Food & Drink

Revealed: 17 best summer BBQ burger recipes (according to top chefs)

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Chris Sayer
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How to make beef burgers worthy of your esteemed BBQ crowd: from rubs and meat seasoning to the perfect burger relish replacement

Maybe you thought, after slowly sinking your teeth into the first perfectly grilled beef patty of 2018, that you’d stamped your ticket to BBQ Burger Nirvana good and early this summer.

We got news, friend. You ain’t been anywhere yet.

You’ll prove yourself wrong, oooh, a good seventeen times, as you scroll down through the this page. What you’re getting, courtesy of some of the country’s most exciting and creative chefs, is nugget after nugget of delicious brilliance. We’re talking sneaky burger sauces, creative patty slathers, tiny cooking tweaks, and utterly mad toppings. How mad? Ready salted crisps-mad. 

Read on, take note, and book your one-way ticket to BBQ greatness this summer…

1. Make This Special BBQ rub

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“Here’s a good secret tip for you: brush your patty - ideally made from chuck mince and 30% bone marrow - with a mix of French mustard and tabasco sauce, then grill them alongside some gem lettuce that you brush with butter. Stack the lot on a bun, and you’ve nailed it.” - Tom Griffiths, chef and founder of Flank

2. Season Yo’ Sides

“Allow the beef rest in room temp for 20-30 mins. Only then can the seasoning start. Rub some good olive oil over the whole burger and then add a good helping salt and coarse pepper. The key, though, is rolling the edges in the tray and getting whole of that edge covered in the salt and pepper. So many people don’t do this, which is crazy - it’s the first part of the meat that hits your mouth.” - Garrett FitzGerald, owner of Butchies

3. Butter Up, Baby

“I elevate my classic beef burgers by cramming the middle of the patties with a big chunk of butter. Not only does it add a really delicious layer of flavour, but when you grill them, you know they’ll stay moist.” - Sandia Chang, founder of Bubbledogs and Kitchen Table

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4. Bench the Beef

“I must say, I do love ditching the beef in favour of a good lamb burger. As all that melted fat from the mince drips down onto the white-hot coals, it makes a beautiful and full smoke that flavours the patty beautifully. And even if you cook it all the way through (which, let’s face it, most people will) they still somehow manage to come off the grill lovely and moist. Top them off with some grilled tomatoes, charred asparagus and seasoned yoghurt.” - Mark Sargeant, founder of Sargeant’s Mess

5. Crisp Up for Crunch

“When I need to look out for veggie guests, I cut thick slices of aubergine, season well with salt, pepper, olive oil and garlic then grill. Then I top them with ready salted crisps for crunch. Sounds crazy, huh? You won’t be saying that with a mouth full of the ultimate vegetarian burger.” - Harneet Baweja, founder Gunpowder, Madame D and Gul & Sepoy

6. Get Jiggy With Chimi

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“Adding chimichurri to a burger is a spectacular move. The herby sauce adds a really fresh and summery alternative to chutneys and standard sauces. Add a little crispy Serrano ham rather than bacon, and replace your cheddar with Manchego and you have my favourite Spanish burger.” - Jimmy Garcia, chef and founder of The BBQ Club

7. Quit Pressing!

“Never, never, never press the patty down with your cooking utensil once it’s on the heat and cooking. All those juices that pour out when you do that? That’s your flavour escaping.” - Naved Nasir, executive chef at Dishoom

8. Go Thai, Guy

“When we’re making burgers for staff after service, we use some of our leftover massaman paste in the mince. It’s super tasty. You don’t have to make your own, though: there are some great ones in the supermarket these days. Just mix it with some beef mince, and you’ve got some simple home made ‘Thai’ burgers. I quite like to add some peanut butter on my bun too. The combination works so well together!” - Yohini Nandakumar, Co-Founder of Sparrow

9. Pimp Your Patty Mix

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“For a start, you have to put your buns on the grill. I feel this makes such a difference to the taste of the burger. Other than that, always add Ketchup and Worcestershire sauce to the patty mix. This makes it slightly sweeter, and adds a layer of umami flavour too.” - Ryan Matheson, head chef at Florentine

10. Break Out the Belly

“For a surprising alternative to a traditional burger, my Pork Belly Bap is the way to go! I cut some pork belly into strips and braise in some garlic, ginger, chilli and soy the night before and then set in the fridge. Then I make a nice easy ‘slaw filling to accompany: carrot, spring cabbage, red onion with loads of coriander, dressed in a little mustard dressing. BBQ the pork belly; grab a bap; fill with ‘slaw & we’re set!” - Cameron Emirali, co-founder of 10 Greek Street 

11. Better Your Bread

“The ultimate burger bun is actually a pretty hard-to-find secret: a twisted Challah roll. This Jewish bread is not quite as sweet as brioche but just as soft, whilst holding together perfectly even if your super generous with your sauces. It’s really worth hunting down, or baking a few of your own at home.” - Alex Coppard, co- founder of The Good Egg

12. Bring Home the Bacon

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“I always add a little bacon mince to my burger patties for an extra savoury flavour. I also add a pinch of baking soda: it’ll tenderise the meat.” - Judy Joo, founder of Jinjuu

13. Kill Your Ketchup 

“A personal revelation recently has been making chorizo ketchup for the burger relish. I use very spicy cooking chorizo, peel it and then cook it down with garlic, onions, cumin, smoked paprika and olive oil. To this I add red wine vinegar, some muscovado sugar and fresh tomatoes, and slowly cook it out for a good couple of hours before giving it a quick blend. You’re left with a delicious piquant ketchup with a smoky-porky flavour.”- Ben Tish, culinary director of The Stafford London

14. Roll With the Bowl

“When it comes to cooking the perfect burger on an open grill, I always put a metal bowl over the burger after the second flip - it sounds and looks a bit crazy but it creates a convection effect, meaning it cooks through to the middle perfectly, staying juicy without getting burnt on the outside.” - Bea Vo, founder of Boondocks

15. Cut Your Condiments Corner

“Being from Australia having a BBQ is like second nature to me. Instead of preparing and laying out pickles, onions, mustard, ketchup and the rest separately, I just chop everything up and add it in a bowl with some Japanese mayo. It makes your burgers even easier to assemble, and saves a lot of time when you’re preparing loads at a party - trust me!” - Brendan Fong, executive chef at ICHIBUNS

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16. Tame Your Onions

“When making your own burgers, cook the onions first and then chop in a blender before adding to the patty mixture. I’ve found that it gives you a much better flavour, and stops you from having to deal with chunks of raw onion in your mouth. It’s how all our CAU burgers are made.” - Dom Ashworth, executive chef at CAU Restaurants

17. Boost Those Baps

For the last few years, a special home BBQ staple has been a herbed and spiced butter for every burger bun. Buy a good local butter with added salt, and whip it up with a finely chopped half-bunch of coriander, two chopped green chillies, and a sprinkle of coriander powder, cumin powder and red chilli powder. I like to make a big batch, then spread it on a bunch of rolls, then any leftover buns get clingfilmed and tossed in the freezer for using next time.” - Dhruv Mittal, chef-founder of DUM Biryani