There's no shortage of main dishes to serve at your holiday cookout, but it just doesn't feel like July 4th to me without a burger. And I'm not talking about a store-bought hockey puck of a patty—the Fourth calls for a burger done right, ground by hand at home, grilled, and topped with everything from bacon to roasted green chilies to black olives. Here are 15 of our most mouthwatering grilled burger recipes (including a couple vegetarian options) that are perfect for Independence Day.
Thick and Juicy Home-Ground Grilled Cheeseburgers
Sure, packaged ground beef is a tantalizingly easy solution, but grinding your own meat will net you better flavor and a looser, more open structure, which helps the burgers trap juice. Taking matters into your own hands also lets you experiment with different cuts—we like to use a blend of short rib, brisket, and sirloin, ground up somewhat finely.
Barbecue Bacon Burgers
For an extra-smoky, grilled twist on a bacon cheeseburger, we love this recipe, which tops a thick, preferably hand-ground patty with barbecue sauce, slab bacon, cheddar cheese, and sweet grilled onion. Tenting the burgers with foil after taking them off the grill helps melt the cheese and keeps them warm while you get the bacon and buns ready. Those who truly can't get enough of that porky flavor may want to add fried pork rinds to their burgers, too.
There are McDonald's people, and there are Burger King people, but we think it's in keeping with the spirit of July 4th to unite the nation with one burger that caters to both sides. Our McWhopper borrows the best elements of each restaurant's signature offering: the Whopper's flame-broiled patty and the Big Mac's special sauce, topped with both fresh and dehydrated onions.
Quadruple Chili Cheeseburgers
It's hard to fault a classic green chili cheeseburger, but July 4th is a time to go big, and this burger rises to the occasion by piling on hot peppers in three more forms: chipotle-spiked mayo, sliced pickled jalapeños, and pepper Jack cheese. That's all added to the traditional roasted green chilies—Hatch if you can get them, Poblanos if you can't—for a burger that really bites back.
You may have experienced the wonders of pimento cheese as a dip or spread, but few appreciate how rich and creamy it gets when melted on a burger patty. There's nothing to this recipe but layering the pimento cheese on your home-ground burgers, along with a handful of pickled jalapeños for extra heat.
Sichuan Peppercorn Burgers With Chili-Ginger Mayo and Cucumber Pickles
These unusual burgers bring a totally different kind of spiciness—the tingling, mouth-numbing heat of Sichuan peppercorns, rounded out with the complementary flavors of cumin, red pepper flakes, fennel, and star anise. We top them with a tangy chili- and ginger-spiked mayo, plus pickled cucumbers to provide just enough cooling relief.
If you've never made a batch of homemade teriyaki sauce, resolve to change that now; the quality is worlds beyond the store-bought stuff, and it lasts practically indefinitely in the fridge. It's delicious on grilled chicken and shishito peppers, so why not spoon it onto a grilled burger as well, tradition be damned? Wait until the last couple minutes of cooking to add the sauce, so it doesn't burn, and top the burgers with shredded cabbage for some much-needed crunch.
Grilled Black-Olive Burger With Japanese Vinegar
If you're not from Michigan, there's a good chance you've never heard of an olive burger, but locals go crazy for it: a patty topped with Swiss cheese and a mixture of green olives and mayonnaise. Here, we give the regional favorite a Japanese-inflected twist, spiking the meat mixture with a type of Japanese black vinegar called kurozu, which infuses the burgers with a wonderfully complex flavor. (Try subbing Chinkiang if you can't get your hands on kurozu.) We replace the traditional green olives with oil-cured black olives—they have an umami quality that pairs nicely with the vinegar.
Grilled Korean Bulgogi Burgers With Kimchi Mayo and Pickled Daikon
This recipe combines flavors drawn from Korean bulgogi (marinated grilled beef) with the portability of a burger. We glaze the patties with a flavorful sauce made with soy sauce, gochujang, garlic, ginger, vinegar, and brown sugar—since none of the flavorings go into the burger itself, there's no need to adjust the cooking process or account for changes to texture. After they come off the grill, we top the burgers with a spicy kimchi mayo (infused with both the kimchi itself and the brine) and pickled daikon, plus crunchy shredded red cabbage.
Cemita Burger With Refried Beans, Chipotle Mayo, Avocado, and Oaxacan Cheese
A hamburger patty isn't exactly a traditional Pueblan cemita filling, but then again, neither are many of the ingredients you'll find in a New York–style version of the sandwich. This supremely hearty burger pairs the patty with all the classic cemita fixings: refried beans, avocado, shredded Oaxacan cheese, lettuce, tomato, and papalo, a fresh herb that can often be found in Mexican groceries.
Hot Hawaiian Burgers (Spam, Pineapple, Swiss, and Sriracha Mayo)
Spam is highly polarizing—some people find the salty canned meat disgusting, while others secretly or not-so-secretly love it. I'm in the latter category. If you are, too, you owe it to yourself to grill it up and throw it on a burger patty, along with sweet-tart pineapple, Swiss cheese, and lightly hot sriracha mayo. What's Hawaiian about using an English muffin as a bun? Well, nothing, but it's got a lot of helpful nooks and crannies to catch all those juices from the pineapple and meat.
Cajun Burgers With Spicy Remoulade
Adding andouille sausage to the beef for these burgers helps fortify their Cajun flavor, as does topping them with the "holy trinity" of Cajun cooking—onion, bell pepper, and celery. A dollop of spicy remoulade rounds them out, and, while it's not exactly a Cajun ingredient, blue cheese adds a little pleasant funk.
The Best Lamb Burgers
As much as I love lamb, I almost never order a lamb burger at a restaurant—odds are, it'll come out ridiculously dry. To make the best possible lamb burgers, you'll want to grind your own meat at home, work it gently, and cook it properly—the meat needs to hit a solid medium-rare so that the fat gets hot enough to melt. If you want to incorporate complementary flavorings, like cumin, garlic, or rosemary, we recommend adding them to the cubed meat before you grind, so they'll be evenly blended in throughout.
Homemade Vegan Burgers That Don't Suck
The Impossible Burger may have revolutionized the meatless-burger landscape, but there are still times when we want a veggie burger that tastes unabashedly like vegetables—and we want it from the comfort of our own home. We make our favorite vegan burgers with an array of ingredients, including mushrooms, eggplant, barley, chickpeas, cashews, and panko bread crumbs, for ideal flavor and texture. Best of all, these burgers cook up on the grill just like ground beef.
Really Awesome Black Bean Burgers
Too many of us experience black bean burgers only out of a box from the freezer section or as a restaurant menu's apathetic nod to vegetarian customers. As with many things vegetarian, if you really want the best, it pays to do it yourself. This recipe isn't 100% vegan, like the previous one—it incorporates both eggs and feta cheese, which builds flavor and moisture directly into the patties. Partially dehydrating canned black beans in the oven produces a burger that stays firm, not mushy, while chopped cashews, panko, sautéed onions, garlic, and Poblano peppers supply plenty of flavor and texture.
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