I think it's fair to say that any kind of summery outdoor celebration flat-out requires a few handheld foods—something your guests can bite into without having to set their beers down; something they can enjoy easily while walking across the yard (or park) to grab another beer, or chasing after a roaming toddler. To that end, it's only logical that you supply them with burgers at a Fourth of July cookout, and sandwiches at a picnic. If you're in the market for recipes, we have a bunch of both to choose from, some cooked on the grill and some off—including the best bacon cheeseburgers, flavorful black bean burgers, delicious oven-cooked pulled pork (no, that's not a contradiction in terms), and shooter's-style sandwiches that really work. Keep reading for 18 burger and sandwich recipes that will keep your guests happy, sated, and at their ease all day long.
Thick and Juicy Home-Ground Grilled Cheeseburgers
The easiest, most straightforward way to improve your burgers: Ditch the store-bought ground beef. Grinding your meat at home gives you far more control over flavor and texture. For grilled burgers such as these, we like a fine grind, which stays juicier than a coarser one; and, for the best flavor, we replace chuck with a blend of short rib, brisket, and sirloin.
Barbecue Bacon Burgers
Salty pork and tangy barbecue sauce make perfect complements to smoky beef and grilled onions, which is why barbecue bacon cheeseburgers are such a favorite. To really drive home the barbecue flavor, brush sauce onto both the beef and the bacon—but remember to do so only in the last few minutes of cooking, so that it doesn't burn. Adding avocado and fried pork rinds is an advanced move, recommended only for the hungriest of eaters, but it is a delicious one.
The Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburgers
Making a bacon cheeseburger can be as simple as slapping a couple of strips of bacon on top of a patty. Or, for those who can never get enough pork, it can be something like this: replacing those strips with a bacon weave so that a little crisp pork makes its way into every bite, and using rendered bacon fat to cook the beef and onions, toast the burger buns, and even flavor the Thousand Island–style sauce. There's no wrong choice here, but we do call it "the ultimate" for a reason.
Spicy, tangy, and creamy, pimento cheese is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. But if you've only ever enjoyed it as a cold dip, you'll be in for a real treat when you try melting it on top of a burger, leaving it rich and gooey. For best results, give the cheese a whirl through a food processor to smooth it out—chunkier versions are at risk of breaking. These burgers get an extra kick from pickled jalapeños, which we use to replace standard pickles.
Quadruple Chili Cheeseburgers
We're talking chilies here, not the ever-controversial slow-cooked beef dish. They're incorporated here in four different ways: roasted green chilies (Hatch if you've got them, but Poblanos also work), pickled jalapeños, chipotle mayonnaise, and melted pepper Jack cheese. It's a burger that bites back for sure, but with a nice diversity of heat and flavor due to the variety of peppers used.
Cajun Burgers With Spicy Remoulade
Burgers might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Cajun food, but dressing these up with a host of regional touches will transport you right to Cajun Country. It starts with the patties, made with a mixture of beef and andouille sausage. We top them with the Cajun "Holy Trinity" of bell pepper, celery, and onion, charred on the grill, and finish them with a creamy and spicy remoulade.
Though teriyaki sauce is traditionally used on fish, it's wonderful on other meats, too, including grilled burgers. The most important things to remember: Use a homemade sauce (the store-bought stuff is almost universally bad), and apply it toward the end of cooking (like barbecue sauce, it runs the risk of burning otherwise). To avoid sugar overload, we replace the usual pineapple topping with crunchy cabbage and scallions.
Homemade Vegan Burgers That Don't Suck
Making a veggie burger worth eating takes a little more effort than a beef burger, but with this recipe, your labor will be amply rewarded—it produces a flavorful vegan blend that cooks up like beef on the grill or in a skillet. To make it, we use a mix of beans, barley, nuts, and vegetables, for patties with a satisfyingly wide range of flavors and textures that even the most omnivorous omnivores will go for.
Really Awesome Black Bean Burgers
In all honesty, this recipe for black bean burgers makes some of the tastiest patties we've ever had, vegetarian or otherwise. We use partially dehydrated black beans to give them a meaty texture, cashews for crunch, and mayo and feta for richness and moisture. Play around with flavorings if you like—this recipe uses sautéed onions, garlic, and Poblano peppers for a little Southwestern flair.
