We live for culinary experimentation, but in our humble opinion, no Independence Day celebration—or warm-weather outdoor gathering of any kind—is worth its salt unless burgers are on the menu. It doesn't matter if it's made from beef, lamb, or black beans—if it's in patty form, comes off the grill nicely charred and juicy, and gets jammed between two halves of a bun, it's capable of filling that deep-seated summer need. Start by reviewing our helpful tips for grilling the best burgers (or just check out the video below for a summary and visual guide). When you're ready to think about toppings, the sky's the limit—we embrace pretty much any set of accoutrements, from teriyaki sauce, cabbage, and scallions to chilies and cheese. Read on for 12 of our favorite burger recipes for grilling on the Fourth, and check out our guide to July 4th entertaining for even more ideas.
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; for the best flavor, we replace the beef chuck with a blend of short rib, brisket, and sirloin.
Homemade Burger King Whopper-Style Cheeseburgers
Got a weakness for the Whopper? This recipe combines the signature features of the classic fast food burger—its big flame-broiled patty, its slice of American cheese, its healthy dose of pickles—but improves on each one, resulting in something like what a Whopper would taste like in heaven. We do it by starting with a better, beefier burger, then add onions thinly sliced pole to pole (this keeps the burger more stable and the onion flavor milder), vine-ripened tomatoes, fresher pickles, shredded lettuce, and a seeded bun that's grilled rather than toasted.
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. Though there's no wrong choice here, we call this version "the ultimate" for a reason.
Grilled Korean Bulgogi Burgers With Kimchi Mayo and Pickled Daikon
This recipe effectively transplants the flavors of Korean bulgogi (marinated beef) into the easy-to-prepare format of a burger. Rather than soaking the ground beef in a typical bulgogi marinade, which would affect the texture of the meat, here we glaze freshly ground beef patties with a sauce of gochujang, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar as we grill them. Topping the burgers with kimchi-spiked mayonnaise, crisp cabbage, and bright danmuji (pickled daikon radish) completes the delicious package.
Spicy, tangy, and creamy, pimento cheese is one of our favorite Southern delicacies. But if you've only ever enjoyed it as a cold dip or spread, 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.
Cemita Burger With Refried Beans, Chipotle Mayo, Avocado, and Oaxacan Cheese
We'd venture to call the cemita Mexico's most glorious sandwich, and the burger is certainly one of American cuisine's crowning jewels. This is what happens when you combine the two—a big, messy mashup stuffed with a flavorful and tender beef patty, lettuce, tomato, refried beans, shredded Oaxaca cheese, avocado, and creamy, spicy chipotle mayo. You might have to do some hunting for the papalo, a distinctive Mexican herb, and the cemita buns, but these elements definitely add a lot to the burger's cemita credentials.
Quadruple Chili Cheeseburgers
We're talking chilies, 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.