Lamburgers with Basil and Blue Cheese Dressing /

Ideas for better burgers

If your household is like mine, you enjoy burgers during the summer once a week or so. But as good as a juicy, just-off-the-grill burger can be, if it’s always the same, it can also get kind of, well, boring.

One of the great things about a burger, though, is that it’s endlessly adaptable. So then, some ideas for changing up your burger game.

The meat

I like ground beef with a relatively high fat content. Why? Because fat helps keep a burger both flavorful and juicy.

But don’t limit yourself to beef. Switch things up by using ground lamb, for a lamburger like the one pictured here—the lamb-y flavor is a nice change of pace. Or use ground chicken, turkey, or pork. Because they’re typically light meat, though, ground chicken and turkey can sometimes be bland. Try adding oomph with garlic, onion, or a dash of soy sauce.

Speaking of additions, no matter what meat you use, don’t neglect to season it. Gently mix in about 1 teaspoon of coarse kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon of finely ground salt per pound of meat—plus pepper if you like. (I was once participated in judging a burger contest, and the senior-most judge said that if a recipe didn’t have at least that much salt, it’d never be a winner.)

The bun

I totally admit there’s a comforting quality to the basic white bread burger bun. But branching out can keep things interesting. Use potato buns, or buy onion, sourdough, or Kaiser rolls from a good bakery. Ciabatta rolls and focaccia also make good burger buns.

And definitely toast those buns on the grill—it’ll add a little extra texture to your burger.

Lamburgers with Basil and Blue Cheese Dressing /

The accroutrements

Speaking of texture, I always like the crunch that greens add. But those greens can be all kinds of different lettuces, whole leaves, torn leaves, or shredded. Or instead of lettuce, try spinach, arugula, or even basil leaves, which will add crunch but also a welcome extra dimension of flavor.

I also like fresh onions for crunch, but grilled or caramelized are great, too.

For toppings beyond the basic, get inspired by the condiments in your refrigerator door. Instead of ketchup, try barbecue sauce. Instead of yellow mustard, try Dijon. Mix plain mayonnaise with minced garlic, lemon zest, chopped fresh herbs—or all three.

Smear your burger with pesto, tapenade, or gochujang. Add roasted red peppers, guacamole (or avocado), or sundried tomatoes.

And cheese is almost always a good thing, right? American and Cheddar are nice, but I adore Gruyère, fontina, provolone, and blue cheese. Ideally, add cheese to your burger during the last minute or so of cooking, so it’ll get melty.

The recipe that brings it all home

Lamburgers with Basil and Blue Cheese Dressing, from a recipe I created for Fine Cooking magazine, checks all those boxes and then some. It uses ground lamb instead of beef, obviously, and adds plenty of salt, pepper, garlic, and onion to the meat—plus a dash of smoked paprika. It has an other-than-ordinary bun, toasted, plus the crunch of lettuce and red onion.

My favorite part, though, is a thick blue cheese sauce, laced with a little Dijon and a lot of fresh basil. It has more zip than blue cheese alone, and the sauciness means you get blue cheesy goodness in every bite. :)

I’m shocked and more than a little sad to realize that it’s almost the end of July. September will be here before you know it—which makes every summer-licious burger that much more precious.

So switch it up. And savor every single bite.

Lamburgers with Basil and Blue Cheese Dressing /

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