No matter if you are grilling beef burgers or meatless burgers (like portobello mushroom burgers), the toppings you choose are what can really level up the deliciousness. You can take an ordinary burger to extraordinary in just a few seconds.
So, if your idea of burger toppings only consists of lettuce, tomato, onions, and the traditional condiments, it’s time to start thinking outside the box.
There are dozens of creative ideas for burger toppings that you can try today. From savory flavors to a mix of sweet and salty, there is plenty to choose from to have something for everyone’s tastes. Here are a few great options:
The ingredients in the simple Italian salad known as a Caprese salad actually make for great burger toppings as well. This is especially true if you’re doing portobello burgers. Though it’s great with beef as well. For this combination of toppings make sure to use thick slices of beefsteak tomato and slices of fresh mozzarella for best results. Also, you can marinate the tomato in balsamic vinegar, oil, and salt, and pepper, or use a balsamic glaze directly over the toppings on the burger.
The Italian word for “to crush” is pesto, so use your favorite method to crush pine nuts, basil, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. Then, mix with mayo and you’ve got a tangy condiment to spread before you top your burger with Swiss cheese, slices of avocado, and some red leaf lettuce for more vibrant color.
Source: A Spicy Perspective
Grill some pineapple rings and red or green peppers. As those are browning, mix mayo with a bit of teriyaki sauce, and layer it all on a burger with thick slices of tomato and red onions. You just created a salty-sweet crunchiness that will wow your guests.
When prepping your burger meat, add some beef bouillon to the meat for a savory, umami-packed taste. Then, simply top your burgers with caramelized onions and a Worcestershire mayo for a Salisbury steak-style. This makes for an easy and delicious combo.
Mix up your favorite burger mix, adding fresh herbs you prefer. Then saute some onions, red chili, and cinnamon to make a sauce. Top your burger with this sweet and spicy topping and your guests will be asking for your secret recipe!
Roast some red peppers and get ready for a mouthful of delightful surprise! The surprise is the addition of tangy feta cheese. If you can get sheep’s milk feta, the texture is creamier. Top burgers with the red peppers and the feta and finish off with a garnish of parsley or arugula lettuce.
Source: Caitlin’s Cooking and More
Sriracha has made a huge splash on the culinary scene since the 1980s. It is a bright red hot sauce made from red chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Rather than just heat, though, sriracha has a touch of sweetness, too. And it makes for a great addition to burgers. You can mix the sauce right into the burger meat before cooking and then add a piece of bacon on top of each burger, with a large dollop of sriracha before serving. Get ready for the rave reviews!
Why not? Mac and Cheese makes everything better! Rather than eat it by itself the next time you cook burgers on the grill, try this. Make the burgers a bit smaller than normal, especially if you’re having lots of guests. Then, build your burger stack with lettuce, the burger, a thick slice of tomato, and a spoonful of mac and cheese. It’s creamy and filling, and no one will go home hungry.
Sometimes you just have to leap into an idea like this when it comes to ideas for burger toppings! Maple syrup isn’t just for breakfast and you know everyone loves the thick, sweet texture. So, add a tablespoon or so to the top of each burger along with a strip of bacon, and enjoy! (How could you go wrong with this?) But if that’s too sweet, try peanut butter. The peanut butter will melt from the heat of the burger and satisfies that craving for creamy, salty thickness. You can add bacon to this also or just go with the peanut butter by itself.
If you or your guests want to maintain some nod to healthy eating, hummus is made from protein-packed chickpea and sesame tahini. You can make your own (it’s easy to make with a blender) and simply add a dollop of store-bought hummus to the top of your juicy burgers. You will feel like you’re in a cafe in the Mediterranean!
There is no easier way to make your burgers gourmet than by adding some spice with seasonings like garlic, paprika, and chili powder. Add it to the meat; add it on top. Then top with your favorite salsa, some crispy tortilla chips, and pepper jack cheese. It’s a Southwestern feast, for sure.
There’s a whole other world of burger toppings ideas besides just the plain old lettuce, tomato, onion combo. Don’t be afraid to try things that may seem out of the ordinary. Combine several different flavor profiles. As you can see above, there are a lot of great combinations of toppings that will give you a totally different burger than you may have had before.
Do you have a favorite combination of burger toppings? Have you recently tried one of the combinations we mentioned above? If so, leave us a comment below. We want to hear from you!
