Custom Built Burgers

I don’t know about where you live, but burger bars are popping up on every other corner here in the Queen City much in the same way steakhouses did a few years ago. Custom built burgers are all the rage with even well established chefs such as Hubert Keller opening a burger bar in Las Vegas.

I’ve tried several around town, but I had my fill of these places after the response I got when I asked for them to leave something off their daily special.

It was a simple request, really. All I asked for was for them to not put the bruschetta on the burger because it contained olives. I hate olives.

They told me there were no substitutions on the daily specials because the chef works hard to create a very specific flavor profile. Flavor profile? This is a burger we’re talking about, right?

The term flavor profile is one of the most overused in the culinary vernacular. While sitting at the table I felt like I was being read a bad food PR pitch like the ones that find their way into my inbox daily.

While I eventually got what I wanted, I decided that it just wasn’t worth the aggravation to get my burger made the way I wanted it made, especially since they’re charging “gourmet” prices. So, rather than fight the power, I started making my own custom built burgers at home.

After a bit of research I decided to give Chef Michael Symon’s Lola burger recipe a shot using a 40/40/20 mix of chuck, sirloin and beef brisket that I ground myself. We liked the test batch so much that I ended up putting together a burger bar for my son’s second birthday replete with an assortment of custom condiments and toppings.

I’ve since refined my burger blend a little, but the main tenants remain the same. I liked to make a batch of these burgers, partially freeze them and then vacuum seal them up so we can have a custom burger night whenever we choose.

Even now that I’m following the spirit of the Paleo diet to control my diabetes and lose weight, I still enjoy my custom built burgers, albeit wrapped in bib lettuce and not a bun.

From a cost standpoint I only spent about $.30 per pound more than I would have for the leanest pre-ground meat at my local mega mart (which is the best comparison since I don’t add fat beyond what the meat already has naturally) and I get to control what goes into what I put on my family’s table.

PJ’s Custom Burger Blend

adapted from Chef Michael Symon, Willow Bird Baking & White on Rice Couple


2 pounds tri tip steak, sirloin tips or sirloin steak
2 pounds boneless beef short ribs
1 pound beef brisket (with the fat cap on)
5 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground star anise


  • Cube all the meat and add to a large mixing bowl
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the cubed meat and stir to combine well
  • Return seasoned meat mixture to the refrigerator for an hour or so
  • Grind using a coarse plate, or follow instructions on this post for using a food processor
  • Pack loosely into patties of a size that fits your need, cook and enjoy
  • Should yield 10 to 15 burger patties depending on preference

If you give this, or anything else here, a try we’d love for you to drop us a comment and tell us how you liked it, or what you did differently to suit your tastes.

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PJ Mullen is a stay at home dad, husband, amateur chef, craft beer enthusiast, prolific air drummer and the Stig in a minivan. Currently in between blogs, PJ has been littering the Internet with his drivel since 2006 when he started a account and blogged about a home renovation project. That proved to be a gateway drug to self-hosting where he went on to blog about football, his life as a stay at home dad and his culinary adventures. While he chooses a new domain to sully, he can be found here at Digital Dads writing about food and craft beer. He was a member of the Bumble Bee Foods "Bee Squad" from 2011 to 2012, contributed to Man of the House, was a member of the Shared Tastes Panel at Ready Set Eat, has worked with several brands including Sony, RedEnvelope, Conair, Lands End and Baby Brezza, and won the 2010 Perdue Verifiably Good Video Contest.

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