Test Kitchen: A dozen ways to beef up burger toppings

The patty or protein of choice may take center stage with burgers, but toppings and condiments can make or break burgers. And so, it’s time to ditch the standard ketchup, mayo and mustard (or at least spice them up) condiments, toppings and bun.

Here’s a dozen ways to dress up any burger whether it’s made with beef, poultry, lamb or is a vegetarian-style.


Buns: Potato buns are sturdy and flavorful and they toast nicely. Want a tad sweeter Brioche buns are on the sweet side. Pretzel buns are trendy. Whatever your bun of choice, toast the insides on the grill along-side the burger.

Cheese: The sky's the limit and don't skimp. Soft cheese like brie and havarti melt well and put the burger over the top. Ditto with Gouda. Good all-American cheese and aged cheddar are classics. Looking for spice? Add Pepper Jack.

Crispy Fried Onions: Marinate 1/2 pound sliced shallots in 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and 1 1/2 cups of favorite ale for 12 hours or overnight. Mix 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper with 11/2 cups all-purpose flour. Heat a deep pot with 2 to 3 cups canola oil to 350 degrees.

Greens: For a hearty crunch, use iceberg lettuce or romaine and use leaf lettuce for a mild crunch. For non-crunch fans, use soft Bibb lettuce or add a layer of baby greens. Arugula will add a pleasant peppery bite, while baby kale and spinach give a hearty taste.

Onions: Red has a bit of spice, white is nice and crunchy and sweet. Slice about 1/4-inch thick or less. For sweeter flavor, grill the slices.

Roasted red peppers: Roast red bell peppers on the grill until the skins are charred. Place in a bowl, cover and let rest 10 minutes. Remove charred skin, slice the peppers. Or you can buy jarred roasted red peppers.


Curry Ketchup: Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder; cook, stirring, until toasted, 20 seconds. Mix with 1/2 cup ketchup and 1 teaspoon each Worcestershire sauce and honey.

Honey Mustard-Glazed Bacon: Place 8 bacon slices on a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet; bake at 375 degrees until just starting to crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Brush both sides with honey mustard; sprinkle the tops with coarsely ground pepper. Bake until crisp, 12 more minutes.

Herb mayonnaise: Mix 1/2 cup mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons fresh chopped favorite herbs, garlic and chives, pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon vinegar.

Pesto: Use any store-bought pesto or make your own. For creamy pesto, swirl in some mayo.

Spicy or Sweet Mayonnaise: Start out with a 1/2 cup mayonnaise, for herb mayo, mix in favorite fresh chopped favorite herbs, garlic and chives, pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon vinegar; for spicy mayo, stir in 2-4 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chile paste) or Sriracha to taste, 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice and a pinch of salt. To make sweet mayo, stir in Asian sweet chili sauce or honey or honey mustard or honey Dijon.

Spicy Blue Cheese Butter: Mash 3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter with 1 tablespoon chopped chives; season with hot sauce and salt. Stir in 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese.

Sources: Shake Shack Recipes & Stories by Randy Garutti & Mark Rosati (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, $26.); Detroit Free Press Test Kitchen; Food Network magazine, June 2017 issue.