If you want to step your backyard cooking game up and impress your friends and family, check out the BBQ Champs Academy Backyard BBQ Cooking Classes today! In these virtual classes, you can learn step-by-step straight from the pros how to cook a variety of grilling favorites.
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Anyone who likes to cook outside on the grill will tell you that one of the best things about it is that char-grilled taste you end up with. There’s nothing quite like it. And with summertime here, you are probably spending more time backyard cooking. But, meats are not the only options you have when it comes to deciding exactly what you are going to be grilling.
With more grilling happening and more and more people looking to eat a little healthier these days, you may be searching for how to grill healthy options as well. So, if you are looking for new, fun, and/or unusual foods to grill that you can add to the rotation, there are actually quite a few foods that you may not know could easily be grilled to perfection.
In this article, we’ve put together just a sample of delicious and healthy foods you didn't know you can grill today:
Who doesn’t love a good salad during the summer? For a twist on your traditional salad to serve before the meal or even as a quick meal by itself, grilling romaine lettuce makes for an awesome light and crunchy option.
Just cut a head of romaine lettuce lengthwise in half and brush it with olive oil. Place it face down on your grill and cook it over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Drizzle it with your favorite dressing and top it with shredded parmesan cheese, chopped bacon, and tomatoes or you can even chop it and mix it with other grilled fruits (see below) or veggies of choice.
Cabbage and endive both also do well on the grill if you want to have a couple of other leaf vegetables to add to the romaine for a great salad.
Source: Simply Recipes
It’s hard to just mention one particular fruit when there are so many that hold up well on the grill and end up with a deliciously sweet and smoky flavor. Watermelon, pineapple, peach, mango, bananas, pear, and grapefruit are just a few examples of fruits that can be grilled.
Depending on the fruit (like pineapple or peach), you can either slice them into 1-inch thick round slices, slice them in half, or skewer them. You can even cut a variety of fruits into chunks and do a fruit kebab.
Make sure to lightly brush the surface of the fruit that will be touching the grates with oil. Then grill over medium-high heat to midway between crisp and tender. It won’t take long!
Bonus tip: Try grilling mango seasoned with Tajin for a delicious sweet and spicy treat.
You may have had artichokes steamed, which are delicious, but grilling them adds a delicious smoky dimension to the flavor profile. If you want extra-tender results go for baby artichokes if you can find them.
Start by halving the artichokes and scooping out the prickly choke. Then just brush them lightly with extra-virgin olive oil season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Grill them over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until they’re lightly charred and tender.
For a more “unusual” option of healthy foods you didn't know you can grill, if you like fried calamari, you have to try it grilled. The best place to get fresh (or recently frozen) squid is at your local seafood market. You may be able to find it in the seafood department at your grocery store as well. Make sure the squid has been cleaned before you bring it home.
Cut the tubes (body) of the squid into half-inch rings and leave the tentacles whole and toss everything in olive oil. Then slide the pieces onto skewers and cook on the hottest part of the grill, turning once or twice, until just cooked through for a tender and delicious result. They will usually only take 2 to 4 minutes to cook.
Source: Foreman Grill Recipes
If you are looking for a quick and easy healthy snack you can grill and serve before a meal you should try olives. Grilling olives enhances their natural flavors, making them even more delicious. Look for jarred “Colossal” or “Queen Sized” pitted olives, like Sicilian or Spanish olives for example. You can even do stuffed olives as well.
Make sure to lightly coat them with oil before they go on the grill and you can season simply with black pepper and sea salt. Then grill them on a skewer over medium-high heat only until heated through and showing grill marks.
Avocado is much more than just a guacamole ingredient. It actually does really well on the grill and can make for a great, healthy appetizer. The best avocados for the grill are going to be newly ripe ones that are not super soft.
Slice the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Then brush the halves lightly with olive oil, season with salt and even paprika or chili powder, and grill over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes. They are delicious on their own or topped with fresh pico de gallo.
Grilled sweet potato wedges make for a tasty and easy side to go with any meal or even as an appetizer. You may never go back to oven-cooked or fried once you try them grilled.
Just cut a sweet potato into wedges and grill them over medium-high heat until you see grill marks. You can even try them with yogurt and/or honey for a sweet yet healthier side.
Source: Good Life Eats
You are probably wondering why we put cake on a list of healthy options. But, if you are looking for a fun and different option for a delicious dessert on the grill, angel food cake is much lower in calories and sugar compared to other options.
Plus, you probably didn’t know that grilling this classic summer favorite can add delicious complexity to the flavor profile. Just slice it into 1 to 1 ½ inch slices and toast it to a light golden brown until on each side.
