This burger recipe is several years in the making. It combines some of my all-time favorite things – sweet and savory, pineapples and jalapenos, and of course, gooey cheese.
I should begin by saying that I have a very special relationship with a good hamburger. If you were to ask me on the spot what my favorite dinner food is, I’d probably say either duck or short ribs. If I really think about it though, I’m not sure that’s accurate. As delicious as those are, they’ve yet to inspire in me the same deep-seated, irresistible desire that I get for a well-made gourmet burger. This craving comes over me every couple of months or so, and the only solution is to try to find (or, if necessary, make) my dream burger. This recipe for Hawaiian Beef Sliders with Bacon, Pineapple, and Candied Jalapenos encapsulates everything I want when that craving hits.
Overall, burgers are excellent crowd-pleasers. Aside from hot wings (coming soon), I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate for a food-centric Super Bowl Party. Grilled meats and game-days just go together. Regrettably, preparing burgers for a crowd in the middle of winter is a challenge. I’ve tried doing batches in sauté and grill pans over the stove, but it takes forever and I never feel like I can get all the temperatures right to satisfy my guests. Burgers end up far too well done or still moo’ing, neither of which is generally acceptable.
I spent a lot of time investigating how to make a large batch of sliders in the oven. Most techniques I found would be great for kids’ parties: spread beef out in a pan, cook in the oven, and slice up into little square patties. Sadly, this method seemed lacking, and I couldn’t help but fear it would result in a mess of well-done hockey pucks for patties. I needed a way that would char the outside of the patty, and even more importantly, a way to achieve a medium/medium-rare internal temperature. Then, after much searching, I found a method worth trying. I couldn’t believe it took me so long – it’s so simple!
I’m pleased to share this roasting technique to make large batches of sliders in the oven. It’s quick, easy, and doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve gained a layer of grease as you work over the stove. You need two important things to make it work: a baking sheet and an oven-safe cooling rack that fits comfortably into it. It may require some searching to find the right sizes to fit together, but I’ve had luck on Amazon.com (something like this) and at Target when I’ve needed them in the past. If you don’t have a set already, you’ll find having one is more useful than you’d think. Prep the meat, form it into little patties, and evenly space them on the rack. Cook three to five minutes per side, depending on desired level of doneness, and serve. It’s that simple!
As for the assembly, I am seriously in love with this combination of flavors. Caramelized pineapple on savory dishes is one of my absolute favorite things (yes, I also want pineapple on my pizza), and I already went on about the deliciousness of candied jalapeno slices earlier this week. Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients here. Prep comes together quickly and, if you’d like, can mostly be done ahead of time and stored away until needed. The pineapple and the bacon can even be cooked in the same skillet, without adding much more effort or extra dishes to your game-day preparations. If you need more food, just double the recipe.
Without further ado, check out my recipe for Hawaiian Beef Sliders below. It will revolutionize how to cook burgers for a crowd!
Hawaiian Beef Sliders with Bacon, Pineapple, & Candied Jalapenos
Makes 15-17 sliders (2-3 inch diameter)
- 1 pound ground beef, ground chuck or a blend (see note)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 3-4 ounces Gruyere or Fontina cheese, sliced thin and cut into 2-inch squares
- 1 Tbsp butter, salted
- 1/2 fresh, whole pineapple, cut into 1/2-inch thick rings
- 1/2 pound bacon, thick cut
- 15-20 candied jalapeno slices (see previous post, linked below)
- Steak sauce, for topping (I prefer A1 brand)
- 1 package mini sandwich or slider rolls (I used dinner-size Martin's Potato Rolls, and just cut them in half to make top and bottom buns)
- Baking sheet with an oven-safe cooling or grill rack fitted inside
- Meat thermometer (optional)
Preheat the oven to 475°F. Prepare one or two baking sheets for oven-roasting the burgers by lining each with foil and placing an oven-safe non-stick cooling or grill rack inside. Sprinkle salt in the baking sheet to soak up drippings while cooking and prevent the grease from smoking. Set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the pineapple and bacon. Break down a fresh pineapple and cut it into ½ inch thick rings, removing the tough center with a knife or round cookie cutter. Reserve half the rings for another use, and pat dry the rings to be used as toppings with paper towels. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, and add the tablespoon butter. When it’s melted (do not let it brown), sauté the pineapple rings in batches until caramelized, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove the pineapple rings to a plate and cover to keep warm. Once the pineapple is finished, move on to the bacon. Using the same skillet, pan-fry the bacon in batches until just crisp. Remove from heat to a plate (separate from the pineapple) and cover to keep warm.
