Last weekend, I pulled together a bevy of simple, no-cook snacks for a few friends.  I assembled a shrimp cocktail, whipped up a few deviled eggs, poached and chilled some asparagus, and laid out a trio of simple dips including a homemade pimento cheese. It was a lovely day outside so I organized my easy breezy appetizers on the deck.

And then it happened.

My neighbors fired up their grill and moments later my yard smelled insanely delicious. My neighbors frequently host festive (and yummy) family cookouts, but this particular puff of smoke danced over the fence and brought with it the first savory scent of grilling meat and spices of the season; suddenly my chilly shrimp and asparagus seemed more than a little lackluster.

The very next day I opted to fire up my own grill in hopes of quelling my now undeniable craving for some true summer flavor. I had a bunch of pimento cheese leftover and I decided the spicy cheese spread would serve as a fantastic topping for a glorious and indulgent cheeseburger.

Crafting a good burger is an exercise in balancing fatty meat, a starchy bun and notes of salty and sweet flavors in the garnishes. Sure this can be accomplished with the classic combo of ketchup, mustard, onion and pickle, but I like to shake things up in the burger world. Thanks to that pimento cheese I had the salty (and ooey-gooey) aspect of my burger covered and opted to add  a strip of candied bacon and a couple of bread and butter pickle slices as additional topping to bring some sweet flavors to my cheeseburger. 

Believe me, the smell of these bad-boy burgers sizzling on a hot grill is bound to make your neighbors long for a dinner invitation; thankfully this recipe make enough to feed a few extra folks. Even so, I vowed to eat cold shrimp and asparagus for the rest of the week when I saw my finished pimento cheese burger, but savoring one a sunny evening in my backyard was worth every cook-out worthy calorie. 

Happy grilling!

Grilled Pimento Cheese Burgers with Candied Bacon

These burgers can be cooked on a gas grill as well-just heat it to high and get cooking!

Ingredients:

  • 2-pounds ground chuck
  • Kosher salt and coarse black pepper
  • 1 Heaping cup of homemade pimento cheese (recipe follows)
  • 1/3 Cup BBQ Sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • 6 Strips candied bacon (recipe follows)
  • Bread and butter pickle slices
  • Baby Spinach or Lettuce leaves
  • 6 Seeded hamburger buns

Prepare a charcoal grill and allow the coals to cook down until they are ashy, but there is still a firey glow among the coals (about 30 minutes from the time of lighting the grill, but let your eyes guide you more than the clock).  While the fire cooks down, divide the ground chuck into 6 equal portions. Working quickly shape the meat into six ¾” thick burgers; the more you handle the meat the tougher your burger will be. Season the burgers on both sides with kosher salt and coarse black pepper.  Grill the burgers for 3 minutes on the first side. Flip the burgers and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Move the burgers to a cooler area of the grill and top each burger with 1/6 of the pimento cheese. Cover the grill and leave there until the cheese is melty and gooey-about 2-3 minutes.

Place a burger on a bun and garnish with BBQ sauce, 1 strip of candied bacon (broken in hald), two slices of bread and butter pickles and a few spinach leaves. Serve at once.

Pimento Cheese

  • 1-pound (about 4 cups) sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 large red pepper, roasted, peeled and diced or 1 4-ounce jar of pimentos, drained
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2-ounces cream cheese (just a nice hunk)
  • ¼ Cup (plus up to 2 Tablespoons) mayonnaise 
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Coarse Black Pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients into the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or use an electric hand mixer.  Beat the ingredients until well combined and the mixture resembles a proper spread adding up to 2 additional tablespoons of mayonnaise as desired.  Refrigerate pimento cheese in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Use pimento cheese as a spread for crackers, in a grilled cheese sandwich, or as a topping for grilled burgers.

Candied Bacon

  • 6 Strips of best-quality, extra-thick bacon
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Line a small rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a rack on top of the foil.  Arrange the bacon strips on the rack and place the pan in a cold oven.  Turn the oven on to 350 degrees.  Once the oven is heated to temperature flip the bacon and allow it to cook for 10-15 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix the syrup, brown sugar and pepper in a small bowl.  Brush the bacon on the top side with ½ of the syrup mixture and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the bacon from the oven, flip it over and brush with the remaining syrup mixture.  Return the bacon to the oven and continue to bake until sugars are caramelized and bacon is crisp-about 10 more minutes. Set bacon aside until ready to assemble burgers.

350 degrees-20 minutes

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