Flame-Grilled Southwestern Spicy Cheese Burgers

Flame Grilled

Summertime burgers… what could possibly be better? How about summertime burgers with green chilis, coriander, smoked paprika and garlic?

Growing up, all things meat were my dad’s specialty. Like countless proud patriarchs before him, he masterfully wielded his spatula, flipping burgers, turning hotdogs and slinging steaks over the coals he nursed to white-hot perfection. We kids stood as close to the barbecue as we dared, salivating over the sizzling steak fat browning to a thick crisp, and our favorite lightly-blackened Hebrew National Hotdogs.


But my dad’s real specialty was hamburgers with green chiles. Ortega was his brand. My brother and I knew if we saw Ortega chiles on the shelf in our converted 1962 GMC bus motorhome on the brink of a camping trip, we were in for delicious, smoky burgers topped with melted cheese and avocado at our campsite. We’d dig in while sitting around the crackling campfire, the meaty juices running down our chins, our plates balanced carefully on our laps. We could hardly fit our small mouths around our giant burgers, but we were not deterred. We plowed right through them, on our way to the sweet land of s’mores.

Now that I’ve experienced more than my fair share of hamburgers, I have a renewed appreciation for the green chile/hamburger combination. Canned green chiles have very little heat, but lots of flavor and a gentle acidity that balances the richness of hamburger. Of course, go for the fattier ground beef, or even better, ground chuck. I prefer the taste of grass fed ground beef, which can be found at Trader Joe’s and many farmers’ markets and family farms across the country.


· 2 lbs ground beef, at least 15% fat
· 1 large can green chiles, chopped
· 1 small jar pimentos
· 2 eggs
· 1 Tbsp garlic granules
· 1 tablespoon coriander
· 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
· 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 9 – 10 slices of pepper jack cheese (or cheddar)

yields 9 – 10 good-sized burgers

Heat your barbecue to high. The grill needs to be smoking hot to keep the burgers from sticking while they cook.

Mix everything together in a large bowl. I find this easiest to do with my hands. Really work the eggs into the meat, making sure there are not errant whites left floating in the bowl. Thoroughly breaking up the ground beef also leads to a softer burger when the time comes to dig in.

Form into large patties and set aside while your barbecue heats to at least 500F (260C). Make the patties larger than you think you’ll want because they will shrink as they cook. Gently ease them onto the grill, being mindful not to accidentally pull them apart, and cook on high for 5 minutes.

Up Close

Reminder: with full-fat beef, whether it’s hamburgers or steaks, keep an eye on the barbecue, especially if it’s windy. Wind will partner with fat to create a firestorm in your barbecue. Trust me, my eyebrows can tell the sad tale.

After five minutes your burgers should begin to blacken and turn with relative ease. Flip them all, place the cheese slices on top of each burger, then close the lid and cook for a further 5-6 minutes. 5 for medium and 6 for well.

Serve with a host of delicious veggies like avocado, tomato, lettuce, pickles, onion and cucumber. Heck, who needs a bun with a burger this flavorful?


Illustrations by Shana Sammons, © 2013


4 thoughts on “Flame-Grilled Southwestern Spicy Cheese Burgers

  1. Marisa! I miss your posts and having you around. What have you been doing? I hope all is well. This recipe is awesome. Wish I can have a chance to do such grilling in a charming backyard under an apple tree. ……danny

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s