“When you have bacon in your mouth it doesn’t matter who’s president.” These savory words to chew on courtesy of the t-shirt worn by a worker at the bacon-on-a-stick booth I saw at the Minnesota State Fair. I discovered this sentiment is attributed to comedian Louis C.K. Bacon has fierce fans indeed. And if you combine bacon with cheese and green onions stuffed in the middle of a burger that melts out flavor with every bite, well, no telling what happy place is in store.
While the juicy Lucy burger wars may rage on at restaurants, with the following recipes and tips from local chef and Le Cordon Bleu culinary instructor Jason Ross, which appeared in Real Food, you can create successful stuffed burgers at home that may rival any of them and jazz up the Labor Day weekend barbecue as well as the rest of the grilling season.
If bacon doesn’t inspire you as much as Louis C.K., a recipe for a spinach and feta Greek stuffing appears below as well. And, after making these burgers, you can get creative, suggests Ross. Try spinach artichoke dip, nacho fixings, or Reuben stuffed burgers—or mix it up with fun combinations of your own. Just keep the following tips in mind and your burgers may inspire praise until the snow flies.
Tricks of the Trade
• Less is more with stuffed burgers. A 1⁄4 cup does the trick for a 6-ounce stuffed burger. Too much stuffing makes for a sloppy unmanageable stuffed burger, and too many ingredients in the stuffing makes for a complex fussy burger. Keep the stuffing relatively simple—three ingredients or less—and use accent garnishes on the burger and bun to highlight what’s inside the stuffing.
• Avoid over-working or over-handling ground beef. Similar to pie dough, the more ground beef is handled, the more the proteins stretch and toughen. In general, a loosely formed burger will be more tender, meaty and tasty.
• Do not pre-stuff burgers more than one day ahead. While most fillings for stuffed burgers can be made and stored in advance, the burgers themselves, after stuffing, should be cooked within a day, and do not store well.
Bacon Cheddar Green Onion Stuffed Burger
Makes 6 Filling Servings
If there’s any stuffed burger that’s going to bring them running, this is it. Mix a little green onion into the stuffing for a meltingly rich bacon burger packed with flavor.
1⁄4 pound bacon, diced
3 green onions, white and green sections, sliced fine
1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese
1. In a sauteÌ pan cook the diced bacon on low-medium heat, for roughly 8 minutes, depending on thickness of bacon, until crispy. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined bowl and allow it to cool. Discard most, but not all, of the bacon fat, leaving a thin layer in pan to cook the green onions. Add the sliced green onions to the pan and cook on low-medium heat, for roughly 2 minutes, until the onions are softened and fragrant. Remove onions and allow to cool in a bowl for a few minutes.
2. Mix the bacon with the cooled green onions using a wood spoon. Add grated cheddar and mix until the bacon, green onions and cheddar are evenly distributed.
3. Follow directions below for making and stuffing the burgers.
Greek Stuffed Burger Stuffing
Makes 6 Filling Servings
Here is a tasty burger with a healthy side with sauteÌed spinach and flavors of a Greek salad.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 onion, finely minced
11/2 cups (5 ounce bag) roughly chopped spinach
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
pinch ground black pepper
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1. Add oil to sauteÌ pan and sweat the onions on low-medium heat. Cook for roughly 3 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until onions are translucent and soft, but not browned.
2. Add the spinach, salt and pepper and stir, cooking for another 3 to 5 minutes until spinach is fully wilted.
3. Transfer the spinach mixture to a bowl and allow it to cool.
4. After cooled, stir in feta crumbles with wooden spoon.
5. Follow directions below for making and stuffing the burgers.
Makes 6 Burgers
While both of the stuffings can be made up to five days ahead if stored in an airtight container, assemble the burgers no more than one day before cooking.
21⁄4 pounds ground beef, divided into 12 equal parts, roughly 3 ounces each
6 hamburger buns
1. To make a stuffed burger, form two equal sized patties for every burger. Patties should be roughly 3 ounces each for a 6-ounce finished stuffed burger.
2. Use a mold lined with plastic wrap to make patties identical in shape and size, by gently pushing ground meat into the plastic-lined molds. A larger biscuit cutter or plastic lid works well. Make the patties a bit thinner in the center and thicker toward the edges. Pinch the edges, and push a bit harder in the center of the patty. The burger will naturally plump and get thicker in the center as it cooks and shrinks. A patty with slightly thicker edges will keep its shape better and avoid a rounded balloon-like burger.
3. Place 1⁄4 cup of stuffing on one of the patties, leaving 1/2 inch around the edges. Sprinkle a pinch of salt along the edge of the patty. The salt will start to break down the proteins in the meat, making it tacky and wet, which will help make a good seal. Place another patty on top, making a sandwich with two patties and stuffing in the middle. Pinch the patties together to encapsulate the filling. Focus on the edges and making a good seal, so the filling does not escape as the burger cooks.
4. Poke a few holes in the center of the patty on each side of the stuffed burger with a toothpick before cooking. This will work like a vent to release steam, and keep the burger from expanding like a balloon as it cooks.
5. Heat the grill to medium-high. Clean and season the grill with a bit of oil so the burgers do not stick to it. Sprinkle the outside of stuffed burgers with a pinch of salt and pepper.
6. Cook burgers 6 to 8 minutes per side with the grill covered. The centers need to be cooked and fully warmed or melted. The temperature of the stuffing should reach 165°F per FDA recommendations. If you do not have a thermometer, look for bits of the cheese in the filling to be bubbly or trying to escape the burger.
7. When the burgers are cooked, serve immediately with toasted buns. Serve Bacon Cheddar Green Onion burgers with traditional garnishes such as sliced tomato, leaf lettuce, pickles, mayonnaise and ketchup. Serve Greek Stuffed burgers with Greek salad garnishes like sliced cucumber, romaine lettuce, chopped kalamata olives, yogurt dressing and extra feta.
Nutrition info (per serving):
• Bacon Cheddar Green Onion Burger: CALORIES 524 (257 From Fat); FAT 29g (Sat. 12g); CHOL 134mg; SODIUM 501mg; CARB 22g; FIBER 1g; PROTEIN 41g
• Greek Burger: CALORIES 478 (222 From Fat); FAT 25g (Sat. 10g); CHOL 123mg; SODIUM 715mg; CARB 24g; FIBER 1g; PROTEIN 38g