Alternative Burgers for the Nonconformist Griller
Photographs by Erica Gannett

8 Alternative Burgers to Grill This Weekend

It’s time to go out on a limb and grill something else on the barbecue other than beef hamburgers and hot dogs, no matter how fine. Go rogue and fire up some alternative burgers that may surprise you with their nervy patties and luscious sauces. Try burgers like bison, smoked mozzarella, and spicy tuna that don’t fit the clichés.

They come from Justin Warner, the professed "culinary renegade" who won Season 8 of The Next Food Network Star and with three pals opened Do or Dine, a happening hipster restaurant known for unexpected delights like foie gras doughnuts, in the heart of Brooklyn’s once gritty, now gentrifying Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. His nonconformist place fits right into the area that spawned some of the country’s biggest music rebels—rapper royalty like Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G., Lil’ Kim, and Mos Def, who navigated this former roughneck ‘hood in the ‘90s when it was Do or Die Bed-Stuy.

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Warner believes that, "People really limit themselves in outdoor cooking in terms of proteins, vessels, and flavor profiles. The burger is practically an open-source thing. It really lends itself to experiments. I wanted to get into every part of the burger spectrum and what would work well with backyard-friendly wines, instead of the usual beer."

Here are a few of Warner’s tips for cooking out-of-the-ordinary burgers: Preheat the grill from 10 minutes to half an hour to get the grate very hot and keep the burger from sticking. Keep the lid down to retain heat. Once you have a sear, the burger releases from the grill and can be turned more easily. Get yourself a long, thin fish spatula with an angled end to flip anything delicate like a veggie burger. Use direct heat to cook, but indirect heat for great grill marks that yield the Maillard (browning) reaction and, thus, a more delicious burger.

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