The Best F&$king Grilled Chicken Sandwich Ever
You can do more than you'd think to make grilled chicken breast tasty, but to become transcendent, it needs accoutrements. This sandwich turns humble grilled chicken into something to crave by topping the breast with smoky bacon, crunchy potato chips, crisp vegetables, mayo, and a zesty jalapeño-avocado sauce, all on a soft sesame seed bun.
Grilled Pork Sandwiches With Grilled Plum Chutney and Cabbage Slaw
As long as you're grilling the meat for a sandwich, why not do the same for the rest of the sandwich? Grilling deepens the flavor of every warm component in this recipe, including pork loin, crusty sandwich rolls, and a thick chutney made with grilled plums, scallions, and jalapeños. We skip the grill for the slaw, though—the cool, crunchy cabbage gives the sandwich some much-needed balance.
Grilled Merguez Sandwiches With Caramelized Onions, Manchego, and Harissa Mayonnaise
If you're feeling adventurous in the kitchen this July 4th, you might try swapping out your usual store-bought brats for homemade sausages. One of our favorites is merguez, a North African lamb sausage. It's tasty enough on its own that you could just stick it in a bun and be done with it. But a little Manchego cheese, harissa-spiked mayo, and caramelized onions sound so good, don't they?
Grilled Jalapeño-Marinated Steak Sandwiches With Charred Onions and Cotija Mayo
All too often, steak sandwiches are marred by tough or chewy strips of beef, difficult to bite through and capable of spoiling the whole sandwich experience. To keep this hanger steak good and tender, cook it over very high heat just until it hits medium-rare—any longer and it will toughen up—and cut it against the grain. Then pair that perfectly cooked steak with charred onions, cilantro, and an elotes-inspired Cotija mayo for one incredibly flavorful sandwich.
Easy Oven-Baked Pulled Pork Sandwiches
I know, I know—to some people, cookout pulled pork doesn't feel right unless it's made on the barbecue. But if you don't have a smoker, you can still make spoon-tender and delicious pulled pork in your oven—really. Here, we do it up Eastern North Carolina–style, flavoring the meat with cider vinegar and a little sugar and serving it with pickled cherry peppers. If you really miss the barbecue flavor, you can add a few drops of high-quality liquid smoke, too.
Classic New Orleans Muffuletta Sandwich
One of the signature flavors of New Orleans, the muffuletta is a sandwich that's tailor-made for picnics—it's big enough to serve multiple people (how many depends on your respective appetites), and it actually gets better if you make it ahead of time and let it sit at room temperature. In fact, even if you aren't taking the sandwich anywhere, we still recommend making it at least an hour before serving, to allow the alternating layers of cold cuts, cheese, and olive salad time to meld.
Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Shooter's-Style Sandwich
Made to feed a crowd, a pressed "shooter's sandwich" is another that's perfect for picnics, at least in theory. Our attempt at a classic steak version was underwhelming, but we—ahem—pressed on and devised four really good shooter's-style sandwich recipes. For a vegetarian option, we pile intensely flavored roasted vegetables, rich caramelized onions, and tangy goat cheese into a hollowed-out loaf, then settle a heavy weight on top to compress it into a neat, streamlined package.
Grilled Lemongrass- and Coriander-Marinated Tofu Vietnamese Sandwiches (Vegan Banh Mi)
With low, slow cooking and a double coating of marinade, grilled tofu comes out crispy and packed with flavor. For these vegan banh mi sandwiches, we soak the tofu in a lemongrass and coriander marinade, then serve it with cilantro, cucumber, jalapeños, vegan mayo, and pickled carrots and daikon.
Grilled Halloumi Pita Sandwiches
There are several cheeses out there that are suited to the grill, but halloumi is king of them all. The salty Cypriot cheese is unpleasantly hard raw, but throw it on the fire and watch the exterior crisp up, while the inside softens just enough without the cheese losing its shape. I could eat it straight off the grill all day, but if you're capable of a little more self-control, try wrapping it in a pita with tomato, red onion, lettuce, and cool, mild tzatziki sauce.