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Burger time is here

The cheese is on the inside of these Slice & Grill Bacon Cheeseburgers. Photo by Sue Doeden1 / 2
Slice & Grill Bacon Cheeseburgers are formed into a log, refrigerated and cut into burgers when it's time to grill them. Photo by Sue Doeden2 / 2

I picked up a copy of the current issue of Food Network magazine the other day. The cover photo is a delicious-looking cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun. And inside, Food Network television chef Bobby Flay shares some of his best burger recipes.

But, the main reason I bought the magazine was to get "the ultimate burger" list. The magazine tracked down one burger in each state that we absolutely must try.

I read through the list at least a few times. I read about the Vincent Burger served at Minneapolis eating establishment, Vincent - A Restaurant. In North Dakota, they chose the double cheeseburger at Hi-Ho South in Fargo. Their recommendation in South Dakota is The Squealer at Hemmer Brothers in Sioux Falls. And in Wisconsin, it's the Brat and Bacon Pretzel Burger at Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. in Madison.

Apparently the Food Network magazine never heard about my Slice & Grill Hamburgers. They may just be the best in the whole Midwest.

Actually, they are not really "my" burgers. I got the recipe so many years ago from my mother-in-law, Mary. She was a great cook. I don't really remember her standing at the grill flipping burgers, but I know that at least once she made these juicy ground beef patties that she mixed, formed into a log, then sliced and grilled. And, lucky for me, she had a recipe that she was willing to share.

Just like slice and bake cookies, the ingredients take little time to combine. The seasoned ground beef mixture is formed into a log and stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook the burgers on the grill.

The cheese in these burgers is mixed right into the meat. After reading Bobby Flay's best burger tips in the magazine, I know he would not approve of all the ingredients in this recipe. He would call these meatloaf burgers. Flay uses only salt and pepper in his beef burgers. But he wasn't around when my mother-in-law was using her hands to carefully intertwine onion, catsup, egg, Worcestershire sauce, shredded cheese and salt and pepper to create juicy burgers that we all enjoyed.

The finishing touch on these burgers is the bacon. After a short time in the oven, partially-cooked strips of bacon are wrapped around the outside of each burger before it gets placed on the preheated grill. While the beef burgers are cooking, the bacon becomes crisp as its flavor permeates the meat. Toast the buns a little bit and then slide those burgers onto them. Embellish them as you choose. Raw or grilled onions, lettuce, tomato slices, pickles, or maybe some sour cream or guacamole - all good.

So I'm telling you, Food Network magazine, you missed the Slice & Grill Bacon Cheeseburger from Mary's kitchen - the best in the Midwest.

Slice & Grill Bacon Cheeseburgers

2 pounds ground beef, no more than 85 percent lean

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 egg, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons catsup

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

16 slices bacon

8 hamburger buns, cut in half

In a large mixing bowl, use clean hands to combine all ingredients except bacon. Use a gentle touch and work the mixture until just combined. Form the mixture into a log, about 10 inches long. Seal tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Before it's time to cook the burgers, prepare bacon slices. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet that has sides with aluminum foil. Arrange bacon slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Cook the bacon in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Bacon should be partially cooked but still pliable enough to wrap around burgers.

Remove ground beef log from refrigerator. Unwrap and use a sharp knife to slice into 8 rounds. Use two slices of bacon to wrap around each hamburger patty, using wooden toothpicks to fasten the ends that meet.

Grill the burgers over direct heat, medium to medium-high, turning once, until nicely charred and cooked through. About 1 minute before the burgers are done, place the buns directly on the rack, cut sides down, and grill until toasted. Assemble burgers on the buns with embellishments of choice. Makes 8 burgers.

Tips from the cook

--For safety purposes, the USDA recommends cooking ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Just don't cook the burgers until they are so dry they become hard disks.

--Use your fingers to make a slight depression (about 1/2-inch deep) in the center of each burger before placing them on the grill. This helps keep the burgers flat during cooking.

--Do not be tempted to smash the burgers with a spatula as they cook. You'll squeeze all the flavorful juices from the burgers.

--When my mother-in-law made these burgers, I don't think she had a choice when she purchased ground beef about how fat or lean it was. I've discovered ground beef with some fat in it makes the juiciest burgers. I use 85 percent lean ground beef for these burgers.