Kids can help customize and grill these cute and delicious sliders.
Gathering around the grill with friends and family is one of the simple yet special pleasures of the summer. And for many of us, it isn't a barbecue without burgers—whether that's a classic beef burger, a turkey burger or a vegan veggie burger. Burgers are also endlessly customizable, so they can satisfy both picky and adventurous eaters. But to make burgers even more kid-friendly, we love to downsize them and make sliders—mini burgers, like Joy Howard's recipe for Pizza Sliders pictured above, are perfect for little hands, and adults love them too. Read on to learn how to make and customize sliders with your kids.
How to Make the Best Grilled Sliders
Choose your patty ingredients
Just like with full-size burgers, sliders can be made with just about any meat or meat substitute: try ground beef, turkey, chicken or lamb, or go for a vegetarian ground meat substitute. Then add seasonings—you can go as simple as salt and pepper or amp things up with all manner of fresh and dried herbs and spices. Think about the flavors in your planned toppings when you are choosing how to season your patties. For example, the Pizza Sliders are blended with fresh parsley and oregano and later topped with marinara and mozzarella cheese for a crowd-pleasing take on classic pizza flavors. Use any one of our healthy slider recipes or healthy burger recipes for inspiration.
Customize your toppings
Letting kids choose their own toppings for their sliders will help ensure that they'll actually eat their dinner. Anything goes, of course, but when considering toppings we like to have something saucy or creamy (mayo, ketchup, special sauce, BBQ sauce, pizza sauce), something crunchy or juicy (pickles, crisp lettuce, raw or caramelized onions, tomato slices, cooked mushrooms) and—for those so inclined—cheese (Cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, feta, Gouda, etc.). And while matching the seasonings in your sliders to your toppings will give them a delicious gourmet spin, it never hurts to also put out a bottle of ketchup for those who like to keep things simple.
Form and cook the patties
Once you've chosen your burger ingredients and toppings, it's time to form the patties—a perfect task for kids to help with (just have them wash their hands well before and after working with the meat). "The key to even cooking is equal patty sizes that are the same thickness throughout," says Joy Howard, EatingWell's Cooking with Kids columnist and a frequent contributor to the magazine and website. "Another tip: Shape the patties a little larger than the size of your buns—they'll shrink as they cook!" Kids can also help grill the sliders, with adult supervision, of course. Using an instant-read thermometer is the best way tell if your burgers are done. Kids can help with this too! Insert the tip of the thermometer in the center of the burger. For beef, it should read 135°F for medium-rare (about 3 minutes per side), 140°F for medium, 150° for medium-well and 160° for well-done (the USDA recommendation).
Serve and enjoy
Set out the toppings and let everyone assemble their own sliders. Gather around and compare your creations before digging in—you can even have a fun game of naming your customized sliders (in one EatingWell staffer's family, a "Mom Burger" is one with absolutely EVERYTHING on it).
After you've all enjoyed the meal, it's time for another fun lesson for your kids: How to Clean a Grill!