Whether you’re cooking over a campfire or just grilling at home, there’s no substitute for that smokey, char-broiled flavor you get from cooking over an open fire. It imbues your food with so much flavor that pretty much everything tastes better grilled.
So when making burgers, why just grill the patties? Why not go all the way and grill everything else too? That’s the question this burger sets out to answer!
True, a lot of people toast their buns when they’re grilling hamburgers, but grilling the tomatoes, onions, and lettuce is where the real flavor starts to happen. A big key to success is to brush the veggies with oil and to use a well-cleaned grill. This will significantly help the more delicate vegetables from sticking to the grates. For this particular shoot, we used the BioLite Fire Pit, which comes with a great easy to clean sliding grill grate.
Once everything is grilled to perfection, it’s just a matter of assembling the components. Loaded with smokey flavor in every bite, you might find you don’t even need condiments – we didn’t use much.
So if you’re a “hold the tomatoes and lettuce” type of person when ordering burgers, this Grilled Everything Burger just might change your mind! Enjoy!
6 Quick Tips for Grilling Burgers
1. Keep Everything Cold
Until the burger patties are formed, it’s important to keep the ground beef as cold as possible. Ground beef is full of fat, especially if you’re using 80% lean, which is what we would recommend. When it is warmed (like say on a warm, sunny day), the fat starts to liquify and gets all over your hands, the plates, etc in the form of grease. Any grease on your hands is flavor not in the burger. So keep the ground beef cold right up until you’re ready to form the patties.
2. Form Your Patties Gently
The easiest way to turn your tender hamburger into a tough slab of meatloaf is to overwork the meat. Ground beef is very sensitive to physical inputs. Excessive kneading will cause proteins to cross-link with one another, turning it from soft & tender to tough & springy. So gently form your patties, with the minimum amount of handling.
3. Salt After Patties Are Formed
Just as overworking the ground beef changes its texture, so does mixing the salt into the meat before the patties are formed. The salt breaks down proteins and draws out moisture the moment it comes into contact with the meat. So don’t add the salt until the patties are formed and you’re ready to start grilling.
4. Season the Outside of the Patties:
When the coals are hot and you’re ready to start grilling, NOW is the time to season your burger patties – and liberally too! Even premium ground beef needs a little salt to bring out its natural flavor. Salt, pepper, and any other spices you might want. Dust them up and then get them on the grill.
5. Flip Your Burgers Whenever You Want
We don’t claim to be bonafide burger aficionados, but Kenji Lopez-Alt over at Serious Eats does. He and his team of burger experts have recently concluded there is no rule on how many times to flip your burgers. If you want to flip them once, sure. If you want to flip them every 15 seconds, go for it. Despite what some backyard BBQ blowhards might tell you, it doesn’t make an appreciable difference. So you do you. Flip as many times as you want.
6. Use a Digital Thermometer
If you want consistent results, then you need real data. By using a digital meat thermometer you can know the exact level of doneness of each of your burgers. They are not that expensive and can be easily picked up online.
“Grilled Everything” Burger Ingredients
Ground Beef: For burgers, we recommend grass-fed ground beef that contains a ratio of 80% lean 20% fat.
Tomatoes: When it comes to grilling tomatoes, nothing is better than a thick, heirloom tomato. They’ve got firmness and structure that you just don’t get with generic Roma tomato.
Romaine Lettuce: If you want to grill your lettuce, romaine is the way to go. Again, the firm stalky structure holds up well under the high heat of the grill. You’ll want to make sure the lettuce is completely dry before grilling, otherwise, it will just steam.
Red Onion: We used a red onion for this recipe, but honestly, any onion will do. Cut it into thickish rings to make it easier to handle on the grill.
Cheese: For flavor, we prefer cheddar. But for melt-ability, American cheese is king.
Hamburger Buns: We’re partial to potato buns like Martin’s. They a little denser than normal burger buns and just seem to hold up a little better.
Equipment for Grilling Burgers
Grill: Obviously, you can grill burgers on whatever grill you have available, but we used the BioLite Fire Pit for this recipe. Thanks to an adjustable tray, it can function as either a wood burning fire pit or a charcoal-burning grill. It has an electronically powered fan that keeps air circulating around the flames, which greatly reduces smoke. But what we like best about it is the removable, cleanable, grill. A clean, well-oiled grill grate is a rare commodity at a campground and can make a huge difference.
Cooler: Most any cooler will do, but we used our Yeti 35 Cooler to keep our ground beef and veggies cold for this recipe. When properly packed with ice, this cooler can easily keep food chilled for 3-4 days. We’ve been impressed with all the new rotomolded coolers that have been coming out recently. If you’re still using an old generation cooler, we would definitely recommend you check some of the newer models out.
Digital Thermometer: The finger poking technique can only get you so far. Instead of guessing, now you can know when your burger has reached your preferred level of doneness. There are a lot of different brands available online and even a cheap thermometer is better than no thermometer.
Slice the tomato and onion into ½ inch thick rounds. Brush the tomatoes, onions, and the cut side of the romaine with oil and season with salt. Form the ground beef into 4 patties, creating a small indent in the middle (this will help the patties cook evenly), then season generously with salt.
Place the burger patties on the grill. Grill for about 5 minutes, then flip, top with cheese, and grill the other side for 2-3 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 145F for medium.
While the burgers are cooking, place the tomatoes, onions, romaine, and buns on the grill. Flip occasionally until the vegetables are slightly soft and charred and the buns are toasted. Remove & set aside.
Assemble the burgers by layering a few leaves of romaine, a burger patty with cheese, a slice of tomato and slice of onion between two buns. (Ketchup, mayo, and mustard are optional - by using 80% lean ground beef, this burger is plenty juicy on it’s own!)