No-Bun Burgers Done Right

I’m pretty sure that cheeseburgers are mankind’s greatest invention. I often imagine that if I had a time machine, the first thing I would do is travel to the Middle Ages with a perfectly-made burger and give it to a pauper and blow his mind. You think I’m joking, but I’m not. Cheeseburgers (with the bun) are probably the food I crave most, even after my palate shifted a few months ago. And truth be told, I still miss the fluffy/greasy bun associated with burgers, but I’ve come to appreciate bunless burgers as well.

I worked at a burger-centric restaurant for a couple years, and learned a couple tricks along the way. Here’s how I make a perfect cheeseburger.

First of all, I should mention that we recently found a great farm near our house that sells 100% grass-fed beef at a great price. If you live in the MD/PA/DE area, it’s worth your time to get in touch with Matt at Kookaburra Farm. Even though you generally want fresh ground chuck (instead of previously frozen ground beef) to make an ideal burger, I was still very impressed by how great these burgers turned out. When you factor in the fact that grass-fed beef is more nutritious (better Omega-3/6 ratio), less prone to E. coli, and better for the environment, it starts to taste even better. Okay, back to the recipe.

You’ll need: 1 lb ground beef or chuck, 3 slices of aged cheddar cheese, 6 leaves of romaine lettuce, 3 tsp coconut oil, condiments of your choosing, sea salt and pepper to taste

Lightly mold the ground beef into three patties, being careful not to mash them around too much. With your thumb, press a large divot into the center of each patty, which will help prevent your burger from being too fat in the center. Place them on a paper towel, cover them with another paper towel, and put them back in the fridge (to ensure the cold fat binds the patties together) while you heat up a cast-iron skillet to slightly over medium heat.

Once the skillet has heated for about 5 minutes, add 1 tsp coconut oil and let it melt, swirling it around to evenly cover the skillet. Add the burger, divot side up. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the burger and let it cook for about three minutes.

The most important factor in making a juicy burger is knowing when to flip it. The picture above should give you a good idea: it should be browning on the bottom and creeping up to nearly halfway up the burger, the burger should be curling up a little on its own, and there should be a fair amount of blood on the top of the burger. This is the time to flip it. Sprinkle it again with salt and pepper, and cook it for another two minutes. This will give you a juicy, slightly pink burger; add one more minute if you don’t want any pink, but be warned, this is going to make it drier. Some more blood will accumulate on the top – flip it one more time to cook that off, and immediately add the cheese after flipping.

Once the cheese has been added, give it another 20 seconds to help melt it, and place it on a leaf of romaine lettuce.

I prefer simple tastes with my burger – pickle, mayonnaise, and ketchup – but you are more than welcome to put whatever you’d like on yours. We prefer to use Hellman’s (“Best Foods” on the West Coast) olive oil mayonnaise (although it contains some corn starch) and Heinz’s organic ketchup which is free of high fructose corn syrup (although it does contain “organic sugar”). Once you have the condiments on, place the other leaf of romaine lettuce on top.

So there you have it. A bun-free, gluten-free, guilt-free cheeseburger. Alternately, you can grill the burgers using the same method:

13 thoughts on “No-Bun Burgers Done Right

    1. Yeah, I definitely miss those Velveeta slices. I just looked it up and it doesn’t have any soy, corn or wheat, but it does have a lot of ingredients that I can’t pronounce (never a good sign). Plus a ton of sodium.

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  1. I just happened to stumble upon your article today. It was a great read, Thanks! I have been doing bunless and low-carb burgers for four or five years now and I lost 65lbs the first year. Like you, I do often miss the bun especially those grease soaked cheese covered buns yum! What I do now is I just use a whole grain, low carb and extra fiber bun or bread for my burgers when I am in the mood for a bun! Do you mind if I link to this article from my site?
    –Mike
    greatamericancheeseburgerdiet.com

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    1. Michael, you are more than welcome to link to this article on your site. I have been experimenting with rice-based buns and have found that Whole Foods’ gluten free buns are pretty good. They’re a little dense (they remind me a lot of buttermilk biscuits, but they do the trick. I’ve even been using them when we get Five Guys to go…

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  2. Made these last night for me and hubby and they get four thumbs up from us! Almost could not believe how tasty they were when it is such a simple method and no ingredients needed for creating the patties. Went great with my homemade sauerkraut and wrapped in a coconut flour crepe! Thank you for such wonderful recipes – you’re allowing my husband to eat food he enjoys on a healthy lifestyle!

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  3. TRY THIS… 2 thin meat patties mashed flat and large around. Cook until done, via oven, skillet, grill however you like. These are your “buns”. Then layer on whatever you like, lettuce, pickles, tomato, mayo, cheese etc and put them together and enjoy. I can’t have gluten or grain and I just wanted a burger…. LOL

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  4. I love Hellmann’s mayo but their olive oil version is way too sweet for me. I started making my own mayo using avocado oil. It comes out pretty darn close to tasting like the original Hellmann’s. Super easy to make with an immersion blender and a wide mouth jar. Once it’s blended, you’ve got your mayo already jarred up!

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