In my opinion, summer entertaining should be super casual, super easy and self-serve. Treat friends and family at your next gathering to a burger bar brimming with toppings, condiments and bun options. All you do is throw beef hamburgers on the grill and assemble an array of fixings, most of which can be prepped ahead! Guests line up (make that stampede) to the buffet to create a masterpiece of meaty goodness as each sees fit — I bet no two burgers will be alike! Get inspired with these seven steps to make a better burger bar.
A non-negotiable for any burger bar is the patty and you just can’t beat an all-beef patty. A beef burger is juicy, meaty and what most folks are counting on when it comes to building a burger. Check out this past post sharing Six Expert Tips for Grilling Burgers and get up to speed on topics like grinds, seasonings, and cooking times.
Big and Small
When hosting a burger bar with a head-spinning, mouth-watering array of topping and condiments, consider offering patties in two sizes, big and small. In other words, standard and slider or 6-ounce and 3-ounce. This allows guests who can’t commit to just one burger to choose the smaller size and make several different versions.
Mayo, ketchup and mustard are okay, but why not pesto aioli, chipotle ketchup or honey mustard? Barbeque sauce, artichoke-spinach dip and guacamole are right on the money, right on the bun too! When it comes to condiments, you are only limited by your imagination and many easy spreads and sauces can be whipped up by combining a couple of simple ingredients already in the fridge such as feta cheese + mayonnaise or salsa + ranch dip. Write the name of each condiment on wooden craft sticks and use to smear all this goodness on buns!
Viva la Variety
When it comes to burger fixings, the classics are a must, but don’t just stop with standard fare like lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. Take flavor to the next level by offering toppings such as caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, roasted green peppers, bacon, olives and every kind of cheese that pleases you.
Allowing guests free reign with their creativity is the raison d’Ãªtre of a burger bar, however, sometimes offering inspiration is in order. For example, I clustered certain fixings in my burger bar into distinct groups to make themed burgers. Feta mayo, olives and sun-dried tomatoes for a Mediterranean Burger; guacamole, green chiles, bacon and BBQ sauce for a Texas Burger; and caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and blue cheese for an Umami Burger. One of the teen boys at our party shoved and piled EVERY single topping on his burger and earned a round of high-fives. There is no judgement at a burger bar.
Even the best burger can be ruined by the bun, be it too bready, stale or (gasp) cold. Choose bakery-fresh buns at your market and keep them warmed and ready to go by loosely wrapping a bundle in foil and keeping on the warm or low setting in a slow cooker. Consider offering an array of baked goods to sandwich in the patty including whole grain buns, onion rolls, sweet Hawaiian or sourdough bread and more. Offering a gluten-free option and lettuce wraps is considerate of guests with special dietary needs.