Making a burger that's just the right amount juicy, flavorful, and properly dressed is no small feat. (Think you have it down? Test your smarts here!) There's the meat blend and the temperature, the bun, how long should it go, what's going to go on top—and also your own preferences to consider, of course. But once you have a few successful sessions under your belt manning the grill, we think it's time to start exploring more.
And it doesn't take much to make your burger just a little better. In fact, it's as simple as adding one extra element. Don't feel relegated to the same old blend—here are five ingredients to keep things fresh when you're planning your next round of burgers:
The first bite into a burger is good, but we'll argue that the second is one of the best. You're past the bread rim and edge of lettuce, with more than just a nip of burger to speak of. You've then gotten to all the vegetables, and the sauce, and—what's that? A little bacon surprise, waiting for you in the middle. Packing some bacon into your burger makes it a little more smoky and a lot richer. (And this burger blend is the easiest way to use up any breakfast leftovers—if they survived!)
While most of the time you see pickles piled atop burgers, adding them to your blend can cut all of that (essential) fat with a little acid, keeping them balanced and offering a little zip. Try pickled jalapeños in the Texas Tailgate Burger or these sweeter zucchini pickles if you like 'em like bread and butter.
3. Fresh chorizo
Beef shouldn't be the only meat hanging out at your party. Trade it in for pork on your next grill day, and then up the ante by mixing it with fresh chorizo. Suzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers might even make you into a pork burger convert (and if they won't, this Mexican Chorizo and Garlic Shrimp Burger will).
More: Unless you're going for an all-meat cookout, you're gonna need some sides. Here's what else to serve.
There's hardly anything that tops chunks of gooey cheese nestled into a burger's nooks and crannies (except maybe more cheese...). Fold blue cheese or a small dice of Gruyere into a Classic Diner Burger just before it hits the grill, or try mixing cheddar into these Fiendishly Tasty Bacon Turkey Burgers instead of topping the patties with it.
Whether fresh or dried, ginger is an excellent last-minute toss-in for any kind of seafood burger. It mingles smartly with scallions in these Tuna Burgers with Wasabi Ginger Mayo, and a teaspoon would be a welcome addition to these Salmon Burgers with Avocado Aioli. If you don't want to put it directly in your blend, try it in these gingery mangoes that top this Glazed Five Spice Burger.
Zucchini pickles photo by Alexandra Stafford; cheese photo by Tara O'Brady; tuna burger photo by Sarah Shatz; all other photos by James Ransom.