What is a “camp burger,” you ask? It’s simply a delicious, juicy, smoky, amazing burger that you create while on a camping trip. Cooked in the great outdoors, eaten by the fire. Could it get any better than that? Here are my seven steps to making that perfect camp burger. Keep in mind I learned the best way to cook the beef from my camping partner and chef (Geir). It starts at your local farmers’ market.
1. Buy local, humane, sustainable, grass-fed beef from a butcher you know and trust. We got ours from Getaway Farms at the Seaport Farmers’ Market in Halifax. We made our patties from a mix of medium-ground beef and lean-ground beef. Don’t add any fillers (this is one of the most important points). Just salt and pepper is all quality ground beef needs. Leave the eggs, bread crumbs or other craziness out of it. When you’re using local beef, it’s safe to cook your burger medium, as long as it reaches the proper internal temperature. We always make ours medium.
2. Smoke up. Use a charcoal barbecue, or, if you don’t have access, get a nice, even cooking grate to put over the wood-burning campfire. Your burger deserves to be infused with that smoky flavour. Luckily, we have a small portable Weber Grills “smokey joe.” And we love him.
3. Add some cheese. I’m a bit more lax on this point… you definitely need melted cheese, but I believe your favourite cheese should work just fine. As long as it’s real cheese, not too mild, and it’s not smoked. We used That Dutchman’s medium Gouda.
4. Have crispy bacon prepared. Grab some local bacon, regular or double-smoked, from a local meat shop (we prefer Rose Lane Farm double-smoked for just about any occasion). Have it cooked crispy and pressed in paper towel for the perfect burger-topping texture.
5. Get your crunch on. This thing needs some crunchy acidity. Sometimes I do caramelize my onions, but I find thinly sliced, raw, much better (or maybe a mix of the two). Also, add a sliced crunchy pickle.
6. Find the mustard. This is important… your burger needs mustard. I don’t care if you add ketchup, but mustard is key. And a nice mustard, too. We went for traditional hot Dijon on this, by Maille. There are tons of amazing mustard options, so don’t slack off and reach for the French’s.
7. Grill the bun, but not too much. I believe the bun should be warm and toasty, but still have some softness to it, especially the outside parts.
So, to review, the equation for juicy camp burger goodness is = local beef + no filler + cooked medium + cheese + bacon + smoke + crunchy acidity + mustard + toasty bun.
Now let me ask you, what’s your favourite burger side dish? We’ve been experimenting with seawater-boiled new potatoes, tossed in fresh dill, green onions and BUTTER. But I’ll save that for another post…