How can I spice up a boring cheeseburger?
March 27, 2007 4:53 PM   Subscribe

Boring old homemade cheeseburgers for dinner. No lettuce and tomato. How can I spice this up?

We never seem to have lettuce and fresh tomatoes in the house. I want to get out of the usual pickle & mustard funk. But we have a metric asston of spices, canned items, and baking ingredients (to include canned tomatoes).

Are there any great ingredients that would spice things up nicely? Are there any highly-regarded fast-food or restaurant burgers which aren't dependent on the lettuce & tomato? I've got some diced peppers and diced onions in the freezer, so those are game. Any ideas would be appreciated.
posted by hodyoaten to Food & Drink (43 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
One or more of...

- pineapple slice (canned or fresh)
- fried egg
- bacon. Mmm. bacon.

(Or, uh. All three for ultimate victory of burger destiny!)
posted by ambilevous at 5:00 PM on March 27, 2007

Burgers are great with cajun spice or caribbean jerk spice added - just mix it in with the ground beef (or turkey or whatever) before you grill it. Other good things (not all at the same time ;) are avocado slices, bleu cheese dressing, sauteed mushrooms, a thin slice of ham (really good if you tuck it away in the middle of the burger...keeps it very moist).

Not sure if you consider the Big Mac "highly regarded", but their "special sauce" is just thousand island dressing, which you can easily and tastily duplicate by mixing ketchup, mayo, and relish together. Very drippy and good.
posted by iconomy at 5:01 PM on March 27, 2007

You could mix some of the canned tomatoes into the meat before you fry or grill the burgers - maybe some onion too. You could do meatloaf burgers. (You could add barbecue or teriyaki sauce to the mix as well.)

You could top it off with some sauteed onions.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:03 PM on March 27, 2007

Things that keep a long time that are good on a cheeseburger, that are not pickles or mustard:

french fries
potato or corn chips
pickled okra
more potent cheeses (e.g. feta or a stinky cheese)
peanut butter
tomato sauce
posted by rxrfrx at 5:10 PM on March 27, 2007

Some kind of fruit; I've had good luck with cranberry sauce.
posted by amtho at 5:11 PM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Peanut Butter.

No, really!

Here's a recipe.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 5:11 PM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Buffalo wing sauce and bleu cheese crumbles. At the same time.
posted by Cyrano at 5:13 PM on March 27, 2007

Make a Juicy Lucy--for each patty, make the same amount of meat into two small patties, put cheese in the middle, give it a few breathing holes and cook.

Watch it when you eat it, as the chees einside will have turned MOLTEN. It will be awesome but you could burn your mouth if you're not careful.
posted by GaelFC at 5:15 PM on March 27, 2007

I like mixing Lipton Onion Soup Mix into the meat.
posted by grumblebee at 5:22 PM on March 27, 2007

Caramelized onions.
Gorgonzola cheese.

Peanut butter? Kim chee? You people are insane.
posted by Brian James at 5:24 PM on March 27, 2007

Does it have to be a burger? Break it up and turn it into dirty rice-- white rice with chop meat. Add any vegetables--frozen will do-- and season it with cajun spices, soy sauce, wocestershire sauce or anything you like the taste of (yes, peanut butter will work-- think Thai!)

Oh. Cook the rice first, saute the meat and then add the rice.
posted by nax at 5:29 PM on March 27, 2007

I like to form the burgers, put lemon pepper and garlic salt on both sides, then let them sit for 30 minutes to an hour before cooking to warm up (cold beef + hot grill = slight livery taste taste, I find) and absorb the lemon-garlic goodness.
posted by backupjesus at 5:29 PM on March 27, 2007

Worcestershire sauce and chopped garlic, mixed in with the meat itself. Actually, most burger toppings can be chopped and mixed in with the meat (bacon, onions, mushrooms, cheese, vegetables....) If you take this to its logical conclusion, though, you may need to begin adding egg and breadcrumbs to bind it all together, in which case congratulations — you have a single-serving meatloaf sandwich instead.

Make a Juicy Lucy

Is it just me, or does that sound like the name of an imaginary sex act?
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:32 PM on March 27, 2007

Got any onion dip mix? 'Cuz that's pretty yummy in hamburgers.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:37 PM on March 27, 2007

BBQ sauce
cayenne pepper
garlic or onion salt
soy sauce
taco seasoning and salsa

Basically, think of all the different ways you can use ground beef in recipes, then adapt those flavors or spices to fit on your burger and bun.
posted by chrisamiller at 5:38 PM on March 27, 2007

Pineapple, bacon, and onions are all the best ideas, I think.. but personally? Salt. Or seasoning salt. There's nothing like a bit of salt on some juicy meat.
posted by wackybrit at 5:55 PM on March 27, 2007

I like the burger meat mixed up with minced onions, mustard [or mustard seed], bread crumbs, Worcestershire and chicken boullion. You can also add thyme or really anything with tang. The big trick, in my opinion, is making them big and then letting the thing cook a lot on both sides, never pressing it to get the juices out of it. So cook a lot on one side until it's ready to flip, flip [DON'T press] cook, put on bun. Tasty.
posted by jessamyn at 6:01 PM on March 27, 2007

My friend puts thyme in her burgers, and they are awesome.
posted by rtha at 6:08 PM on March 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

grated cheddar (sharp is preferred), hot sauce and a splash of low sodium soy mixed in with the meat, let it sit for 20mins, then sear until the cheese melts throughout


top with horseradish
posted by softlord at 6:16 PM on March 27, 2007

There's a restaurant near my office that puts ginger into their burgers before they cook them and then top it with a onion ring with salsa in the middle.

