Sloppy Joes are about as American as you can get. And they were a big part of my childhood. As kids, we would eat them at least one night a week. Classic ingredients of ketchup, yellow mustard, a bit of brown sugar and a tich of apple cider vinegar come together for that signature BBQ sweet and tang that makes these sandwiches irresistible. This recipe, featured in my show "Reel Food," uses all the classic Sloppy Joe flavors, yet reimagines them as burgers. They are great for summertime grilling, but can easily be done inside on a grill pan or a large 12" cast iron skillet any time of year. The sauce is lip-licking good, so I suggest making a double batch.
Makes 4-6 burgers, depending on how hungry you are
For the burgers
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion - one half diced, the other half thinly sliced
- ½ medium green pepper, roughly chopped
- 1½ lbs. lean ground beef
- ½ jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon chile powder
- ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 4-6 brioche buns (find them at a local bakery or use hamburger buns as a substitute)
For the sauce
- 1½ cups ketchup
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
- ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat grill to medium high heat – 425°F-450°F.
Meanwhile, heat a large 12" cast iron skillet on the stove to medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes to get it good and hot. Add the olive oil and heat through for 1 minute. Place the diced onion and green peppers in the skillet. Sauté until soft and translucent 5-7 minutes. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.
Place the beef in a large mixing bowl. Add in the jalapeno, chile and chipotle powders, celery salt and pepper. Mix well with clean hands or heavy handle wooden spoon. Add in the cooked onions and peppers. Mix until fully incorporated. Form into 4-6 patties, depending on how large you want them to be. Place on a large plate.
Add the rest of the onions to the skillet and let soften and char, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside on a plate.
While the onions are cooking, place a medium-sized skillet on medium heat. Add in all the ingredients for the sauce. Using a whisk, vigorously stir and bring the sauce to a low bubble – 3-4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer while grilling the burgers. Stir occasionally.
Place the burgers on the grill and cook 4-5 minutes until the burgers are browned on the bottom and have grill marks. Place the brioche buns open face along the side of the burgers to warm and crisp up, usually 2-3 minutes - set aside on a clean plate. Using tongs or a large spatula, flip them over and continue cooking another 5-6 minutes until medium or slightly pink in the center. Remove the burgers from the grill and place immediately into the brioche.
Thickly slather the burgers with the sauce and top with the grilled onions.
Serve. Use the extra sauce for dipping.
**If cooking indoors in cast iron: Place the patties in the large skillet and cook 7-8 minutes until the bottom is fully sealed and dark brown. Flip and then cook 7-8 more minutes, or until slightly pink in the center.