Ketchup or mustard? Pickles or jalapeños? Caramelized onions or red onions? American or cheddar cheese? There are endless options when it comes to burger toppings—and that’s just one of the reasons why I love making them.
I’ve been cooking burgers for as long as I can remember—even if some of my restaurant days are a bit hazy — but there are some important lessons that are impossible to forget.
The Two Basic Laws of Burgers
Lesson one is that there are some tried-and-true rules you should never break when it comes to burger, and yet, the second most important lesson is that there’s room to go totally crazy.
When it comes to the burger rules you should never break, there are unimpeachable:
- Perfect your foundation. It all starts with using high-quality, 100% grass-fed, grass-finished ground beef. The more flavorful, the better. That means you have to make sure the beef has some fat to it. An 80% meat to 20% fat ratio is the mix that’s my go-to.
- Mind the bun. You have to make sure the meat and the bun are proportionate. No one likes to have a mouthful of bread. Using ingredients with different textures helps to create contrast. Some crunch, some softness, some creaminess. More on that next.
Beyond these basic rules, when it comes to making memorable hamburgers or cheeseburgers, total anarchy applies.
There’s a Reason the Burger and Fry Combo Has Endured
The toppings game is where you can really be creative. I find fried foods make the best crispy, crunchy contrast to a tender, juicy beef patty. You can literally deep fry anything and it’ll probably be amazing on a burger. Fried pickles are awesome. French fries, fried onions, deep-fried avocado slices, mozzarella sticks, fried mac and cheese—the list of potential savory toppings is endless.
I’ve even deep-fried Reese’s pieces and put them on a burger. Absolutely delicious.
Up Your Burger Sauce Game
The next opportunity for creativity comes with sauces and condiments. One current trend in burger topping is to use peanut butter. Peanut butter on a burger is HOT right now. It might sound crazy, but the sweet, salty nuttiness matches good beef perfectly. Don’t knock it until you try it!
Bacon jam is one of my all-time favorites, another smoky-salty-sweet topping that just takes the burger to another level. Some other saucy add-ons to experiment with are truffle aioli, BBQ chipotle mayo, avocado mousse, smoked peach hot sauce, and garlic aioli.
Be Adventurous with Your Burger Prep
If I’m grilling burgers for a cookout, I’ll always set up a little—or sometimes not-so-little—toppings bar. It’s fun to mix it up. Have some of the standards, like the basic lineup of lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, but then have some fun.
Try new ideas. Throw foods on burgers that only your most adventurous friends would dig. From a fried egg and pickled veggies to coleslaw and barbecue sauce, there are many ways to achieve best burger status.
Lastly, Go be creative and let your imagination run wild! Trust me, you’ll stumble across some burger recipe that works so well, you’ll wonder why no one ever thought of it before.