So as you can see, there are quite a few options when it comes to healthy foods you can grill that you may not have known, from snacks to desserts and everything in between. You can enjoy that delicious grilled taste on much more than just cuts of meat. Of course, many of the healthier options will be vegetables and fruits.
(Check out our article on tips for grilling vegetables and fruits to ensure you end up with the best result.)
Like with any time you are going to be grilling, just make sure you are prepared before you start and have everything you need on hand. Doing so will ensure you end up with a delicious final result no matter what you are cooking.
Have you recently grilled any of the items we covered above? Do you know of other options in usual foods to grill that we didn’t cover? Let us know below in the comment section. We want to hear from you!
To up your backyard cooking game and learn step-by-step from the pros how to cook a variety of delicious things, check out our Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy today!
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*Feature image from Traeger Grills
You’ve been experimenting with outdoor cooking techniques, learning how to master your grill, or even trying your hand at smoking big cuts like brisket. Now you’ve planned a barbecue for some friends and family to come and enjoy some of your BBQ skills. But, what happens when one of them is vegetarian?
There are some great vegetarian grill ideas you can include that are easy and delicious. Many vegetables and fruits hold up very well on the grill. Then, everyone gets some great-tasting food at your next barbecue get-together and you can elevate your outdoor cooking skills even more. Plus, some of these vegetarian items make great sides that anyone can enjoy.
We’ve put together seven vegetarian grilling ideas for you to choose from. Let’s take a look:
Source: Food & Wine
Peppers are one example of a vegetable that does really well on a grill. These cheese-stuffed grilled peppers make for a delicious vegetarian side that anyone can enjoy.
This easy-to-make recipe by Robert Perkins and John Lancaster uses a delicious blend of three different kinds of cheese stuffed into different types of medium-sized peppers. As the peppers blister on the grill, the cheese mixture on the inside melts into a deliciously gooey combination.
These peppers can be prepared and stuffed beforehand and stored in the refrigerator. Just make sure to bring them to room temperature before grilling for the best results.
Burgers have long been a staple item of backyard barbecues and tailgate parties. So, for your vegetarian guests, these beer-can cabbage sandwiches make a great substitution for a beef burger and can utilize a lot of the same toppings.
This hearty vegetarian sandwich from Epicurious features a beer-steaming-plus-grilling technique and results in a mouth-watering smoky, sweet flavor.
Source: The Spruce Eats
Kebabs are always a great option when it comes to grilling, especially when you are looking for vegetarian BBQ ideas. These sweet & spicy kebabs from The Spruce use Paneer cheese and are an elevated fusion of both Indian and Chinese flavors.
These easy-to-make kebabs are marinated in tandoori masala and only take about 25 minutes to grill.
Check out our article on tips for grilling kebabs to get the inside scoop on how to successfully grill them every time, no matter what type you are cooking.
Source: Bon Appetit
Tomatoes are another delicious vegetable that can be easily cooked on the grill. These grilled tomatoes topped with blue cheese from Bon Appetit are both rich in flavor and filling, yet easy to prepare and cook.
For this recipe, remember to look for medium to large ripe tomatoes. They’ll only take about 13 minutes to cook and you’ll have a delicious choice for your vegetarian guests.
A combination of Japanese sweet potatoes, honey, and olive oil makes for a mouth-watering sweet and savory combination. With this recipe from Epicurious, you’ll have another delicious vegetarian grill option. Japanese sweet potatoes are actually starchier than yams and can hold up well on the grill.
Insider tip: If you steam the sweet potatoes before they go on the grill you’ll get a perfectly moist interior with the right touch of char on the exterior.
Source: Food & Wine
For a smoky version of eggplant parmesan, try this delicious open-face grilled eggplant recipe from Food & Wine. Eggplant holds up well when grilled and takes on a rich and smoky flavor. Combine this with buffalo mozzarella, tomato, and basil on grilled peasant bread and you’ve got another hearty, delectable entree option.
Pairing this sandwich with the bold taste of a cold Guinness makes for a delicious pair. (Check out our article on beer and barbecue pairings for more great info on this.)
Source: The Spruce Eats
If you are looking for a grilled dessert option, pineapple always makes a great choice. When grilled, this popular juicy and sweet fruit can take on completely different flavor profiles. In this grilled pineapple recipe from The Spruce, a combination of Tequila, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla will have everyone coming back for more.
