What’s New? Smoked Beer-Can Burgers, Plus 3 Variations


Photo by Rob Baas.

“Every few years, a dish or two comes along that captures the fancy and taste of a generation. Typically, it’s a dish that most people had never heard of one year, then couldn’t seem to live without the next.” Steven wrote these words in the preface to Beer-Can Chicken (Workman, 2002), and they still hold true today.

The Bacon Explosion, which went viral in December, 2013, is a great example.

This year, the nominees are Onion Bombs and an even newer kid on the block, Beer-Can Burgers. Until a couple of months ago, we here at Steven Raichlen, Inc., had never heard of the latter. But as bona fide evangelists for the beer-can genre of barbecue, we feel obligated to spread the gospel.

Beer-Can Burgers

Photo by Rob Baas.

Beer-Can Burgers start with a baseball-size orb of ground meat—1/2 pound or more. A chilled, unopened beer is pressed into the meat, forming a cup the same diameter as the can and about 1-1/2 inches deep. Strips of bacon—c’mon, you knew bacon would be involved—are wrapped around the outside of each burger before the can is eased out of the meat. (No beers are harmed in the preparation of this recipe.) Then the burgers are stuffed with cheese and/or other ingredients before being indirect grilled over medium heat.

When served on buns, these bad boys are jaw-stretchers. But there’s no shame in eating them with a knife and fork with your favorite condiments.

Photo by Rob Baas.

Photo by Rob Baas.

Intrigued? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • While we typically recommend a lean to fat ratio of 80/20 for burgers, leaner mixtures work, too. Grass-fed beef (always my preference) is naturally lean, or look for a ratio of 85/15 or even 90/10.
  • Substitute ground chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, or sausage for beef.
  • Thoroughly chill the meat and the beer before forming the burgers. We also like to refrigerate the burgers for at least 30 minutes before filling.
  • For easier release, lightly spray the bottom and lower half of the beer can (or a soda can) with cooking spray before pressing it into the meat.
  • If the strips of bacon you have don’t quite stretch around the circumference of the burger, sandwich them between two pieces of plastic wrap and gently lengthen them with a rolling pin.
  • Cut a thick slice (about 1 inch) from the center of a sweet onion, and separate into rings. Place one ring in each burger to reinforce the walls. (Make sure the onion ring fits snugly against the inside wall of the burger.)
  • Cheese toughens when exposed too long to the high, dry heat of the grill. For best results, top the burgers with cheese during the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time.
  • For extra flavor, use wood smoking chips. Soak for 30 minutes in water or beer, drain, and throw on the coals. Wood chunks are another option. Or if using a gas grill, place in a smoker box or smoker pouch.

Just in time for a tailgating party or autumn barbecue, here’s a master recipe for Beer-Can Burgers along with three globally inspired variations. Tip o’ the hat to Rob Baas, who tested the recipes and took the awesome photos.

Get the recipes here.

Photo by Rob Baas.

Photo by Rob Baas.

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