How 2 Make 2 Classic Burgers

Welcome back to Djalali Cooks Too. I’m Alex, Kelly’s husband. Turns out I missed my Saturday post, again: best laid intentions and all that jazz. But instead of giving you a long-winded explanation like last week, let’s just jump right into it. We’re huge burger fans over here. Let’s put it this way: assuming I didn’t not want to Super Size Me, I’d eat burgers every day. But alas, I can’t, and therefore I shan’t. Earlier this year, Kelly and I brought you our favorite butter burgers, and today I want to show you how 2 make 2 classic burgers: a Big Mac clone & a poor man’s patty melt.

The inspiration for this post comes mostly from George Motz. If you don’t know him, you should. The guy literally traveled the country in his jalopy, visited 150 or so odd local burger joints, and recorded each’s history. As far as I’m concerned, anyone that tries to tell the history of their country through a medium everyone loves has my respect. Plus the dude is just funny. Seriously, check him out.

With that, let’s kick it off. 2 burgers. 2 ways. 2 day. (I was just seeing how far I could extend the numeronyms.)

Freshly Ground Meat

I’ve just never ground my own beef and wanted to give it a shot. This step is totally optional, so feel free to skip it. But if you do, I’ll happily go on the record and recommend using either a chuck/sirloin blend, if not just pure chuck in your burgers. (A chuck/sirloin/short rib blend is a winner too.) You just want to make sure there’s some fat content in your meat, as rendered fat is always where the flavor lies.

I used our KitchenAid meat grinder, to grind separately: 1) 1.5 pounds ribeye; and 2) 2 pounds chuck/sirloin blend. Really simple: 1) cube off the meat into 2-3 inch squares; 2) freeze the meat for 30-60 minutes; and 3) run it through your grinder. (A food processor also works fine.)

Keep an eye out, too, ’cause Kelly’s got big plans for the leftover meat.

Special Sauce

No special sauce, no Big Mac. No Big Mac, no special sauce. Sorta a chicken and the egg type of philosophical conundrum. But who has time for that sorta navel gazing.

Turns out, there are almost as many takes on this legendary sauce as there are webpages on the internet. I stole today’s version straight from Alvin Cailan. It’s a bit more involved than other recipe’s I’ve tried, but both Kelly and I really dug it.

The sauce is mayo based. Other than that, you’re going to need sweet, not dill relish; paprika, but not smoked; sugar; pickle juice; yellow mustard; garlic puree; and caramelized onions. (The latter two ingredients being biggest time consumers of this whole cook, if you do ’em yourself.) Throw ’em all in a bowl and mix. And I’ll leave the recipe down below.

Special sauce ingredients

Big Mac Clone

Now for the main event: the Big Mac clone. Ingredient list is pretty simple: thinly sliced iceberg lettuce; diced white onions; smooth, not ridged pickles; special sauce; 1 piece of American cheese; two burger patties; and a sesame bun.

A couple of notes.

A burger bun is traditionally composed of a crown (top) and heel (bottom). Double stacked burgers require the addition of third layer, which in Big Mac-speak is referred to as the “club”. Turns out burger buns don’t generally come with a club, so you’ll probably have to repurpose either the crown or the heel by slicing a bit off the top or bottom respectively. I chose the crown. Probably should’ve gone with the heel in retrospect, just like I should’ve sliced my lettuce thinner, but whatever. You live. You learn.

Next up, the patties. Traditionally Big Mac patties are 1 ounce each. I went with 2 ounces of the ribeye. Heresy, I know. But this is my column, Mcdonald’s be damned. If you don’t have a scale, just form meat balls the size of a lime. Works every time. (Something about being a poet and you not knowing it goes here.)

Turns out there’s a million ways to cook a burger. But when working with patties this small, you’re probably gonna want to cook ’em in a cast iron skillet or griddle. Today, I’m making smash burgers on our griddle at 450 Fahrenheit. Smash technique is simple: 1) put your meat balls on the griddle; 2) season them directly with salt & pepper; 3) use a spatula to smash down those puppies into nice, thin patties—smearing as you reach the edges; and 4) cook for 1-1.5 minutes per side. (Yes, you’re looking for crispy edges.)

Building the Burger

Sometimes, pictures are worth 50 words, especially when they’re 50 process words.

Now add the club and repeat the above process sans cheese for the second layer. Top with the crown. And eat it all yourself serve to your wife.

Ba dum dum dum

Poor Man’s Patty Melt

In case you’re curious, here’s a secret to my heart: a Reuben and/or a patty melt. (Again, for health reasons, I’m going to err on the side of “or” and not “and”.) But truly, I’m a simple man living in not-so-simple times. Good thing patty melts are simple: just a thin patty, Swiss cheese and onions served on rye.

But that’s not rye you say. And you would be correct. We generally don’t have rye lying around, but we almost always have Martin’s potato bread. And guess what: that’s not Swiss cheese, it’s American. Why? Because, well, we didn’t have any. And that’s the beauty of the poor man’s patty melt. It’s just as good as the real deal.