You can either grill the pineapple in large rings or cut it into smaller pieces and skewer it. Also, if you’re not a fan of Tequila, Rum makes a great alternative in this recipe.
As you can see, there are some great vegetarian grilling ideas to choose from. Include one or two of these at your barbecue get-together for your vegetarian friends or family. You’ll get to show off your outdoor cooking skills and have everyone smiling.
Have you mastered any of these meat-free items already? Do you know of more great vegetarian grill ideas that you like? Leave a comment below, we want to hear from you!
Here at BBQ Champs Academy, through our first of its kind online BBQ cooking school, our Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters will teach you everything you need to know to elevate your backyard BBQ techniques. Learn from the pros and start cooking competition quality BBQ today.
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No matter what style of barbecue you are cooking, chances are you want to have a barbecue sauce (at least on the side) that complements and elevates that great meat flavor even more. The use of barbecue sauce when outdoor cooking meat dates back to as early as the end of the 15th century when Christopher Columbus brought a primitive sauce back from Hispaniola that was used for cooking Alpaca meat.
The variety and number of options now available in store-bought barbecue sauce are enough to make your head spin. There are definitely some great ones available. But, if you are spending time learning how to cook like a champion pitmaster, why not elevate your sauce game too by making a homemade barbecue sauce.
Learning how to make barbecue sauce from scratch like a pro is actually easier than you may think. Plus, the most fun part is putting your own twist on the sauce, experimenting, and determining what flavor profile you like the best.
In this article, we’ll break down some necessary background info you need to know first. We’ll also give you a good starting point for making a barbecue sauce that you’ll be proud to show off.
If you are not sure where to start when it comes to how to make barbecue sauce, a good jumping-off point is to consider what type of meat you’ll be pairing it with.
Some flavor profiles pair better with certain types of meat. Remember, you want the flavors in your sauce to complement and enhance the meat. Not overpower or fight against it.
If you are grilling or smoking chicken, you can pair several different types of barbecue sauce depending on your taste preferences. Many people enjoy lighter, vinegar-based sauces with chicken. If you want to try a more unique sauce that pair deliciously with chicken, a mayo-based white sauce (like the Alabama White Sauce made famous at Big Bob Gibson’s in Northern Alabama) is a great option as well.
Source: The Daily Meal
When you are planning out what will go in your barbecue sauce, it is important to utilize several flavor profiles that balance and enhance each other to create a harmonious overall flavor. Of course, some sauces will lean heavier towards one flavor profile but will still have enough of other flavors to balance it.
The traditional flavor profiles found in barbecue sauce include:
Now that you understand how the flavor profiles play a factor in a well-balanced sauce, it’s time to focus on the base of your sauce first. Your base will help guide you in what and how much to add from the other flavor profiles. Most barbecue sauces start with a tomato base in some form. As we mentioned above, tomato is going to put you at a starting point of a tangy flavor.
Some popular choices for a tomato base include ketchup, tomato-based chili sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and pureed tomato. Ketchup is a popular choice for a base because it already has some spices built-in, as well as high sugar content which helps achieve a nice sticky glaze on your meat when it is cooked.
Of course, there are some regional style variations when it comes to barbecue sauce and your base may not be tomato at all. If you’re going for a traditional Carolina style sauce, you’ll start with a vinegar or mustard base. Or, as mentioned above, the Northern Alabama style sauce will start with a mayonnaise base.
Whether you are starting with a tomato, vinegar, mustard, or mayonnaise base, focus on your base’s flavor profile first and build out from there to complement it.
Source: Cooking Channel
One of the best parts about making barbecue sauce from scratch is that once you’ve combined the basic ingredients you have the opportunity to flex your culinary creativity. Those basic ingredients will get you started on hitting the essential flavor profiles. You can elevate and expand on flavors by using flavor boosters, herbs, and signature spices.
Now you have the knowledge of flavor profiles and how to build on the different flavors to create a great barbecue sauce. But, you may still be wondering exactly where to start once you’ve decided on a base.
This recipe below from Char-Broil is a simple, traditional tomato-based sauce that can give you a starting point. It touches on all of the traditional flavor profiles to give you a well-balanced overall flavor. From this recipe, you can modify it, add in different things, and get creative until you’ve made your own signature sauce built around your flavor preferences.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow sauce to cool before serving. Store refrigerated for up to 1 month.
