Hidden inside these tame-looking burgers is a smoky and spicy blend of bacon, chipotle, cheese and something unexpected - pepperoni. Because the ground beef part of these burgers is patted fairly thin, there's less of a chance you'll undercook it. For a little extra texture and flavor, crispy fried onions go into the beef.
They can be cooked in a grill pan on the stove top as well; grease the pan with cooking oil spray and cook over medium heat.
A kitchen scale comes in quite handy for weighing the portions of meat.
These burgers taste great unadorned, but feel free to top them with accompaniments of your choice.
The burgers can be assembled and refrigerated a day or two in advance; they can be individually wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 3 months. Unwrap and defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
Stuffed Beef Burgers
3 strips smoked bacon, cooked until crisp then cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 ounces small pepperoni slices, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
One 2-ounce block pepper jack cheese, grated (may substitute smoked Gouda)
3 canned chipotle peppers in adobo (sauce), coarsely chopped, plus 2 tablespoons of the adobo
3 pounds ground chuck, preferably an 80-20 blend
1/2 cup crispy fried onions, such as French's brand
Olive oil cooking spray
9 hamburger buns, for serving
Flaky sea salt or kosher salt, for serving
Combine the bacon, pepperoni, grated cheese, chopped chipotle peppers and their adobo in a mixing bowl, stirring until well blended. This is your burger filling.
Line your countertop with plastic wrap or parchment paper.
Combine the ground beef and crispy fried onions in a mixing bowl; use your clean hands to gently work the onions into the meat. Divide that mixture into 9 equal portions (about 5.5 ounces per). Reserve about one-quarter of each portion for a burger “lid;” shape the rest of the meat into a shallow round saucer that's about 31/2 inches wide and 3/4 of an inch tall.
Divide the filling mixture evenly among the ground beef saucers, gently packing it in. Flatten each of those reserved beef-onion portions into a lid that covers the filling. Use your fingers to pinch and seal the lid, working your way around so there is no visible seam. As you work, place each stuffed burger on the plastic wrap or parchment.
At this point, the burgers can be wrapped individually and refrigerated for a day or two, or frozen for up to 3 months (the individually wrapped burgers gathered in a freezer-safe zip-top bag).
When you're ready to cook, preheat the grill: If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (about 375 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly under the cooking area for direct heat. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 to 5 seconds.
Grease each burger by lightly spraying it all over with olive oil cooking spray. Arrange the burgers on the grill grate; close the lid and cook for about 5 minutes on the first side, then use a metal spatula to turn them over; they should be sizzling and releasing orange-colored juices in spots. Close the lid and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on the second sides, or until the beef is no longer pink inside and you can tell that the cheese has melted (insert the tip of a knife to help you discern this).
Transfer to bottom buns and season each burger lightly with salt. Top with top buns and let sit for 5 to 7 minutes before serving. Makes 9 servings.