Patty melt
Patty melt ingredients

Boiled Burger

I literally stole this recipe note-for-note from Motz, mostly because I wanted to share with you the technique he uses too cook his burger: he poaches them. This is the first time I’ve tried poaching a burger, and let me tell you, it’s a winner. Plus, it’s super simple, which, being a simple man, is what I’m after.

Here’s what you do: bring about 4-5 cups of beef broth and 1 diced onion to a low boil in a pan. Then, add your patty. Turn up heat and cook for about 3 minutes. Then flip. After another 3 minutes, for a total of 6, most of the brothy, onion amalgamation will have reduced. You’re now ready to toss your burger and pan onions in between what was, until this point, just a grilled cheese. Finally, eat it all yourself serve to your wife.

How 2 Make 2 Classic Burgers

Well, that’s it folks: that’s how 2 make 2 classic burgers. Easy enough. And while I try not to speak for anyone anywhere, I imagine many of us have a classic burger we daydream when no one is looking. I hope this post inspires you to recreate your favorites; it will bring a smile to the faces of the ones you serve ’em for. At least it did Kelly’s.

Big Mac Clone

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Dinner Fastfood
By Alvin Cailan Serves: 4
Prep Time: 30 Cooking Time: 15 Total Time: 45


  • Sauce
  • 3 part Mayonnaise
  • 1 part Sweet Relish
  • 1 part Yellow Mustard
  • 1 part Caramelized Onions
  • 1/3 part Garlic Puree
  • 1/4 part Paprika
  • 1/4 part Sugar
  • 1/4 part Pickle Juice
  • Burgers
  • 1 lbs Ground Beef (80/20)
  • 6 Sesame Buns
  • 4 slices of American Cheese
  • 3 Dill Pickles, thinly sliced
  • 1 head Iceberg Lettuce, thinly chopped
  • 1 White Onion, diced




Add all ingredients to bowl, mix, and refrigerate

Burger prep


Form 8, 2 ounce balls from ground beef and then refrigerate while prepping remaining ingredients


Season griddle or cast iron skillet with vegetable oil and preheat to medium.

Ingredient prep


Thinly slice 1 head of iceberg lettuce


Thinly slice 3 dill pickles


Dice 1 white onion


Unwrap 4 slices of American Cheese


Slice tops and bottoms off of 2 sesame crowns and heels respectively. This will create 4 burger clubs.

Toast the buns


Add olive oil or butter to inside of buns and toast until golden brown

Cook the patties


Turn up griddle or cast iron heat to high


Add meat balls to griddle and season with salt & pepper


Smash balls with spatula into thin patties


Cook for 1-1.5 minutes per side or until edges are crisp

Construct the burgers


Take heel and add special sauce, pickles, onions, lettuce, cheese, and patty in that order


Take club and add special sauce, pickles, onions, lettuce, and patty in that order


Put club on heel; and crown on club.

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  • Terry
    October 5, 2021 at 10:14 am

    Alex, omg I love this post you are hilarious. I laughed my way through the whole thing. I did miss your post on Saturday but I really enjoy it on Tuesday as well. I’m glad you did this one I love the Big Mac one. But I really enjoyed the patty melt one didn’t know about boiling it very interesting. I will definitely give both of these a shot and I will keep you posted.
    So funny I love it ??Terry

    • Alex Djalali
      October 5, 2021 at 10:35 am

      Terry, thanks for your kind note! This was a really fun post for me. I’m always eager to learn new ways to cook burgers, and George Motz is a great source!

  • Priscilla C Herrera
    October 5, 2021 at 12:21 pm

    So funny but excellent suggestions to cook a burger. Look forward to more posts!

    • Alex Djalali
      October 5, 2021 at 12:24 pm

      Priscilla, thanks for stopping by today. Definitely try the poached burger—it really surprised me.

      • Jill Sweetapple
        October 5, 2021 at 6:32 pm

        Poached??? That is mad. I’ll try it, as I love a patty melt too.

        • Alex Djalali
          October 5, 2021 at 9:31 pm

          I know, right? Only thing I’d do next time is give it a quick sear after I pull it from the broth.

  • Ben Elliott
    October 5, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    Man these look great. Do you think marinating the meat before grinding it would be worth trying? Nothing complicated, just something super simple like equal parts Worcestershire / soy / EVOO / vinegar? I’ve gotta give these a shot either way.

    • Alex Djalali
      October 5, 2021 at 12:51 pm

      Heya Ben. It’s a great question as always. Without researching, here’s my initial thought. Marinades generally don’t penetrate meat very deeply—less than 1/6″, if I remember correctly. That means you’re probably not going to get a lot of flavor transfer after grinding. That being said, it might be worth cubing the meat, marinading, then grinding. Curious to see what you come up with.

  • Barbara Lacy
    October 5, 2021 at 1:29 pm

    Alex you did a great job on walking us through your recipes. Keep up the good work!

    • Alex Djalali
      October 5, 2021 at 2:28 pm

      Barbara, thanks for dropping a note today. I really appreciate the kind words. They mean a ton.