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Help me win a "best burger" cookoff!

I am getting together with some friends on Sunday and we'll be doing a casual burger cookoff. Since I am known as the best cook in the group, the pressure is on and I really want to do something cool. I may even expand it into a trio of sliders, so I can get in some different flavors. Will be using traditional 80/20 ground beef. I want to keep it at that; no lamb, pork (except sausage), etc. I blew everyone away a few years back with my lamb burgers; haven't decided what to do this year. Here are some thoughts:

patty of ground beef with a little bit of spicy pork sausage (breakfast sausage) mixed in
sharp white cheddar
thin sliced roma tomato
romaine lettuce

patty of ground beef with a little chorizo mixed in
roasted red pepper mayo
cheese - ? need help on this one; should I even add cheese?

patty of ground beef
???Things I really like - bacon, fried onion rings, Monterey Jack, sharp cheddar, asiago

Need some input or advice on toppings. I don't want to add anything else to the meat besides salt and pepper. No fillers. Also, I just can't bring myself to do the bacon and blue cheese burger. Though I enjoy them a lot, it is just no longer original. But doesn't bacon make everything better?

I have found a couple of threads that are about a year old. Hoping there's some fresh ideas out there. BTW, we're in Florida and the crowd will be traditional and diverse. No need for any extreme ideas, just something that a diverse crowd would enjoy.

Thanks in advance!!


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  1. For number two I'd ditch the guacamole and add a young manchego cheese.

    One thing I've been messing around with, is I pan fry the cheese, almost like a frico or at a place in Mexico, they called it chicharrone de queso and then add it to the burger. You get the crispy and cheese flavor in one.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ESNY

      Love the Frico idea for a burger -- would work great with Parmesan too.

    2. Hey Uptown Kevin,

      I love making burgers all different flavors....A Chili burger, Basil burger, Mexicana burger, Italian burger, Big Fat Lamb Burger, Double cheddar Ale burger (thats a good one) you name i love making it, but I did one the other day my husband went nuts for...and it is so freaking simple...

      dijon mustard
      whathishere sauce ;)
      salt and pepper to taste
      and then let tme sit inthe fridge for at least 1 hr to let the flavors come together

      Served on multigrain bun, I am big believer that the bun has to match the burger!
      No matter what burger you make, make sure you serve it on a bun that will hold up to the burger

      Just thought of one I might play with this holiday weekend...Spanish Burger, with some smoked paprika, spices (garlic, onions, red peppers saute for the top), chorizo (make a patty and grill and then place on top for a another layer) and some asiago cheese melted on top ...oh yeah

      1. saute onions in butter till lightly browned. Cool. Mix into burger. The butter and onions will keep the burgers even more moist than usual. If you have wild mushrooms, chop them up fine, saute. Make two thin patties, stuff the mushrooms in the middle. Reduce a little red wine and demiglace for a sauce.

        For a plain burger, I really like seasoning with Penzey's Chicago Steak mix.

        1. #1 sounds like a darn good burger - I might use a combo of mayo and a grainy med flavor mustard instead of just mayo (but I love mustard)
          #2 I'd go with the guacamole and use a queso fresco - probably crumbled right into the guac so it stays put! - not sure about the roasted pepper mayo. The guac would be the "dressing" - can you get piquillo peppers? I'd just add them as is (from the jar)
          #3 bacon does make everything better - how about bacon and a sauteed bitter green? Mustard greens? sharp cheddar?

          1. I think how it's cooked is way more important than the accessories. Over hardwood charcoal, toasted bun...the rest is fru-fru...But save me as little bacon, Kevin!

            1. one of them needs sauteed mushrooms or grilled with thyme in fact do you need meat at all?

              my favorite mush burger is: sauteed mush in braggs, a nice cheese melted on one side of a great bun, then a lil mayo, guacamole, mound o shredded carrots, alfalfa sprouts - season with garlic pwdr, cayenne and spike seasoning.

              1. I like a greek burger: red onion, cucumbers, garlic basil & oregano in the burger itself, and of course feta cheese. A few mashed kalamatas mixed in there, maybe...they can overpower the beefiness.

                1. One thing that I have found interesting recently is how many high-end places that serve burgers use a pretty interesting combination of beef to make their burgers -- like skirt steak mixed with brisket. I believe that there was something about that in Frank Bruni's review of Minetta Tavern in this Wednesday's NY Times, which is available on line. Make a classic burger, but make it with truly luxurious cuts of meat and cook it to perfection. That could be one type of perfect burger!

