Southern Kitchen's 5 best burgers for National Hamburger Day, July 28

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen

A good burger is a thing of beauty. and these burgers are the real deal. From classic smash burgers to a vegan copycat recipe, here are our favorite burgers to get you grilling on National Hamburger Day.

One note: While some sources say July 28 is National Hamburger Day, others say May 28 marks the proper day to celebrate burgers. We think there's no time like the present when it comes to enjoying a proper burger. 

Nacho burger

This nacho burger is full of cheesy, spicy goodness.

Fresh salsa, pickled jalapenos and a cheese sauce come together to make a flavorful burger with a kick.

Makes 4 burgers

Ingredients

For the salsa

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

3 plum tomatoes, diced

2 tablespoons red onion, diced

1 chipotle chile in adobo, minced

Salt to taste

For the cheese sauce

1 tablespoon butter, unsalted

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 pound Monterey jack cheese

2 tablespoons Pecorino cheese

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Salt

For the burgers

1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 vegetable oil

4 hamburger buns

Pickled jalapeno slices

Blue corn tortilla chips

Burgers, pizza and more:12 recipes to make on the grill this weekend

Instructions

Make the salsa: In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients and season with salt.

Make the cheese sauce: In a saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook over moderate heat for 30 seconds. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking, until thickened, 5 minutes. Stir in the Jack cheese until melted, then stir in the pecorino; season with salt and pepper. Let cool until spreadable.

Make the burgers: Light a grill. Form the beef into four patties and brush with oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat until browned outside and medium within, four minutes per side. Place the burgers on the buns, top with the cheese sauce, salsa, jalapeños and chips, and serve.

Classic smash burgers

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Cooking burgers in a cast iron skillet helps develop a flavorful, caramelized crust. We’re upping that even more by giving each patty a good smash with our spatula as they cook in the skillet. Another trick? We’re adding mustard directly into the patty. Try to find beef that is 75 or 80 percent lean. Anything leaner will make for a dry burger with a grainy texture.

Serves: 2

Ingredients

Secret Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 1/2 tablespoons pickle relish

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Burgers

12 ounces ground beef (see note)

Salt and black pepper

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

2 slices American cheese

2 potato buns

Butter, for the buns

2 leaves Romaine lettuce

4 to 8 slices bread and butter pickles

Instructions

To make the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, ketchup, relish and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the burgers: Divide the ground beef in half and form into patties, making sure not to overwork the meat. Liberally season both sides and the edges with salt and pepper.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and the seasoned burgers. Use your spatula to firmly smash the burger into the skillet. Cook on one side until a crust has formed on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Evenly spread the mustard on the raw side, then flip the burgers so that the mustard is now on the bottom. Smash the burger again, and then cook another 5 minutes (for medium). Place one slice of cheese on each burger to melt. Transfer the burgers to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the buns until golden brown. Spread butter lightly across the toasted buns.

To assemble, evenly spread the secret sauce on both interior sides of the buns. Place the lettuce on the bottom bun, followed by the pickles, then the burger patty. Serve.

One Night Stand Burger

The Slutty Vegan

This is a close approximation of a One Night Stand Burger, a vegan burger by the Atlanta-based Slutty Vegan

Serves: 2

Ingredients

1 teaspoon canola oil 

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced

4 slices Upton’s Naturals seitan bacon 

1 (2-count) package Beyond Meat burger patties   

2 slices Parmela Creamery sharp cheddar-style cashew cheese

2 vegan brioche-style buns, sliced

Annie’s Thousand Island dressing, for serving

Follow Your Heart Original Vegenaise, for serving

Lettuce, for serving

Sliced tomato, for serving

Instructions

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and caramelized, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Return the now-empty skillet to medium-high heat. Add the seitan bacon and cook, flipping occasionally, until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. 

Add burger patties to the now-empty skillet and cook on medium-high heat until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Reduce the heat to medium-low and place one slice of cheese on top of each burger. Let the cheese melt then remove from the heat.

Spread the mayonnaise on the bottom half and dressing on the top half of the buns. Top with the burgers, followed by the caramelized onions, bacon, lettuce and tomato. Serve immediately.

Juicy Lucy burgers

You can't beat a Juicy Lucy burger for its messy and delightful simplicity.

Minnesota gets the hat tip for creating this genius burger hack: Stuff and cook the cheese right inside the beef, and you end up with the ultimate, gooey cheeseburger.  

But although the recipe is simple — some beef, salt, pepper and cheese — it takes some time to master the skill. But once you get it right, you'll reach burger nirvana. 

A word about cheese: Stick with American and you'll be perfectly happy. As for toppings, hew simply there, too. Lettuce, tomato, maybe a couple of pickles and some mayo, and you're golden. 

You can make these in a skillet, but this recipe is made for the grill. No matter how tempting it may be, do not squash your burger, or the cheese will run out. 

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds 80/20 ground beef 

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

4 slices American cheese

Burger buns and preferred toppings

Makes 4 burgers.

Instructions

Put ground beef in a bowl and massage in the salt and pepper. Feel free to adjust to your tastes. 

Divide beef into eight equal portions, and flatten all eight portions into large, thin disks.

Break an American cheese slice into four pieces, and then place it in the center of one of the beef disks. Do this four times, so you have four disks with cheese and four without.

Place each of the disks without cheese over top of each disk with cheese and press lightly to seal. Pinch together the ends and continue to press lightly, forming a tight patty. Keep it thin. 

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill each burger for about 5 minutes on each side. The internal temperature should reach around 160-165 when finished.

Let the burger rest for a couple of minutes before serving with your choice of buns and toppings. 

Lamb Burger with Feta Cheese

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Feta cheese, fresh tomato and mint not only complement lamb, but they also work very well with each other. Try not to cook these burgers beyond medium, lest they turn out dry and grainy.

Serves: 2

Ingredients

1 pound ground lamb

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 hamburger buns

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 beefsteak tomato, sliced

1/4 cup baby arugula

10 mint leaves

Instructions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.

While the skillet is heating, equally divide the lamb into two burger patties, taking care not to overwork the meat. Season the sides and edges liberally with salt and pepper.

Add the oil to the hot skillet, followed by the burger patties. Cook on one side until a brown crust begins to form, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook on the second side for 4 minutes (for medium). Top with cheese and transfer to the oven. Continue to cook just until the cheese has warmed through and slightly melted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Keep the oven on.

Bake the buns until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.

Smear both sides of the buns with Greek yogurt. Place tomato slices on the bottom buns and season with salt and pepper. Top with the burgers, followed by the arugula and mint. Serve immediately.

Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South region and the editor of Southern Kitchen.

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Reach me: mlunsford@southernkitchen.com