’ve ever cooked.
It’s perfectly acceptable to mix spices, herbs, and other ingredients with your ground meats that will become burgers on your grill. Just be careful not to go too far afield with your experimentation or you’ll end up with a burger that deconstructs on your grill in a matter of minutes.
Observe one rule above all else: Do not over-mix the ground meat or use a heavy hand. To do so will render the ground meat compressed, and it will cook up tough. A fabulous burger must breathe as it cooks. Air in the meat is the key to a tender, juicy burger.
When adding liquid or solid ingredients such as diced onion or garlic to the ground meat mixture, you run the risk of the mixture getting too loose to the point where making a patty is difficult or your patty disintegrates on the grill. In such cases, take a lesson from making meatballs and add an egg and/or breadcrumbs to bind everything together.
Here are some ideas for you to use as practice for finding your own jumping-off points and inspired combinations. Each is based on a batch size of 1.5 to 2 pounds of ground meat. Unless specified, all spice and herb measurements are to your preference and taste. Ingredients such as chopped onions should not exceed one half cup.
• Garlic burgers – 1 large clove of garlic and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce
• Smoked onion burgers – Smoked Onion Seasoning to taste
• Black bean / Southwest burgers – 16 oz. of black beans (cooked), 4 oz. mild green chiles (such as bell, pablano, etc.), cumin
• Basic burgers – a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce with a teaspoon of brown sugar
• Zesty garlic burgers – Zesty Garlic Seasoning to taste
• Sweet pepper burgers – 2 tbsp. sweet red pepper relish, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp. grated red onion
• Juicy burgers – bread crumbs, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, grated onion, 2 tbsp. tomato juice (for moisture); variation: instead of tomato juice, use 1/4 cup ketchup
• Bacon burgers – finely chopped onion, diced bacon, bread crumbs, egg (lightly coated with flour)
• Zesty burgers – green pepper, 2 tbsp. ketchup, horseradish, mustard
• Smoked and Spicy burgers – 2 tbsp. Lobel’s All-Purpose Savory Seasoning
• Walnut burgers –2 tbsp. finely chopped scallion, 1 beaten egg, 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
• Sour cream burger – 1/2 packet of onion soup mix, 2 tbsp. water, 2 cups sour cream
• Italian burger – Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder
• Teriyaki burger – bread crumbs, finely chopped onion, 2 eggs, sugar, soy sauce, water, garlic, 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
• BBQ burger – garlic powder, cinnamon, onion powder, 1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
• Ancho burger – ancho seasoning paste
• Buffalo burger – hot sauce and crumbled blue cheese
• Steakhouse burger – 1/2 cup of Lobel’s Steak Sauce
Have you ever tried any of these flavor profiles in a burger? Any that you’re hankering to try now? What’s your favorite flavor profile for a burger? What’s your favorite mix-in for a burger? What type of burger are you planning to grill for Memorial Day?