If there is one universal culinary truth, it's that bacon is easy, which probably explains why I don't often order it on my burger. It takes the fun and the challenge out of the whole thing. Pretty much any burger's gonna taste good with a pile of crisp bacon on top of it, right? Well today we're throwing decency to the wind. I don't often eat bacon on my burgers, but when I do, I want them to be the baconiest bacon burgers I can eat.
'The Burger Lab' on Serious Eats
This version of the classic Hot Brown sandwich takes out the one head-scratching element: the turkey. I mean, it's not like the turkey taste bad, per se. I quite like the turkey in there. But still, it has always felt odd to me to combine what is regarded as one of the healthier meat choices with what has the potential to be the greatest calorific splurge of a sandwich ever created. Replacing the turkey with a grilled juicy hamburger patty realizes that potential.
There's not really much to making a perfect Surf N' Turf burger. All you need is some impeccably good beef and lobster and absolutely perfect execution. Easy, right? Here's how.
Onions and beef go together like baths and bubbles, like Wallace and Gromit, like hitchhikers and towels, like...you get the picture. They belong together, long for each other's company. A burger without onions is still a burger, but tuck a few slices of raw sweet onion underneath or spread a pile of deeply browned caramelized onions on top and you've got yourself something that is suddenly more than a sum of its parts. Nowhere is this fact more well-known than in Oklahoma, home of the Onion Burger, a burger that is nearly as much onion as it is meat. Today we're gonna talk about how to make your own at home.
The Burger Lab's Toppings Week 2013: Hot and Smoky Cheeseburgers with Bacon and Pickled Cherry Pepper Relish
It took the Shake Shack years before it introduced a second burger on its menu aside from its signature Shackburger. When it hit the boards, the Smoke Shack was a near instant hit (we sure loved it). It took the signature well-seared Shake Shack patty and paired it with crisp bacon and a sweet-hot pickled pepper relish. It's a flavor combination worth repeating as often as possible, so I decided to take my own spin on it to the backyard burger.
The frita is a classic regional American burger created by Cuban immigrants in South Florida. While the standard is a thin, griddled patty with a spiced ketchup-based sauce, my take on it is a slightly larger version designed for the backyard grill with a boldly seasoned pork and beef patty, a creamier sauce, and more vegetables. The crisp shoestring potatoes that are the hallmark of a traditional frita remain the same.
I've been on a Greek yogurt sauce kick recently. It's something that I tend to slip into when the summer comes and I'm looking for something that's cooling, easy to make, and darn tasty to boot. That it goes on just about anything—as a dip for raw vegetables or pita, as a sauce for roasted meats, as a dressing for hearty salads, a rub for grilled corn, and yes, as a sauce for burgers—makes it all the more easy to slip into the trap of making a batch each week and applying it willy-nillilly. It's a trap I really don't mind falling into.
As a burger lover and a pizza lover, I've always liked the idea of some sort of burger-pizza hybrid, but it never really works according to plan. As our Home Slice Adam can tell you, designing a good hamburger pizza is no easy feat (I've yet to see a successful one anywhere, and pizza burgers rarely fare well either. This one, which is not quite a pizza burger, does a little better, I think.
We all know how seductive a plate of poutine can be, right? You know, that Canadian late-night dish of fresh fries smothered with squeaky cheese curds and hot, meaty gravy? After a few beers it beckons to you, seduces you. A cheese-clad goddess enrobed in gravy, ready to nip your hangover in the bud. Heck, even without the beer goggles poutine is a pretty tough mistress to turn away. So what happens when your poutine employs her crafty wiles on an unsuspecting burger? The Poutine Burger emerges.
The Burger Lab: A 60-Day Dry-Aged Home-Ground Prime Rib Burger (That You Will Probably Never Make At Home)
I'm not even going to pretend that anyone is going to actually make this recipe start to finish from scratch, or even from not-scratch. It's just not practical unless you own a restaurant or are planning on aging 80 pounds of beef yourself and saving the trim to make a half dozen or so burgers. So you can consider this slideshow to pretty much be straight-up food porn.
How many times have you read that in a book or heard a TV chef say it? "It squeezes the juices out!" they cry. "It turns your lunch into a hockey puck!"they scream. Sometimes they'll try and appeal to your compassionate side. "Certainly there are some things that deserve crushing. Evil grapes. T-800 model Terminators. Rebel scum trapped in trash disposals. But what has that poor, defenseless little burger ever done to you to deserve such a fate?"
You've heard it so many times you can't help but believe it's true, right? Not so fast—some of my favorite burgers are smashed, and smashed hard. What gives?
A world of burgers with no onions is like a world of movies with no popcorn: You'd still indulge and perhaps even enjoy yourself, but deep down you'd know that there's something missing, some vital element that prevents the experience from living up to its full potential. This post is about helping your burgers and your onions achieve a succesful, beautiful union.
It's time for another round of The Food Lab. Got a suggestion for an upcoming topic? Email Kenji here, and he'll do his best to answer your queries in a future post. Become a fan of The Food Lab on...
The flavors of bacon, grilled onions, and barbecue sauce have got to be classic for a reason. And it's not just because someone had the bright idea that salty bacon and plenty of sweet, smoky sauce can rescue even a mediocre hamburger. No, it's because when each of the elements is perfect—the burger juicy and medium rare with a smoky char from the grill, the bacon thick cut, crisp, and lacquered in tangy sauce, the onion softened to a sweet, sweet tenderness—it's a flavor combination that's tough to beat. Thing is, we rarely ever receive a perfect barbecue bacon cheeseburger. Here's how to do it.
The combination of grilled beef in a sweet and salty marinade and kimchi is about as classic as it gets. Think: kalbi or bulgogi. Even the combination of marinated beef, kimchi, and cheese is not unprecedented. Just take a look at the Korean taco craze. Koreans will take slices of American cheese and melt them into their kimchi jjigae. I had an awesome bulgogi hoagie at Broadway Cafe in Ann Arbor last year. Even the Serious Eats book has a recipe for kimchi quesadillas. So to put kimchi on a burger seems only natural.
A fat patty of grilled beef draped with a melty, oozy slice of pepper jack cheese, topped with roasted green chilis, and a handful of pickled jalapeños, served on a hearty bun with a generous swipe of chipotle mayonnaise. This is the burger that bites back.
Lamb burgers are like the Super Mario Bros. 2 of the burger world. They're kind of strange and funky and it's not entirely clear how they fit into the canon of their brethren, but they're awesome in their own way, and a great change from the norm. I wouldn't eat a lamb burger every day, but when I do, I want it to be the best damned lamb burger it can be. After grinding and grilling my way through nearly 32 pounds of the stuff, there's a thing or two I learned about the process.
Personally, I do like a good veggie burger. And I'm not talking one of those hockey puck, soy protein, faux-meat, painted-on-grill-mark atrocities aimed at vegetarians who secretly (or publicly) miss meat. I'm talking a veggie burger that actually tastes of grains and vegetables. A veggie burger that celebrates its veggie-ness yet can stand up to and be complemented by the typical toppings and condiments you'd find at a backyard cookout. I'm talking a veggie burger that even a meat-eater would happily eat—topped with cheese and bacon, if they want. And heck, just for the fun of it, why not add an extra challenge here and make the burgers 100 percent vegan as well?
Do you have a favorite restaurant or fast food burger that you'd like to see cracked for the home kitchen? Any long-standing burger feuds you've had with friends that need a bit of testing and resolution? Let me know your burger questions and I'll try to get to as many as I can for future Burger Lab posts.