Is a grill central to your 4th of July plans? If so, get ready for a couple of hamburgers you’ll want to try this year. But before I dive into a few of my favorite variations, I want to share an important Dinner Diva tip: it’s all about the meat!

Not long ago, I tried making a 100% fillet mignon burger. You might think that’s cool, but the butcher at my grocery store called me crazy, and I’m afraid he was right! Not only was the cost insane ($20 to make 2 burgers), but they came out too dry! As you already know, filet mignon is exceptionally lean. The taste was awesome, but in order to make GREAT hamburgers you need the fat. That’s why I say, “When cooking, fat is good! Fat is your friend!” It’s okay to have your patties made from, say, 25% fillet mignon, but I wouldn’t use more than that.

So how can you make your 4th of July hamburgers stand out from the standard fare? I recommend these tasty variations (recipes to follow):

  • America’s Test Kitchen Best Old-Fashioned Burger
  • Cedar Planked Burgers with Red Wine Barbecue Sauce
  • The Spotted Pig Burger Bun (why not make the bun as well?)

America’s Test Kitchen Best Old-Fashioned Burger

This good old-fashioned hamburger is perfect for the 4th of July.

This good old-fashioned hamburger is perfect for the 4th of July.

If you want an old-fashioned burger for the 4th of July (what could be more American than that?), this one is for you. Originally from America’s Test Kitchen, we gave this recipe a try a couple of years ago and found it to be incredibly delicious.

As the site explains, “The thin patty typical of this burger style requires freshly ground meat. Prepackaged hamburger is ground very fine and packaged tightly, which produces dense, rubbery, and dry patties. For the meat, we settled on short ribs ground up with sirloin steak tips. Numerous grinding tests revealed that while beefiness depends on cut, juiciness corresponds to fat. Well-marbled short ribs added the perfect amount of fat to complement the beefy flavor from the sirloin tips. And if you don’t have a meat grinder? The food processor works just fine as long as the meat is first chilled in the freezer until firm but still pliable. We still had to deal with a rubbery texture caused by meat collagen proteins shrinking and tightening when exposed to heat. To fight this, the meat needed to be as loosely packed as possible— not pressed but rather gently shaped into loose patties. To top our hamburgers, we went back to the tried-and-true flavors of a tangy and sweet Thousand Island–style dressing, American cheese and thinly sliced onion.”

Get the full recipe at the America’s Test Kitchen site. You’ll need to register for a free trial, but it’s worth it!

Cedar Planked Burgers with Red Wine BBQ Sauce

The barbecue sauce is what puts this Cedar Planked Burger over the top.

The barbecue sauce is what puts this Cedar Planked Burger over the top.

The barbecue sauce is what puts this Bobby Flay recipe over the top. We added a touch of lime juice and used the 11 chili blend for the ancho chili powder when we made it.


Grilled Mushrooms and Onions:

  • 4 Portobello mushrooms, stems removed
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
  • 2 Walla Walla onions, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • Canola oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 2 untreated cedar planks, each about 5 by 12 inches, soaked in water to cover for at least 2 hours (available at hardware stores)
  • Canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck (80-percent lean)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Red Wine Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 8 slices good-quality aged white cheddar
  • 4 hamburger buns, split and lightly toasted on the grill


For the grilled mushrooms and onions: Prepare a charcoal grill for direct and indirect heat. Brush the Portobello mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms and onions with oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. Grill over direct heat on both sides until slightly charred and just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Reserve for the hamburgers.

For the hamburgers: Remove the planks from the water and place them over direct heat for about 2 minutes per side. Remove the planks from the grill and brush the top side with oil.

Divide the meat into 4 equal portions (about 6 ounces each). Form each portion loosely into a 3/4-inch-thick burger and make a deep depression in the center with your thumb. Brush with canola oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the hamburgers on the grill over direct heat and cook until nicely charred, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is charred, about 3 minutes. Place 2 burgers on each cedar plank. Put the planks over indirect heat, brush each burger with 1 tablespoon Red Wine Barbeque Sauce and top each with 2 slices of cheese. Cover the grill to melt the cheese and finish cooking, about 5 minutes.

Put the hamburgers on the bottom buns and top each with more barbeque sauce, some mushroom caps, some grilled onions and the top bun. Serve immediately.

Red Wine Barbecue Sauce:

  • 1 1/4 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon chile de arbol or cayenne powder
  • 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo, chopped
  • 2 cups dry red wine, such as pinot noir
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the ketchup, water, ancho chile powder, honey, molasses, sugar, mustard, paprika, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, chile de arbol and chipotle chile in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring the wine to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until reduced to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. Stir the reduced wine into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool at room temperature. The barbecue sauce will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator stored in a tightly sealed container.

Download and print the recipe here.

The Spotted Pig Burger Bun

Why not make your own hamburger bun?

Why not make your own hamburger bun?

Want to make your own burger bun too? This recipe from the Spotted Pig has a nice texture.


  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened


Combine milk, water, yeast, and sugar in small bowl or 2-cup glass measure. Let stand 5 minutes until foamy.

Combine flour and salt in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook attachment (or whisk together in large bowl if mixing by hand). Add water/milk mixture and mix on medium-low speed until combined. With mixer running, add two eggs, one at a time, waiting for eggs to become fully incorporated between additions. Add butter one tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated.

Continue to mix on medium-low speed for 2-3 minutes. If dough appears too sticky, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it pulls away from sides of mixer (it will still stick to bottom). Continue kneading until dough is smooth and elastic, 5-6 minutes longer.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume (about 2 hours at room temperature, or 8 hours in the refrigerator). Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, and using bench scraper or sharp knife, cut into 8 equal pieces approximately 4 ounces each.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Form each dough chunk into a ball and place on baking sheets, four per sheet, about 3 inches apart. Spray with non-stick cooking spray (or brush with oil), cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow to rise at room temperature until approximately doubled in volume (about two hours).

Adjust oven racks to lower-middle and upper-middle positions and preheat oven to 400°F. Gently press dough balls down until approximately 4 inches wide and 2 inches high. Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon water and brush entire exposed surface of bun. Bake for 7 minutes. Remove buns from oven, brush with remaining egg wash, and bake until deep, shiny and golden brown, rotating pans top to bottom and front to back half way through baking and cook 10-15 minutes longer. Transfer buns to rack and allow to cool completely.

Download and print the recipe here.

Are hamburgers on your 4th of July menu? Which of these recipes will you try this year?

Mary Hathaway, Owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the recipes are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: for more info.