BBQ Bacon Burgers
I've done a lot of different burger variations on this blog, but realized that I have failed to share my personal all time favorite topping combination. Whether at home or out, when I'm eating a burger, it's most likely to be adorned with the following: cheddar, bacon, fried or grilled onions, and barbecue sauce. It's a mixture that's made up of commonly found toppers, so I can pretty consistently get it almost anywhere I go, and with a burger this tasty, that's a really great thing.
The onions are the biggest variable in this burger. My ideal way to have them are as thin and crispy fried onion straws, but that's not always available. So onions rings are the next substitute in line, and failing that, I go for grilled onions, which most all restaurants seem to have. Since I was cooking this at home though, I got make it how I like it best and started off the recipe with onion straws, which first required me to slice a sweet onion thinly on a madonline and then separate the slices out into rings.
I then soaked the onion rings in buttermilk before dredging them in a flour mixture that also included cornmeal, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne. This was actually my first time making onion straws and that seasoning seemed to hit the nail on the head in crispiness, heat, and overall flavor.
After coating the rings in the flour, I moved them into a wok filled with oil that I had heated to 375°F. The thinness of the onions meant that these cooked up really quickly, and in just a few minutes per batch, they were beautifully browned and the onion inside was tender. After I finished up the frying and had let the onions drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet, I moved on to the meat.
I didn't go with anything fancy beef-wise here, opting to make things easy on myself and just picked up a pack of 80% lean ground chuck from the grocery. If I were grinding my own though, short ribs or fatty brisket blended with chuck would probably have been my choice to amp up the beefiness. I did, however, give the patties more of a barbecue flavor by coating them in a rub, which is one addition I could make at home that likely couldn't, or wouldn't, be done if I were ordering out.
These burgers also served as a backdrop for my try out the RocketFire grill torch. The creator, Michael Berard, came out and joined me, showing off his great tool that you can currently can order and help support through his Kickstarter. I actually haven't taken many requests to help out Kickstarter projects in the past, but there was a lot about the RocketFire that looked attractive to me, plus Michael was local in Raleigh, and luckily all the plusses I saw in this product were verified in testing it.
The RocketFire is meant to get you grilling with charcoal fast, and it's a champ like no other in that arena. I was up and grilling with lump charcoal within 7 minutes, and in 14 minutes with Kingsford. Both of those times are around 7 minutes faster than normal for me and it was all thanks to the great design of the RocketFire which utilizes a propane-butane mix that burns at 1050°F and comes out of a cone-shaped head that spreads the fire out in three directions. It can also be inserted into the bottom of the fire and left there, and lighting from the bottom is more effective in getting the entire batch lit faster. Compared to other torches, which you need to continue to hold and light from the top, there's a definite advantage to the RocketFire in ease of use and effectiveness that makes me more than happy to give it a Meatwave nod.
Since I was trying out the RocketFire, I actually had two grills going, the first I had tested out using lump charcoal, and once those coals were lit, I laid strips of my homemade pepper bacon on the grate, covered, and let cook until crispy.
The second grill I had lit with briquettes, and I grilled the patties there at the same time the bacon cooked. Of course, two grills are not required, you can cook the bacon first and then the burgers, or cook the bacon indoors beforehand if you prefer. I thought I had timed the burger and bacon well to be done in unison, but bacon took a little longer than expected and I ended up taking the beef past the medium-rare doneness I prefer, but since the beef had 20% fat, they were still plenty juicy in the end.
I'm normally an American cheese type of guy for burgers, preferring its creaminess and easy melting to fancier specimens. For this particular topping combo though, I go with a sharp cheddar because I find the cheese benefits from more flavor to stand up against the heavy hitters of barbecue sauce, bacon, and fried onions. I used thick slices of a sharp cheddar, which I put on the burgers after moving them to indirect heat.
Once the bacon and patties were done, all that was left to do was the toast the buns and assemble. Always remember, a toasty bun is a happy bun.
And there you have it, one powerhouse of a burger. Beef has so much flavor that toppings can easily meld or be drowned out by the patties, but on this burger, you taste everything: the sharpness of the cheddar, the saltiness of the bacon, the crunchy spiced onion straws, and the complex and tangy barbecue sauce. I don't think there's been a time where I've order this burger and haven't been happy with it. Seeing how quality can vary greatly from one restaurant to the next, I think that's saying a lot—the combination here is so strong that it's almost impossible to mess up. That's probably one reason I keep getting this exact burger over and over again, besides it just being ridiculously delicious.
BBQ Bacon Burgers
- Yield 4 servings
- Prep 30 Minutes
- Cook 15 Minutes
- Total 45 Minutes
- For the Onion Straws
- 1 medium sweet onion, cut into thin slices
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 to 3 cups canola oil
- For the Rub
- 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/3 lb ground beef chuck, 80% lean
- 1/2 lb bacon
- 4 slices cheddar cheese
- 4 potato buns
- 1/3 cup barbecue sauce
- To make the onion straws: Place onion slices in a medium bowl and cover with buttermilk. In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Heat oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet, dutch oven, or wok over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F. Adjust flame to maintain temperature. Working in batches, remove onion slices from buttermilk, transfer to flour mixture, and gently toss to evenly coat. Transfer flour-coated onions to hot oil and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer cooked onions to a paper towel lined tray and season with salt to taste. Repeat with remaining onion slices. Set aside until ready to use.
- To make the rub: In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, salt, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.
- Break off 1/3 pound of ground beef and gently shape into a patty, working the meat until it just holds together. Using your thumb, create a dimple in the middle of the burger. Repeat with remaining ground beef. Season patties liberally all over with rubs.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on either side of the charcoal grate. Place a foil pan between the two piles of coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean grilling grate. Lay bacon slices on grilling grate above foil pan. Cover grill and cook until bacon begins to shrink in size and develop pools of fat, about 5 minutes. Flip bacon slices over, cover, and continue to cook until bacon is deeply browned and crisp, 5-8 minutes more. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate.
- Place patties directly over coals and cook, flipping occasionally, until well charred and center of burgers register 110°F on an instant read thermometer inserted into center of patty. Move burgers to cool area of grill, top with cheese, cover, and continue to cook until cheese is melted and burgers register 125°F for medium rare or 135°F for medium. Transfer burgers to a plate.
- Place buns directly over coals on grill, cut side down, until toasted, about 1 minute. Transfer buns to a serving platter and top each with a patty, barbecue sauce, bacon, and onion straws. Serve immediately.