If you know me, you know that I have an open love affair with Stouffer’s Mac & Cheese. I’ve made it no secret that if I take an unfortunate wrong turn and end up on death row, Stouffer’s Mac & Cheese will be my last meal. If you know me well enough, you’ll also know that I am no vegetarian. I really enjoy red meat. So why not put the two together and make burgers stuffed with Stouffer’s Mac & Cheese?
One evening, while my wife was away, I gave it a whirl, and being a novice in the culinary arts, my experiment fell apart… literally. How was I to know ground beef and mac & cheese wouldn’t bind (besides the fact that my wife told me they wouldn’t)? Even though my plan failed, I turned the burgers into mac & cheese sloppy Joes, and my kids loved them.
When I posted about my failure on Facebook, a friend of mine responded with a video from the BBQ Pit Boys, demonstrating how to make “Beer Can Bacon Burgers.” As you can see in the video, these bearded bikers, take giant meatballs, hollow them out with beer cans, and stuff them with deliciousness – grilled vegetables, cheese, and yes, even other types of meat like roast beef.
I couldn’t not make these. Like a disgraced chef who redeems himself on Chopped, I put on my proverbial apron and got to work. I wondered if this video was for real, but the result turned out better than expected. Here’s the recipe with a few tips and tricks I learned on the way.
Step 1: Make Meatballs
Make sure the ground beef is thawed but still cold. This will keep it from sticking to the beer can (or whatever you use to hollow out the meat). You can mix your meat with seasoning. I mixed mine with southwest seasoning, breadcrumbs, and a whisked egg. Roll them into meatballs. The BBQ Pit Boys made baseball sized meatballs. I did a couple of these, but I also did some smaller ones. In fact you can make some that are much smaller and hollow them out with just your finger or a spoon (kind of like deviled eggs).
Step 2: Create the Pocket
Here’s where you can take a beer can… or a soda can… or really anything and hollow out the meat to create a pocket. Whatever you use to shape the pocket, you want to make sure it’s cold. This will keep the meat from sticking to it. Like the BBQ Pit Boys, I used a cold beer can. As you press it into your meatball, shape the meat around the can. You want to leave some thickness to the walls of the meat, otherwise it will split apart. But the higher you make the walls, the more you can stuff into your burger.
Step 3: Reinforce with Bacon
Bacon is God’s gift to the Gentiles, and we’re going to take full advantage of it. Use uncooked strips of bacon and wrap it around the meat. The bacon does a few things. First, it helps keep the burger together. Secondly, just as when bacon is used around filet Mignon, it will help keep the meat tender and prevent it from overcooking too quickly. Third, it’s freaking bacon, so it’s awesome.
Step 4: Remove the Can
Slowly wiggle the can out of the meat. It would be interesting to see what happened if you cooked the burger with the can inside, but I’m afraid all you’d end up with is a can of warm beer. By the way, once you continue preparing your other burgers, you’re not going to want to wait too long before getting them onto the grill. The colder those burgers and bacon strips are, the easier they’ll stay together.
Step 5: Stuff with Goodies
When I say goodies, I don’t mean leftover Halloween candy, though that might be interesting. We prepared some cooked peppers and onions, sauteed mushrooms, and yes, Stouffer’s Mac & Cheese. We precooked our stuffed goodies. I’m not sure what would happen if you put them in the burger uncooked. It’s possible they would cook in the burger, but they probably wouldn’t get very soft. If you’re wondering about my burger, mine is pictured on the top right. I started with a heaping spoonful of Stouffer’s Mac & Cheese. I topped that with grilled peppers and onions. On top of that, I added sauteed mushrooms. And then I crowned it with some chunks of Gorgonzola cheese and drizzled it with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. I know… it sounds amazing.
I cooked these on a gas grill. You could also do this in an oven. Two things to remember: First, cook on indirect heat. You want these puppies to cook through evenly. If they’re over a fire, then they’re going to burn on the bottom. There’s a lot of height to this meat monument. Secondly, cook at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour. I thought that was a long time, but for the bigger burgers, that was just about the perfect amount. As a side note, we did have an incident where the burner underneath a couple burgers got turned on, and there was a small grease fire. I was afraid that the burger would get cooked too well. It ended up okay. In fact, there was a pleasant side effect: the bacon got a little crispier, which I particularly like. I think if I did this again, I’d take a small torch at the end and crisp the bacon on all the burgers.
Step 7: Take Pictures
It’s important that you show off your work of art on social media. Your friend Tom, who is eating his leftover tofu with a side of lima beans, really needs to see how you roll.
Step 8: Feast
There’s no Emily Post manual for how to eat a burger like this. It’s going to be messy. But I was also pleasantly surprised at how well the burger stayed together all the way to the end. Slow cooking it really helps to shape it, like you might expect with a meatloaf. The bacon also stayed glued to the side of the burger and helped lock in the juice and flavor. These burgers were the tastiest things I can remember eating in a long time.
Step 9: Go for a Walk
I don’t have the slightest clue about how many calories were in this burger. If I were to round to the nearest 10,000, I’d say they were 10,000 calories. You’re going to feel stuffed, so do your heart a favor and at least go for a walk.
This was my first attempt making these burgers. It was extremely easy, and they turned out better than I expected. If I can do it, then you can do it. If you do decide to give this a whirl, I’d love to know what creative goodies you used to stuff inside the burger.
One thing’s certain. I’m not sure I can ever go back to eating burgers the other way.