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The Ultimate Cheeseburger

The Ultimate Cheeseburger recipe_Fire Food_photo credit David Loftus_feautured

The DJ BBQ crew cook a lot of burgers. I reckon each summer we grill around 8,000 burgers over live fire. I’ve hosted many burger competitions and food festivals and seen many different techniques, ranging from classic to downright weird. I’ve spent the last 40 years perfecting this burger. I hope you are ready to achieve awesomeness because you are about to invite a wonderful cheeseburger to that party in your mouth. This is the blend that we believe is perfect. Many people won’t have access to a butcher or these cuts of meat, so just go for a decent fatty ground beef. The more fat, the better. Minimum 20% fat.

The Ultimate Cheeseburger recipe_Fire Food_photo credit David Loftus_16x9

The Ultimate Cheeseburger

Christian Stevenson (DJ BBQ)
I’ve spent the last 40 years perfecting this burger. I hope you are ready to achieve awesomeness because you are about to invite a wonderful cheeseburger to that party in your mouth.
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people


  • metal cloche


For the ground beef - You can ask your butcher to prepare this mix of cuts but if you want to do it yourself, here are the weights as well as the percentages to make 1kg (2lb 4oz) ground beef. Simply put all the meat through a coarse grain meat grinder.

  • 450 grams (1 lb) chuck (45%)
  • 150 grams (5 1⁄2 oz) Flank (15%)
  • 150 grams (5 1⁄2 oz) Brisket (15%)
  • 100 grams short rib (10%)
  • 100 grams aged beef fat (10%)
  • 50 grams bone marrow (5%)

For the smoked garlic mayo

  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) fresh horseradish root, grated
  • 4 smoked garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 100 ml (3 1⁄2 fl oz/1⁄2 cup) mayonnaise

For the dirty onions*

  • 1 big dirty onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • Pinch of sea salt

For the seasoning salt

  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic granules

For serving

  • 4 slices monterey Jack cheese
  • 4 slices burger cheese (the orange stuff)
  • 8 slices smoked dry cured streaky bacon
  • 4 brioche-style burger bun, halved
  • 1 romaine lettuce, separated into leaves
  • 1 ripe tomato (preferably beef), sliced


  • First, get all of your toppings ready. Start by making the smoked garlic mayo by mixing the grated horseradish, smoked garlic, lemon juice and mayonnaise in a bowl. Set aside.
  • Mix the chopped dirty onion with the cider vinegar, then season with a pinch of sea salt and set aside. (See below for dirty onion instructions).
  • For the seasoning salt, mix all the dried ingredients together in a bowl. Get all your veg prepped and have your cheese ready. Finally, get your grill going with a medium hot heat.
  • Now, it’s patty time. You don’t want a super-dense patty. A coarse grain on the mince means the fats can render down and flavour the beef patty. Divide the mince into four equal piles. Carefully sculpt each pile into a patty. I like my patty to be about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick. make sure it is even all round, so there aren’t any bits that are fatter than the rest. When creating the patty, I like to see cracks around the edge of the burger – I call these ‘fjords of flavour’. As the fats render down, they will cascade down these fjords and flavour the patty.
  • Sprinkle the seasoning salt onto both sides of the patties and place them over direct heat. When the patties come away from the grill easily, then it’s time to flip. Flip again when the grill releases your patties on the other side, and keep flipping every 1–2 minutes until the burgers are cooked through.
  • If you get flare-ups and it’s getting out of hand, move the patties to the indirect side, so you can calm things down. Plus, this gives the burger a chance to do some more cooking on the inside.
  • Once the burgers are about three-quarters done (about 50oC/122oF), lay a slice of both types of cheese in a cross on each patty and place the cloche over the burgers to melt the cheese quickly.
  • Move the burger to the indirect side just before it’s hit the internal temperature you are after. I like my burger to be cooked medium-rare (55°C/131°F).
  • As soon as you move the burgers over, get the bacon on the direct heat along with the bun halves, cut side down. When the bacon and the buns have a nice crispy char, remove everything onto a board ready to assemble.
  • To assemble, lay out the bottom half of the bun, spread a dollop of the smoked garlic mayo on it, followed by a piece of lettuce. Now it’s time for the main event! Cast that grilled, cheesy, slab of meaty beef ass down on top of the lettuce, like Thor casting thunderbolts into Hades. Finish off with the bacon, tomato and dirty onions. All you need to do now is pop that toasted bun on top to seal the deal. Then, suddenly, bam! You have made the ultimate cheeseburger!

*To make the dirty onions

  • Make sure your coals have properly cooked down and are not too fierce. The coal bed should be evenly laid out.
  • Whatever you do, do not peel the onions. You need the outer casing to protect the sweet tangy flesh within. Once the coals are good to go, take a pair of tongs and carefully place the onions straight into the coals. Push the coals around the onions so that they get hit from all sides. You don’t need to cover the onions as you’ll turn them a couple of times during the cook. The big ones should take anywhere from 1 1⁄2 hours to 2 hours. The perfect dirty onion will ‘pop’ from the top. This is when the centre gets hotter than the sun and erupts like a volcano. Be careful of the lava. Not every onion will pop but the majority do. To make sure the onions are done, give them a squeeze with the tongs. They should be really quite soft. Be careful not to overcook them, as once the moisture has been cooked out, they will go hard as a rock, especially if they are small ones.
  • Carefully take the onions out of the coals and rest them on a baking tray (sheet) covered with foil. This helps the onions rehydrate. Be careful in case there are any coals, which can sometimes stick to the onions. You can use them right away but they are pretty hot. We normally cook onions in the morning and let them cool down for a couple of hours before handling.
  • The best technique for getting into the goodness is to squeeze the skin and pop the onion out. remove the ash and dried skin but don’t worry if little bits of charred skin remain – they only add flavour and texture. These can now be chopped and used in a variety of recipes or as a condiment. Soak them in a little bit of cider vinegar and a pinch of salt for next-level flavour.


Fire Food: The Ultimate BBQ Cookbook by Christian Stevenson (aka DJ BBQ)Recipes and images used with permission from Fire Food: The Ultimate BBQ Cookbook by Christian Stevenson (DJ BBQ), published by Quadrille, May 2018. Photos by David Loftus.
Keyword Beef, Brisket, Burgers, Grilling, Onions

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