So you’ve been mixing up your barbecue sauce and maybe now it tastes too salty, too sweet, or even too spicy. Don’t worry, you don’t have to throw the sauce out and start over. There are easy ways to correct it and still end up with a great tasting sauce.
As you can see, there’s more to making barbecue sauce like a pro than just throwing a bunch of ingredients together. It is important to understand the different flavor profiles, how they complement and enhance each other, and how they pair with different meats.
Learning how to make barbecue sauce can be just as fun as actually cooking the meat. It is also a time where you can show off your culinary creativity. There are many options for ingredients to use to end up with your own signature barbecue sauce that you’ll be proud to share with friends and family.
For tips on how and when to use your homemade barbecue sauce when you are doing your outdoor cooking, check out our other great article here.
This insider information and tips like we’ve covered above are the type of barbecue insight you’ll get from the award-winning pitmasters and grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. You’ll learn step-by-step outdoor cooking techniques alongside insider secrets, all in stunning high-def 4K video. Check out our All-Access pass to get the full inside look.
It’s that time of the year again. Football is back, Nascar and NHRA drag racing is coming into the final stretch of their seasons, and you can smell the BBQ’s going through parking lots across America. It’s time to take your backyard BBQ cooking to the tailgate and master your BBQ game and race day tailgate party.
But a great bbq tailgate get-together is more than just the different kinds of BBQ meat you may be grilling or smoking. If you can also nail the sides to compliment your BBQ, you are sure to create the best tailgate BBQ meal of the season.
Top BBQ pitmasters know that using side dishes to play off of and compliment the flavors of the meat can actually do wonders to even further enhance the meat’s flavor profiles. Let’s take a look at some top outdoor eating sides for your BBQ tailgate party:
Source: Midwest Living Magazine
One hearty and warm side that pairs very well with BBQ is baked beans. But to leave a lasting impression you should skip canned baked beans. Go for a delicious elevated version like this Calico Bean Bake from Midwest Living.
Looking for something to feed a large group? This easy to make recipe, part baked beans, part chili, is ready in 45 to 50 minutes and feeds 12 people.
Pineapple isn’t just for dessert anymore. This popular sweet and juicy fruit can take on completely different flavor profiles when grilled. This is another easy-to-make side that can be cooked on the grill at the same time your BBQ meat is cooking.
Prepare it the night before so it can marinate and it’s ready in 2 to 3 minutes of cooking. This tailgate side makes for a perfect appetizer while waiting on the rest of the meal. With a mixture of sweetness and hot sauce to give it an interesting kick, this grilled pineapple recipe from Allrecipes.com will have everyone’s taste buds dancing.
Source: Food Network
It’s always a good bet to balance off tailgate BBQ with a cold appetizer. Another fan favorite often is guacamole. Elevate the normal everyday guacamole with this great recipe from Bobby Flay for Food Network.
By mixing in some chargrilled corn, the guacamole gets an added sweet and smoky flavor. With just a few ingredients, this recipe can be made very quickly and easily.
Source: Country Living
You might hear many people say that you can’t have a great tailgate party, or any BBQ for that matter, without some great slaw. This staple side can come in a variety of different flavor profiles, with different types of cabbage, or additions.
This particular recipe from Country Living will help you create a tangy slaw with a mix of two different crunchy greens. Another easy-to-make side, it pairs great with BBQ and is a sure crowd-pleaser. It can be enjoyed on its own as a side or on top of grilled brats or other meats.
Source: Midwest Living
Dips are always a great option for a side at a tailgate party. They are easy to prepare and can often be done the night before or alongside your meat on the grill. And usually, everyone loves cheese! This creamy fondue dip from Country Living is another side that pairs well with sweet or smoky BBQ flavors and is sure to go fast.
With a serving size of 16, you can keep everyone fed and enjoying a blend of savory and smoky flavors in this fondue with just a little kick of spice. Just make sure to have enough bread cubes or tortilla chips to go around.
Remember, a great tailgate BBQ party isn’t just about the meat. Great complimentary sides like the ones above can help leave an even greater lasting impression for your friends and family. Try some of these easy to make sides to kick your BBG cooking up a notch.
Here at BBQ Champs Academy, through our first of its kind online BBQ cooking school, we, along with our World Champion pitmasters and grillmasters, aim to teach you everything you need to know to enhance your backyard BBQ techniques. Learn from the pros and make competition quality BBQ and sides.
Have you mastered any of these sides of above already? Do you know of more great sides that you love with your tailgate BBQ? Leave a comment below, we want to hear from you!