                  1. Just read in Food + Wine that the BLT guy dunks his burgers in cold water for 30 seconds just before grilling and bastes them in butter while grilling. I'm thinking of giving these ideas a shot. love a juicy burger!

                    1. I'm pretty much a burger purist--start adding things in and it quickly tastes suspiciously like meatloaf, which I despise. But there is one neat little trick I pull out every once in a while. I'll hide a thin disk of compound/herbed butter in the middle of the burger before grilling. It melts and distributes highly flavorful moisture through the meat while it's cooking.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: modthyrth

                        I must agree. I like a good meatloaf, but it is a separate thing from a burger. Salt and pepper on a loosely shaped burger is as good as it gets. I haven't tried the pat of butter trick, but I know Julia Child favored it. I can't imagine anything bad would come of it.

                      2. I have not tried or attempted to re-create this burger yet, but based on the description, it sounds absolutely amazing. The idea of using marrow for the fat content is pure genius. To date, I've had good results with brisket and chuck, sort of eyeballing the fat to around 80% lean. http://www.goodeater.org/2/post/2009/...

                        1. I love making hamburgers. My favorite recipe so far is this.... take your ground meat and add in homemade bacon bits (not crunchy, still a bit soft), finely minced onions & garlic and thick shredded cheddar cheese. Mush it altogether really well. Pat them out into nice thick patties. Then lightly shake over garlic pepper, season salt, and a mesquite blend (like grillmates). In a small bowl mix together worchestershire sauce, soy sauce (preferably La choy), a couple dashes of liquid smoke and about a 1/2 cup of a wet mesquite marinade (I like the lime mesquite blend) and brush it on each patty. Even though there is bacon and cheese mixed into the patty, I *still* add cheddar cheese slices and extra bacon. My husband loves to top it with jalapenos also. Actually... I bet it would take really good if you diced up jalapenos and added them to the original meat blend before making them into patties.

                          Good luck. Let us know how it all goes! I love a big juicy burger! Mmm Mm.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Ima Baconista

                            Well, your name is "Baconista," so I guess it should come as no surprise that you add bacon, right? ;-)


                          2. For #3....yes, bacon does make everything better, but instead of visible, crunchable bacon, add some bacon drippings to the burger mixture. :)
                            Just a little bit will add that smoky flavor and may just keep a few folks guessing.

                            1. So you don't want to be the first to try a slice of watermelon on the burger? I use a bbq sauce with beer, hoisin sauce, green onions, etc.that I imagine would be tasty on a burger. Or introduce them to Pittsburgh style and put fries on top. Or you could go out on a limb and try some Indian or Pakistani hamburger variations. An Indian friend once hosted a dinner for a group of friends and we kept saying are there any more of those patties?

                              Glad to know that it is not just me who dislikes meatloaf even though I love burgers and meatballs. And Joe's specials and sloppy joes.

                              1. Here is the sure winner for you. Stay with the 80/20 Beef Burger for toppings

                                Smoked Ham Steak or a few slices proscuitto
                                Sauteed Red Onions
                                BBQ sauce
                                Double Cheddar Cheese

                                Good Luck !! I never lose with this one - If the people like ... serve on a slightly toasted Foccacia Bread. Otherwise just go with your heart. Applewood Smoked Bacon, or Peppered Bacon works great too !!

                                1. Wow, all super cool ideas. Thank you!!

                                  Ok, here is what I decided on, based on some of my own thoughts as well as the suggestions in the thread.

                                  patty of ground beef with a little bit of spicy pork sausage (breakfast sausage) mixed in
                                  sharp white cheddar
                                  Creole Mustard (I am from New Orleans and keep it in the fridge at all times)
                                  thin sliced roma tomato
                                  romaine lettuce

                                  patty of ground beef with a little chorizo mixed in
                                  roasted red pepper mayo
                                  mixture of freshly grated queso blanco and Monterey Jack
                                  No lettuce or tomato (at this time... may change later)

                                  Thanks again. Will report on the finale.


                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: UptownKevin


                                    How did it turn out? Did you make the burgers as you posted above?


                                  2. Instead of the traditional 80/20

                                    Use a 80/15/5 split, with the 5 being Spam.