Burgers made better

Rink burgers are a staple for many families on the Prairies, but summertime is really burger time for everyone. I am always seeking a great one. One of my favourites is a grilled burger with a toasted bun, sliced tomatoes, onion, ketchup, mustard and pickles.

What makes a great burger?

For most, it’s the beef, but it can be made of chicken, pork, bison, salmon or wild game. It can also be vegetarian and feature lentils, black beans, sunflowers seeds, quinoa and even beets.

But the burger is only one part. Should it be pan-fried, flame broiled or grilled and what is the best bun?

In the end, it comes down to personal preference and fun and tasty experimenting.

Enjoy the following recipes.

Beet and lentil sliders

  • 9 medium beets
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil, divided 30 mL
  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar 30 mL
  • 2 1/2 c. cooked green lentils, divided 625 mL
  • 2 c. cooked brown rice 500 mL
  • 1/2 c. whole prunes 125 mL
  • 3/4 c. panko bread crumbs 175 mL
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard 10 mL
  • 1 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika 7 mL
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme 2 mL
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper 2 mL
  • 3 tbsp. canola oil, for frying 45 mL

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Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Wash and scrub beets. Pat dry and place in a shallow roasting pan with one tablespoon (15 mL) of canola oil. Toss to coat.
Cover with aluminum foil and roast for about an hour or until fork tender.
Remove from oven and let cool completely. Trim tops and bottoms off beets, then shred on a box grater.
Heat a medium frying pan over medium-high heat and add remaining one tablespoon (15 mL) canola oil. Stir in onion and saute for about six minutes, until onions are browned.
Stir in garlic and cook 30 seconds. Stir in apple cider vinegar and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Remove from heat.
In the bowl of a food processor, add shredded beets, two cups (500 mL) lentils, rice and prunes.
Pulse just until the mixture is the consistency of ground beef. Be sure to leave some chunky bits for texture.
Add lentil mixture to a large bowl and stir in cooked onions, bread crumbs, mustard, paprika, cumin, coriander, thyme, remaining 1/2 cup (125 mL) lentils, salt and pepper.
Mix until well incorporated. Cover and chill for at least three hours or overnight.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add one tablespoon (15 mL) of canola oil. Scoop about 1/3 cup (75 mL) of burger mixture into your hand and press it into a patty about 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick.
Add patties, about four or five at a time, to the hot skillet and cook for two minutes per side, until they have a nice crust on the bottom.
Cover and cook another four minutes until they are cooked through. Remove to a baking sheet, and keep warm in a 200 F (100 C) oven while you cook the remaining burgers.
Build your own sliders with mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and more.
Quick tip: Burgers can be frozen from raw or after being cooked. Thaw before cooking. Source: lentils.ca.

Spicy beef and flax salsa burgers

  • 2 lb. lean ground beef 1 kg
  • 1/2 c. ground flaxseed 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. oats 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. minced onion 125 mL
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. black pepper 5 mL
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 c. salsa 125 mL

In a large bowl, combine beef, ground flaxseed, oats, minced onion, egg, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, garlic and salsa.
Form eight (5-oz/140 g) patties and set them aside on a baking sheet. Heat grill to medium-high heat (medium if using an indoor griddle or frying pan). Place beef patties on the grill or frying pan and cook for five minutes on each side or until done. Yields eight servings.

Black bean burgers with avocado lime mayonnaise

Mayonnaise

  • 1/2 ripe medium avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 2 tbsp. canola mayonnaise 30 mL
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. water 15 mL
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro leaves 60 mL

Burgers

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained 426 mL
  • 1/2 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained 210 mL
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped green bell pepper 125 mL
  • 1/3 c. quick-cooking oats 75 mL
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil 15 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (add .5 mL more for spicier burger) .5 mL
  • canola oil cooking spray
  • 4 whole-wheat hamburger buns, split and toasted
  • 1/4 c. thinly sliced red onion 60 mL
  • 4 tomato slices
  • 4 lettuce leaves
  • 4 lime wedges (optional)

