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Ground Meat

Smoked Beer-Can Burgers (Plus 3 Variations)


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.


Smoked Beer-Can Burgers (Plus 3 Variations)

Recipe Notes

  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Method: Indirect grilling
  • Equipment: 1-1/2 cups wood chips, such as oak or hickory, soaked in water or beer to cover for 30 minutes, then drained


  • Cooking spray
  • 2 pounds ground beef, well chilled
  • 1 can of beer or soda, well chilled
  • 8 slices of bacon, preferably thick cut
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

For the vegetable filling:

  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, and diced
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet onion (1 small onion)
  • 2 tablespoons steak sauce, such as Best of Barbecue or A-1

  • 8 slices provolone cheese (about 8 ounces)
  • 4 bakery-style hamburger buns, buttered and toasted (optional)

Recipe Steps

Step 1: Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Divide the hamburger into 4 equal pieces (1/2 pound each). Wet your hands with cold water and form the meat into 4 balls. Arrange several inches apart on the baking sheet.

Step 2: Spray the bottom and lower third of the beer or soda can with cooking spray. (Don’t skip this step.) Firmly press the bottom of the beer can into each meatball, forming a cup; the bottom and sides of the cup should be of fairly uniform thickness. Wrap a slice of bacon around the outside of each cup. Carefully remove the beer can. Using your fingers, fuse any cracks in the bottom or sides of the burgers. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Step 3: In the meantime, heat the butter over medium heat in a skillet. Sauté the mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion until the vegetables soften. Stir in the steak sauce. Let cool.

Step 4: Season the inside of each burger with salt and pepper. Divide the vegetable filling between the chilled burgers. Secure the bacon with toothpicks.

Step 5: When ready to cook, set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-low, 300 degrees. Brush and oil the grill grate. Carefully transfer the burgers, topping side up, to the grill grate away from direct heat. Toss the wood chips on the coals. Cover the grill. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to 300 degrees.

Step 6: Indirect grill the burgers for 45 minutes, then top each with 2 slices of cheese. Re-cover the grill and continue to cook until the internal temperature of the meat is 160 degrees and the cheese has melted, about 15 minutes more. (Replenish the coals, if necessary, and/or adjust the vents to maintain grill temperature.) Toast the buns, if using, on the grill grate directly over the heat. Place the burgers on the toasted buns, if desired, or transfer to plates. Serve with your favorite condiments.

Recipe Tips


The Cubano:

Form and chill the burgers as described above. Brush the inside of each with yellow mustard (I actually prefer Dijon, but it is not traditional). Fill each cup with thinly sliced boiled ham, sliced or shredded barbecued pork (see Steven’s recipe for Lechon Asado on page 258 of BBQ USA)—and thinly sliced dill pickle chips. Indirect grill the burgers as described above. After 30 minutes, top with 2 slices of Swiss cheese, trimmed to fit. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes. Serve the burgers on buttered grilled buns, if desired.

The French Bistro:

Form and chill the burgers as described above.

For the onion filling:
2 tablespoons butter
2 large sweet onions, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced
1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry white or red wine
1 cup low-sodium beef broth, preferably homemade, or more as needed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/4 cups croutons, preferably homemade
6 ounces grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese

Make the onion filling: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions. Cook slowly, stirring often, until the onions are soft and golden-brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle the onions with the flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add the wine and beef broth. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the mixture thickens to the consistency of gravy, adding more broth by the tablespoon if the mixture is too thick. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Divide the onion filling between the burgers.

Set up your grill for indirect grilling as described above. Indirect grill the burgers for 45 minutes. Top each with a quarter of the croutons, then sprinkle with a quarter of the cheese. Continue to cook the burgers for 15 to 20 minutes more, or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees and the cheese is melted and golden-brown. No buns needed.

The Eye-Opener:

Note: Our recipe tester, Rob Baas, declared this beer-can burger his favorite! Because of the depth of the burgers, the egg yolks will be cooked (not runny) by the time the whites set. You can incorporate the yolks by beating the eggs first (as if for scrambled eggs), or if you insist on runny yolks, you can reserve the yolks and add them once the whites are beginning to firm up. Superb with a Smoked Bloody Mary from Project Smoke™, Steven’s new TV show on American Public Television.

(Note: Wood chips optional for this recipe. Maple, hickory, or apple work well.)

Form and chill the burgers as described above, substituting seasoned pork sausage for the ground beef.

For the egg filling:
4 large eggs
8 ounces grated cheddar or smoked cheddar

Buttered grilled bagels, English muffins, or toast points, for serving

Set up your grill for indirect grilling as described above. Grill the burgers for 30 minutes. Using paper towels, blot any excess fat pooled in the depression made by the beer can. Sprinkle 1 ounce of grated cheese in the cup of each burger. Break an egg over the cheese, keeping the yolk intact if desired. (You can also beat the eggs lightly before adding them to the burgers.) Continue to cook the burgers for 20 minutes more, then top the burgers with the remainder of the cheese. Cook for 10 more minutes, or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees and the eggs are set to your liking. (Generally, the yolks will be fully cooked by the time the whites firm up.) Serve on a grilled bagel, English muffin, or with toast points.

Eye Opener
Photo by Rob Baas.