In Calgary during late March, Jack Frost turned his cold gaze upon us once more and blew a final frosty kiss goodbye. Now that winter’s aftershocks are over, it’s time to greet the gods of flame. Barbecue season is here again—. also known as summer among sad vegetarians. Strike a match over your charcoal grills or turn a dial and press a button on your gas alternative. The annual barbecue season brings an opportunity to try all the great recipes you didn’t get to last year, before you eventually revert to simple standards that are quicker and easier than making an oven-baked cheese-crisp and mango chutney for a turkey burger. Plus, now you have a great reason to go outside again.
Burgers are the simple barbeque option for beginners, with layers of nuance for seasoned pit-masters. Yet for some reason, people seem to feel the need to complicate them. You could step up your game with the five following recipes for pristine patties, carefully researched and collected here for easy access, but that would be a mistake. None of these recipes deserve even the smallest pinch of your attention, because the best burgers have only one ingredient: meat. (salt and pepper optional).
The Classic Grilled Burger
This is your most basic burger. Some people call it the Plain Jane—even though it’s clearly not. If you’re just looking for an easy recipe to get barbecue season started—and desecrate the most sacred shrine to flames in your home—then look no further. You’ve arrived. You’re in the town of Duck Soup. It’s Vanilla Ville baby.
- 2lbs 80/20 ground beef (For novice practitioners, that’s usually ground chuck.)
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons minced onion (Gross.)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (It doesn’t matter how you say it. It’s never mattered.)
If you’re not completely turned away by that ingredients list, mash all that stuff together into some kind speculative slop that mimics the finished product of a burger and then I guess just drop it on to your grill in big chunky ice-cream scoops like carnivorous cookie-dough.
The Hawaiian-Teriyaki Burger
This is a tangy, sweet, delicious option that many people like to try, but here’s the thing I really want to say: you don’t need to add anything extra to a burger patty. If you have a good ground mix of fatty cuts and lean cuts, it’s going to taste great on its own. Adding unnecessary ingredients to your patty overpowers the meat’s natural, savoury succulence. It’s also complete overkill, since anything you want on a burger can be added after the patty is perfectly cooked. I’m not arguing that onions are gross. Far from it. I’m arguing that you should never add anything to a burger patty before you cook it. Anything you want on a burger should always be on the burger, not in the patty.
That’s one of the best things about burgers. Any ingredient, any taste profile, any possible combination of the five flavour elements (spice, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami) can all be built within the bun, but only if you retain the strength of its essential foundation: meat. A little salt and pepper will enhance the meat, but anything else is just a shameful mask for bad beef.
- Ground Beef
- Grated Carrots (Really?)
- Chopped Scallions (Overused and overrated)
- Grated Ginger
- Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
- Sriracha (See my note on scallions)
I don’t even know what to say anymore. The recipe I found for these patties didn’t even say to add salt and pepper. Technically, carrots and onions do cook around the same rate, so you could add them, but why would you want to? Do you like chunky unpleasant burgers? Do you like patties that crumble apart because their structural integrity has been compromised?
This is just a regular burger with extra steps. Stuffed burgers have never made any sense. They’re a cheap novelty, ideal only for gawking in disturbed delight. They’re like a lady with three-foot fingernails or a three-eyed sloth. Interesting? Sure. I might even say intriguing, but ultimately freakish, unusual, and unnecessary. Only humanity’s insatiable, vociferous gluttony could lead to these monstrosities.
I’ve already talked for longer than I care to about the reasons that this doesn’t make sense. Just put the toppings on the burger. Why do you need to put them inside? Are you trying to make life more difficult? Burgers don’t need to be complicated, and they shouldn’t be. You don’t need a bunch of rare, bizarre ingredients to make a patty taste tantalizing. You just need a good mix of meat and maybe two additional, basic seasonings.
Look at the popular bacon, mushroom, swiss burger. Sauteed mushrooms, sizzling bacon, and creamy swiss all combine for a unique, outstanding amalgamation that transports you up and away, into a fugue state characterized by caramel breezes and unimaginable satisfaction. None of those ingredients are inside the patty. They’re all on top.
Black Bean Burgers
You don’t deserve to eat burgers. Close this article, turn off your computer, and spend the rest of the day thinking about what event from your life affected you so deeply that you would even consider this level of sacrilege against the lords of meat. (And while I’m at it, stay in your lane vegetables, grains, and other passable non-meat alternatives. You already have a purpose, and you’re well-suited for what you do now. Stop trying to be meat.)
Withering vegetarians have struggled for years to find a meat alternative that makes a great burger. There is no alternative. Beets might be red, but their saccharine crimson juice is no match for iron-rich sanguine blood.
The Best Burger
The best burger patty is whatever you enjoy eating.
Just kidding, that’s wrong. The best patty has an ideal mix of meat and fat (I prefer 70/30, but 80/20 is acceptable), a pinch of salt, sprinkled over the meat like magical dust from a grease fairy, and just a touch of pepper, plucked from the lingering scent of an explosion.
However, just because that’s the best burger patty, doesn’t mean that’s what you have to eat. That’s just one the opinion of one supplicant under a mighty, meaty suzerain. There are many reasons not to eat meat (especially beef): from the extremely poor treatment of most livestock, to expressing devotion for another, equally mighty deity. Whatever your reasons are for abstaining, I support you. Everyone has their own priorities, goals, and needs. You should never take the deranged ravings of a lunatic writing articles on the internet as anything other than what they are.
If you’re one of those people that do eat beef, and you claim that burgers are better with chunks of onion inside of them, or volatile bombs of cheese and bacon placed in the center to make victims of ignorant eaters, then I can only ask Prometheus for strength, and hope that eventually you join Aristotle, Hesiod, and I in eudaimonia.
Moderation in all things, including burgers.