Place mayonnaise ingredients in a blender, secure lid, and puree until smooth. Place beans in a gallon-sized resealable bag.
Using a meat mallet, pound beans to a coarse texture, resembling lumpy mashed potatoes.
Place in a medium bowl and add egg whites, bell pepper, oats, canola oil and cayenne pepper.
Mix well and shape into four patties.
Coat a large nonstick skillet with canola oil cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add patties and cook four minutes on each side or until they begin to lightly brown. The patties will be fragile so turn them gently.
To assemble, spoon one tablespoon (15 mL) canola mayonnaise mixture on each bun half. Add burger, onion, tomato slice and lettuce leaf. Serve with lime wedges.
Tip: If desired, omit the buns and serve the patties on the lettuce leaf, tomato slice and onion. Spoon mayonnaise mixture on top of the patties and serve with lime wedges. Source: canolainfo.org.

Parmesan sage pork burgers

  • 1 lb. lean ground Canadian pork 500 g
  • 1/2 c. milk 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. dry bread crumbs 50 mL
  • 3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese 45 mL
  • 2 tbsp. garlic, minced 25 mL
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh sage 45 mL
  • or 1 tbsp. dry crumbled sage 15 mL
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper 7 mL
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 4 kaiser or hamburger buns

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Combine ingredients, except the buns, in a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly with a fork. Form into four equally sized burgers, about four inches (10 cm) wide.
Cover and refrigerate if not grilling immediately. Preheat barbecue on high; reduce heat to medium. Lightly oil grill bars with vegetable oil.
Grill burgers on both sides, turning once, until completely cooked with no trace of pink, about 20 minutes.
Serve on buns with burger toppings like bacon, mustard, mayonnaise, tomatoes, onions and lettuce.
Try something a little more daring like grilled portobello mushrooms, soft goat cheese, roasted peppers, arugula leaves or black olive tapenade.
Note: Always cook ground pork to well done. Source: putporkonyourfork.com.

Chicken parsley burger

  • 1 tbsp. canola oil 15 mL
  • 1 c. red onion, diced 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. parsley, finely chopped 125 mL
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced 10 mL
  • 2 lbs lean ground chicken 1 kg
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper 1 mL
  • canola oil spray

Heat a saute pan on medium heat. Add canola oil and let it heat for a minute.
Add onion and parsley and saute for about three minutes or until onions become translucent.
Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Remove from heat and let cool for about three minutes.
In a large bowl, combine ground chicken, salt, pepper and parsley mixture.
With your hands, form eight (5-oz/140 g) patties and set them aside in a baking sheet. Heat grill to medium-high heat (medium if using an indoor griddle or frying pan).
Spray grill with canola oil spray. Place chicken patties on the grill and cook for five minutes on each side or until done. Source: canolainfo.org.

The best beef burgers ever

Juicy burgers require fat. If the meat is too lean, the burger will lack flavour and be dry and break apart easily. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that there is at least 20 to 30 percent fat content in ground beef. If there’s too little, it will be dry and if too much, it will be greasy.
Add ground flaxseed rather than bread crumbs to gain nutritional benefits and add moisture.
Add salsa or barbecue sauce to the meat before cooking for added flavour and moisture.
Handle meat as little as possible and don’t over pack it. Patties should hold together but not be pressed into tight bundles.
When forming the burger, create a thumb print indentation in the centre. This will allow the burger to hold its shape rather then swelling during cooking. The result is a flat-sided burger that will not only cook more evenly but will sit nicely on 
your bun.
SeriousEats.com recommends adding salt to the burger just before cooking. It adds flavour and tenderizes the burger.
Don’t squeeze the patty with the spatula after flipping. This doesn’t make it cook any faster and it squeezes out juices that help keep the burger tender.
Cook beef and pork burgers
to an internal temperature of 160 F (71 C) and chicken burgers to 165 F (74 C).

Dorothy Long is a home economist in the agrifood trade and former greenhouse grower from Lloydminster, Sask. She writes a blog at prairiekitchencompanion.blogspot.ca. Contact: food@producer.com.

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