At our backyard barbecue parties, I keep the menu simple by creating a DIY burger bar for our guests. After hosting the same type of party for almost a decade, I recently decided on a new way to serve our traditional barbecued goods. Instead of wowing everyone with the fancy fare, I serve basic burgers and up the ante with a selection of delicious potential toppings for the grilled meat.
The day before the party, I spend a few hours in the kitchen mixing a variety of creations from the condiments in our fridge. Then I slice and dice a few traditional toppings and in no time I’m left with a buffet of options for the hot dog and DIY burger bar.
I usually opt to make the hamburger patties slider-size (2.5 oz each), ensuring they’re perfect for the little hands at the party (I have nine nieces and nephews), but also small enough that the adults can have more than one, allowing them to experiment with the topping options.
If you’re interested in hosting a DIY burger bar, here’s how I do it:
- I make the patties by weighing them so they’re all the same size, ensuring they cook through evenly.
- I don’t add any filler to my burgers – instead I shape the weighed beef into rounds, and season them liberally with kosher salt and pepper on both sides just before they hit the grill. Don’t season meat with salt too far in advance, as it will draw out the juices that keep it moist.
- I use heartier dinner rolls in order to keep the condiments tucked in nicely; slider buns are thin and small, and don’t offer much room for the toppings.
- Because I can sometimes have 48 buns, plus an additional 15 rolls for hot dogs, I don’t have space or time to butter and toast them all, but I recommend it. Lightly buttered and toasted buns provide a barrier between the condiments and bread and the extra step keeps the buns from turning soggy.
- While I prep the condiments one day in advance, most of the sauces can be made several days in advance, if you prefer.
Here’s a list of DIY burger bar topping ideas:
- Sliced red onion
- Sliced tomatoes
- Chopped white onions
- Dill pickles
- Grated cheddar cheese
- Pickle relish
- Spicy honey Dijon sauce
- Creamy chimichurri
- Pickled jalapeños
- Bacon and onion jam
- Dijonnaise (combine equal parts mayonnaise and grainy Dijon mustard)
- Sriracha Mayo (3 parts mayonnaise to 1 part Sriracha)
- Ballpark Mustard
- Dijon mustard
- Spicy ketchup (3 parts ketchup to 1 part Sriracha)
- Barbecue sauce
Serve the sauces in squeeze bottles and the remainder of the toppings in mason jars, bowls, and platters. Label each with the name of the condiment written on washi/masking tape and stick to the front of the bottle/jar.
Be sure to have lots of napkins and wipes on hand!