One of the best parts of any football game is the delicious feast that immediately precedes the action. Whether you’re tailgating in the cold outside the stadium or firing up the grill at home, here are two juicy, delicious burger recipes—one vegetarian, one traditional beef—from master griller Steven Raichlen, sure to please your entire football party.
The Great American Hamburger
What makes a great hamburger? First there’s the meat. You want to use a flavorful cut, like sirloin (for uptown burgers), or chuck or round (if you’re feeling more democratic). And it shouldn’t be too lean: 15 to 20 percent fat is ideal.
I adhere to the “less is more” school when it comes to making hamburgers. Namely, the fewer ingredients you add to the meat, the better. Oh, I know how tempting it is for cooks to want to season the meat with onion, garlic, spices, and condiments. But to taste a burger at its best, keep it utterly simple. The garnishes will add all the flavor you need.
For the burgers
- 2¼ pounds ground round, chuck, or sirloin
- 6 slices (½ inch thick) Vidalia or other sweet onion (optional)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 hamburger buns
For the toppings—any or all
- Iceberg lettuce leaves
- Sliced ripe tomatoes
- Sliced dill pickles or sweet pickles
- Cooked bacon (2 slices per burger)
- Ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise
1. Divide the meat into six equal portions. Lightly wet your hands with cold water, then form each portion of meat into a round patty, 4 inches across and of an even thickness (see Note).
2. Set up the grill for direct cooking and preheat to high.
3. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate.
4. If using onion slices, brush them on both sides with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Place the onions on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, about 4 minutes per side, then transfer to a plate.
5. Brush one side of the meat patties lightly with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the burgers, buttered side down, on the hot grate and grill until the bottoms are nicely browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Brush the tops lightly with some of the melted butter and season them with salt and pepper. Using a spatula, turn the burgers and grill until they are browned and cooked to taste, 4 to 5 minutes longer for medium. Meanwhile, brush the cut sides of the buns with the remaining melted butter and toast them, cut sides down, on the grill during the last 2 minutes the burgers cook.
6. Set out the toppings. Put the burgers and onion slices on buns and serve.
Note: If you are not planning on cooking the burgers immediately, place them on a large plate, cover them loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate them
Mushroom-Rice Burgers with Cheddar Cheese
When I was growing up, no one knew from vegetarian burgers. Today, they’ve become big business, as more and more health-conscious Americans adopt at least partial vegetarian diets. The following recipe combines mushrooms, oats, and brown rice in a patty that looks somewhat like a hamburger and has a rich, earthy flavor that could almost be described as meaty. It’s also a great way to use up leftover brown rice. Note that vegetarian burgers are more fragile than beef or lamb burgers. Cook them on a well-oiled vegetable grate and turn them as gently as possible with a spatula.
For the burgers
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 ounces white mushrooms, wiped clean with dampened paper towels and finely chopped
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- ½ cup quick oats
- 4 ounces coarsely grated sharp Cheddar cheese (about ¾ cup)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs, as needed
- ½ head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
- 1 large ripe tomato, thinly sliced
- 1 large onion (optional), thinly sliced
- Pickle slices
- 4 whole-wheat hamburger buns
- Ketchup and/or mayonnaise and/or mustard
1. Prepare the burger mixture: Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft but not brown, about 4 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes.
2. Stir in the brown rice and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the oats, Cheddar cheese, and egg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the burger mixture seems too moist, add the bread crumbs. Cover the burger mixture and refrigerate it until firm, 3 to 4 hours.
3. Line a baking sheet or large plate with plastic wrap. Divide the burger mixture into equal portions. Lightly wet your hands with cold water, then form each portion of the burger mixture into a patty. Place the patties on the prepared baking sheet, cover them loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Arrange the lettuce, tomato slices, onion slices (if using), and pickles on a platter and set aside.
4. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.
5. When ready to cook, place a vegetable grate on the hot grill and preheat it for 5 minutes. Oil the vegetable grate and arrange the patties on it. Grill the patties, turning them carefully with a spatula, until nicely browned on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes per side. As the patties cook, toast the hamburger buns on the grate as well.
Want more Burger goodness? Get Raichlen’s Burgers ebook for $1.99.
And make sure to check out BarbecueBible.com for more grilling and tailgating ideas from Steven Raichlen.