It's the best burger I've ever had.
posted by .taft at 6:24 PM on March 27, 2007

Perhaps you've got canned chili? Or chili beans? You could use some of the ground beef and some canned beans along with chili power to make some chili topping for the burgers.
posted by cusack at 6:26 PM on March 27, 2007

Are you cooking these in a pan or on an outdoor grill?
If a pan, just plain old salt and pepper does wonders.
If on a grill, when you're about ready to pull the burgers, toss a shot of Jack Daniels or other tasty alcohol on (experiment w/ different kinds..spiced rum adds an interesting flavor, but vodka, not so much). Let the alcohol flame out and pull the burgers.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:31 PM on March 27, 2007

Some ideas from our local gourmet burger shack. (In fact, their entire menu.) Most burgers are 2-3 ingredients.
posted by mendel at 6:36 PM on March 27, 2007

blue cheese and onions, with a little bit of breadcrumb for a binder
posted by misterbrandt at 6:39 PM on March 27, 2007

Mix in a diced Vidalia onion. It's all any burger needs.
posted by COD at 7:02 PM on March 27, 2007

My dad always called these Spinach Burgers (but that's a terrible name)

(this is a ratio, feel free to double/triple/whatever)

* 1 lb hamburger
* 1 block frozen spinach
* 1 cup mozzarella (thank you Firefox spell checker)
* 1 packet onion soup mix (the powder)

The above amounts make about 4 burgers (make the patties thick and you'll enjoy some of the juiciest burgers of your life!).

Apart from the disgusting sounding name, everyone we serve these to says they're the best burgers ever. We eat them with mayonnaise and tonkatsu sauce (it's japanese, similar to Worcestershire).
posted by mysterious1der at 7:56 PM on March 27, 2007

Fried tofu and avocado. Or guacamole. A bit slippery, but easily solved: Place between lower bun and patty, instead of between upper bun and patty.
posted by Xere at 8:03 PM on March 27, 2007

Slices of beetroot. Srsly. It's the Australian Way!

Also with the bacon, the pineapple, the fried onion, the fried egg, and the coronary
posted by coriolisdave at 8:19 PM on March 27, 2007

Diced garlic mixed into the meat is awesome. Keeps the burgers much juicer and of cource tasting of garlic. A thinly sliced red onion makes a nice fixing too.
posted by Manjusri at 8:24 PM on March 27, 2007

You definitely want to make sure that your ground meat has enough fat in it. The best burger I've had recently came with a slice of foie gras on top. But perhaps that's going a bit far. 80% lean (ground chuck) is generally considered the best for burgers. If you can't find that, use 85% lean (ground round).
posted by Caviar at 8:50 PM on March 27, 2007

I've made burgers with a pat of butter on the inside. Also a molten face burner but very, very delicious! I think I got the idea from a Steven Reichlen BBQ Bible book.
posted by 4Lnqvv at 9:56 PM on March 27, 2007

Pepper jack cheese. I prefer Tillamook. And maybe a little Worcestershire sauce.
posted by eritain at 10:44 PM on March 27, 2007

Cabbage lasts much longer in the fridge than lettuce, and works well with burgers (pull off a leaf or two and slice it into thin strips to be fancy).

Sauerkraut also lasts a long time, and you can keep several cans around for emergency backup.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 10:50 PM on March 27, 2007

In the patty: salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce

On the patty: BBQ sauce (ideally a smoky variety), hot sauce (ideally Tabasco Chipotle), mayo, onion. The onion can be fried, or diced raw. It's good both ways. As mentioned above, Vidalia onions are best. You can also add bacon and/or sauteed mushrooms for extra awesome. As for cheese, go with sharp cheddar or swiss.

Use plenty of sauce. Use your burger to mop up the sauce that drips out.
posted by benign at 11:08 PM on March 27, 2007

Chili pepper flakes! Mmmm, so yummy!

Also, fried egg. Seriously. I always thought "Ewww, egg on a burger?" until I had one. Deadly, but delicious.
posted by antifuse at 1:36 AM on March 28, 2007

Toast some onion bagels and use them as buns.
posted by blueberry at 3:24 AM on March 28, 2007

Thai-style sweet chili sauce instead of ketchup is awesome. Plus a lot of the recommendations here.
posted by gaspode at 5:30 AM on March 28, 2007

Dude (or dudette). Pickled jalepenos. American cheese - the individually wrapped kind that's never seen a cow. They keep forever.
posted by nevercalm at 5:50 AM on March 28, 2007

Mendel: I was just going to link The Works. Fanstastic burgers!
posted by smcniven at 5:53 AM on March 28, 2007

Cumin in the meat is nice.

Carmelized Onions on top is devine.

Whole peppercorns in the meat is also surprisingly nice.

(oh and the cheese, garlic, Worcheshire, and bacon too!)
posted by mmascolino at 7:27 AM on March 28, 2007

Green chile. Not the flaccid canned jalapeƱos, but honest-to-god green chile. Red if it's made by someone you trust (undercooked red chile can cause severe intestinal distress and burning in places where burning shouldn't happen). Always with cheese.
posted by answergrape at 1:11 PM on March 28, 2007

Some repeats from above but I like:

- Bacon and other meats: pepperoni, salami, sausage
- Teriyaki sauce and pineapple
- Change your buns: bagels, cheese buns, onion buns
- Use different cheeses
- Grilled/caramelized onions
- Different herbs and spices: garlic, thyme, rosemary, sage, seasoned salt, lemon pepper
- Onion soup mix
- French onions (in the burger or sprinkled on top)
posted by deborah at 6:49 PM on March 28, 2007

smcniven: And I don't even eat red meat!
posted by mendel at 8:00 PM on March 28, 2007

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