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Recipes: Take your cookout to the next level with spicy burgers from around the world

Recipes: Take your cookout to the next level with spicy burgers from around the world

Milk Street Facebook Community member Jennifer Wozniak of Flint, Michigan, drizzles tahini onto lamb burgers that she spices up with sumac, cumin, and red pepper flakes. She then serves the burgers topped with feta cheese and sandwiched in brioche buns. We play up the Middle Eastern flavor profile by spiking the tahini with Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and more sumac, then spread the mixture like mayonnaise on each bun half. If you like, top the burgers with lettuce, tomato, and thinly sliced onion.

Crumbled feta isn’t ideal for this recipe; instead, look for it sold in a block so it can be sliced into slabs for layering onto the burgers. Also, chill the patties before cooking. This firms them up so they’re easier to handle.

2/3 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon plus ¼ teaspoon ground sumac, divided

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 large egg yolks

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 pound ground lamb

3 tablespoons tahini

3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil

4 brioche buns or hamburger buns, split and toasted

1 4-ounce block feta cheese, sliced into 4 even slabs

In a large bowl, combine the panko, 1 tablespoon sumac, cumin, pepper flakes, yolks, ¾ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and ¼ cup water. Using a fork, mash the mixture until evenly moistened and well combined. Add the lamb and mix with your hands until well combined. Form into 4 evenly sized patties, each about 4 inches in diameter, then place on a large plate and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, the remaining ¼ teaspoon sumac, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper; set aside.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat, warm the oil until barely smoking. Add the patties and cook until well browned on the bottoms, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip each patty, reduce to medium-low, and cook until well browned on the second sides and the centers reach 160 degrees, another 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a clean plate, tent with foil, and let rest for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, spread the tahini sauce on the bun halves. Sandwich the burgers in the buns, placing a slice of feta on each patty.

Chapli KebabConnie Miller/of CB Creatives

Chapli Kebab

Makes 4 servings

This popular South Asian street food is not grilled skewers of meat but rather patties of ground meat seasoned with bold aromatics and fragrant spices and stuffed into flatbread like falafel. We add egg to ours to keep the texture rich and tender, plus a little starch to help with binding and browning.

Chickpea flour, also known as gram flour, is commonly used in chapli kebab, but all-purpose flour works just as well.

The patties are thin and delicate; refrigerating them for at least 30 minutes after shaping makes them easier to handle. Also, medium — not high — heat works well for browning and crisping. If the ground beef is very fine, the patties are liable to puff up as they cook, but pressing on them with a metal spatula during frying helps keep them thin and flat.

The kebabs are tucked into warmed flatbread, along with fresh cilantro and sliced onion and tomato, then finished with cool, creamy yogurt.

1 pound 80 percent lean ground beef

1 medium red onion, half finely chopped, half thinly sliced, reserved separately

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus ¼ cup lightly packed leaves

3 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 Fresno or jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded, and minced

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed

1 teaspoon garam masala

½ to 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder or cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or chickpea flour (see headnote)

1 large egg, beaten

3 tablespoons neutral oil, divided

Flatbread, to serve

Yogurt, to serve

Sliced tomato, to serve

Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment. In a medium bowl, combine the beef, chopped onion, chopped cilantro, garlic, chilies, coriander, garam masala, chili powder, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Mix until well combined. Add the flour and the egg, then using your hands, mix until the ingredients are thoroughly combined; the mixture will be slightly sticky.

With lightly greased hands, form the mixture into 8 evenly sized balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. Press down on each to form patties no thicker than ¼ inch. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add half of the patties and cook until well browned on the bottoms, occasionally pressing them with a spatula to keep them thin and flat, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook, pressing the patties, until deeply browned on the second sides and the centers are no longer pink when cut into, another 3 to 5 minutes; adjust the heat as needed if the patties brown too quickly or too slowly. Transfer the patties to a plate and tent with foil. Cook the remaining patties in the same way using the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Serve with the sliced onion, cilantro sprigs, flatbread, sliced tomato, and yogurt.

Smoky Chili-Garlic Pork BurgersConnie Miller/of CB Creatives

Smoky Chili-Garlic Pork Burgers

Makes 4 servings

To give these burgers spicy-sweet flavor with a hit of garlic, we mix Asian chili-garlic sauce and a little brown sugar into the ground pork. We also smear the buns with a chili-garlic mayonnaise. Pillow-soft, subtly sweet buns are a particularly good match for the tender, juicy burgers — we especially like potato buns or rolls. Serve with lettuce, sliced tomato, pickles, or any of your favorite toppings.

1/3 cup mayonnaise

5 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce, divided

3 teaspoons packed brown sugar, divided

1 pound ground pork

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 tablespoon neutral oil

4 hamburger buns, preferably potato buns

Mix the mayonnaise, 5 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce, and 1 teaspoon sugar together in a small bowl; set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the pork, paprika, the remaining 2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce, the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Form into 4 patties. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the patties and cook, flipping once, until well browned on both sides and the centers reach 160 degrees, 8 to 10 minutes total. Serve in buns spread with the mayonnaise mixture.


Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to [email protected]