Makes 15-17 sliders (2-3 inch diameter)
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.