Onion Butter Oklahoma Burgers
Onions and burgers, a love story. That’s certainly one way to think about this recipe. Whether its sharp, crisp rings of fresh onions or a tangle of soft, sweet, caramelized slices, the varied flavors and textures of onions enhance any juicy burger. Oklahoma-Style Onion burgers raise the bar in this regard, by deploying an impressively generous amount of onions–about ½ onion per patty.
The fabled Onion Burger was born from the war time economy–when a resourceful restaurateur decided to make ground meat patties stretch further by bulking up on a more plentiful ingredient. The savory results have lasted the test of time, and hold their own amongst today’s more extravagant burger menus.
For the best results, slice the onions very thinly so they’ll achieve a melting texture on the griddle–I use a Japanese mandoline for this task. After you caramelize little haystacks of onions, you’ll smash a round of ground beef over the top, so the onions become part of the patty. Seasoning both sides of the patty with Onion Butter seasoning gives these burgers an awesome herby depth.
Oklahoma-Style Onion Burgers
Any variety of white or yellow onion will work in this recipe. The salted onions will need at least 30 minutes to release their moisture, so plan accordingly. As with any smash burger, the cooking process moves fast, so make sure you’re organized with everything you need (cheese, Onion Butter, toppings, buns) before you start cooking.
To prevent the spatula from sticking to the patty, I cook with chilled (straight from the fridge) meat, and cover each round with a square of parchment paper. With the caramelized onions, melty cheese and seasoning, these burgers are perfectly satisfying on their own–but sour pickle slices and mustard are happy additions.
4 medium (or 2 large) onions, very thinly sliced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 pounds ground beef (preferably 80/20)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Onion Butter seasoning
8 slices American cheese
4 potato rolls (preferably Martin’s), halved
Olive oil, for drizzling
Eight 6- x 6-inch squares of parchment paper
Thirty minutes to an hour before cooking, use a Japanese mandoline or knife to slice the onions very thinly. Place the sliced onions in a colander, sprinkle with the salt and toss with your hands to mix. Allow the onions to set for 30 minutes or up to an hour, using your hands to toss and press out moisture every now and then.
Build a medium-high fire and prepare your grill for two-zone cooking. Ten minutes before you’re ready to cook, place a flat top griddle, paella pan, or cast-iron skillet over direct heat.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Divide the ground beef into 8 portions, and then form each portion into a ball (don’t pack the meat too tightly). Place each round of meat on the lined tray and return to the fridge until you’re ready to cook.
Give the onions a final squeeze to remove excess moisture. Place individual piles of onion (about ¼ cups) on the griddle (leave enough space between each pile to flip a burger) and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. (Depending on the size of your griddle, you may need to cook the burgers in batches.)
Using tongs, gently stir each pile of onions (keeping them in a coiled stack as much as possible) as needed for even browning until they are very tender and lightly golden, about 5-6 minutes. Then, place a round of beef on each onion stack, top each round with a square of parchment, and use your spatula to firmly press the patty onto the onions. Each patty should be about ½ inch thick (give it another smash if needed for desired thickness).
Repeat until each pile of onions is topped with a smash patty. Season the top of each patty with Onion Butter and allow the burgers to sizzle for another 3-4 minutes, then flip the patty. Season the second side with Onion Butter, and then cook for another 3 minutes. Top each burger with a slice of cheese and transfer to the bottom half of a bun.
Add toppings and/or condiments as desired, crown with the top bun half, salute Oklahoma as you see fit and dig in.