Once the oven is at temperature, gently combine the ground beef with the salt and pepper in a large bowl. Be careful not to over-mix, as this may cause the meat to become tough once cooked. Form the seasoned meat into patties that will fit nicely on your rolls, about 2-3 inches in diameter. Arrange the patties on the prepared baking sheets. Cook in the oven for about 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare, melting the slices of cheese 1 minute prior to desired doneness. You can cut samples open, or check the temperature of your burgers with a thermometer: 130-135°F for medium rare, 140-145°F for medium.
Finally, assemble the ingredients. Break (or cut) the crispy bacon into pieces the size of the buns and cut the pineapple rings into 1-inch wedges or segments. Spread steak sauce on the bottom bun of each burger, then top with bacon, cheeseburger patties, pineapple wedge, and one or two candied jalapenos, in that order. Cover with the top buns and secure the ingredients together with a toothpick. Arrange on a big tray and serve to happy guests before you eat them all yourself.
Types of Beef: There is a lot of debate out there on what kind of beef makes the best burger. I make no claims to settle that argument, but I did try two versions side-by-side while making this recipe. I think I will have to do a bigger more exhaustive taste-test in the future, but until then, I can tell you this: If you want a very classic, fatty, rich burger patty, go with ground chuck that is 85% lean. A lot of people swear by it, and it was very good. If you’d like a leaner burger that cooks more like a steak, go with a less fatty blend – I tried a mix of three-fourths 95% lean grass-fed beef mixed with one-fourth ground beef brisket. Both tasted really good, and our verdict was mixed. I preferred the leaner blend, while my husband preferred the classic chuck. If you just want one type or can’t get ground brisket at your butcher though, stick with a fattier ground chuck. It makes for a richer burger and you won’t be disappointed.
Types of Cheese: I tried three types of cheese for this burger combo – Gruyere, Fontina, and Sharp Cheddar. We all agreed the flavor of the Gruyere stood out, while still balancing nicely with the rest of the burger ingredients. The Fontina faded into the background a bit, and while the cheddar was good, we didn’t like it with the pineapple and jalapenos as much as the other two. So, if you like to taste a stronger cheese, go with Gruyere. If you like a subtler cheese flavor, go with the Fontina. If you just want a standard cheeseburger with ketchup and pickles, that’s when you go with the Cheddar.
Forming Burger Patties: When making a patty, its important not to overwork the meat or flatten it out too much. For the best cook, form the ground beef into a loose ball, flatten to about an inch between your palms, and then taper out the edges very slightly, leaving the center a little thicker than the outside. It might take a few tries, but this method accomplishes two important things: 1) Your burger is more likely to stay flat and not shrink up as much due to the tapered edges, ensuring a more even cook and better balance on your hamburger buns; and 2) Being thicker, the center mound will not cook as quickly, leaving the edges to get nice and cooked through and the center to stay your desired doneness.
On a personal note, recipe testing these sliders was something of a revelation to me. That sounds silly – how could burgers trigger an epiphany, right? But seriously, as I was sautéing pineapple three different ways and testing out the amount of time to cook the burgers, I suddenly stepped back and realized how happy I was doing it. It was a lot of work – I spent at least 4 hours in the kitchen and produced a ton of food. As my husband and good friend Paige helped me work through this burger feast and evaluate the best flavor combinations, I couldn’t help but feel I’d truly found something I’m passionate about. I feel so lucky that I have the opportunity to develop these recipes, and share the delicious results with you.
See you soon.