Everybody's Favorite Burgers

If you want to get 10 different answers to the same question, ask 10 of your coworkers to describe the perfect burger. That's what happened when we sent our Chef Perron out in search of the best way to eat summer's most beloved sandwich. What she found were burgers that were incredibly diverse, distinctive and delicious:

Rachael Perron, Kowalski's Culinary Director

CHEF RACHAEL PERRON (Culinary Director) – "I've talked at length about my favorite burger, and while I could go on, I was interested to see what tasty ideas my talented co-workers would cook up. After all, they've got great taste, and I'm always up for something new.

"I never thought I'd stray from my own 'perfect' burger – lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayo on a toasted Sweet Egg Bun – but after trying a few of my cohorts' ideas, I may even have found a new favorite of my own! Catering Director Roxanne Kielbasa is on to something amazing with her 'Summer Burger.' It's simple but incredible. I made mine with 1/3 lb. Akaushi chuck and a thin slice of provolone on my favorite Sweet Egg Bun (toasted, of course) and loaded on the tomatoes, balsamic reduction and freshly ground Kowalski's Sea Salt and Black Peppercorns. I'm not exactly picking favorites, but I have to say that Roxanne knocked it out of the park. (You can find balsamic reduction in the Grocery Department.)

"All of this experimenting led me to one more really fun discovery. I love sliced red onion on burgers, but I kind of hate that I only need a small bit of it. Disliking to waste anything, I thought I'd try combining my beloved onion with another flavor I occasionally add to my favorite burger: pickles. I whipped up a batch of Pickled Red Onions in a flash, which keep for several weeks in the fridge. These are also great on a hot dog or brat (or any sandwich).

PICKLED RED ONIONS permalink icon

1 cup hot water
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. superfine sugar
2 ½ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup rice vinegar
2 tsp. whole peppercorns
4-5 whole cloves
2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced

Combine first 3 ingredients in a 1 qt. plastic food container with a screw-top lid; stir to thoroughly dissolve sugar and salt. Add remaining ingredients except onions; stir together. Add onions to the container; cover and chill in the refrigerator until cold. Store, covered, in the refrigerator up to 3 weeks.

Makes about 2 cups.

Debbie Leland, Kowalski's Natural and Specialty Foods Buyer

DEBBIE LELAND (Natural and Specialty Foods Buyer) – Resident vegan Debbie is no stranger to burgers! "Homemade veggie burgers are so much better and healthier than the conventional frozen varieties. I make my own Cuban Black Bean Burger with black beans, oats, cilantro, chili powder and garlic and top it with a homemade drizzle of lime cream, tomatoes and onion. Veggie heaven!"

Deb Kowalski, Kowalski's Executive Assistant

DEB KOWALSKI (Executive Assistant) – Deb isn't afraid to color outside the lines, and she knows burgers don’t have to mean beef. Her favorite burger is a Chicken Slider, especially when served on our Onion Swirl Buns (from the Artisan Bread Table). Says Deb simply, "Yum!"

CHICKEN SLIDERS permalink icon

2 lbs. ground Kadejan chicken
1 egg
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 tbsp. grated shallot
12 wheat dollar buns, buttered and grilled
- toppings, as desired: sliced tomatoes, caramelized onions, butter lettuce and mayo, to taste

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl; mix well. Shape into 12 patties, each about 2 ½" in diameter. On a grill preheated to medium-high, grill burgers directly over heat until done (about 4 min. per side), lid down, turning once. Serve on toasted buns with desired toppings.

Makes about 12 sliders.

Good to Know: Use slightly damp hands to shape your burgers, to keep the mixture from sticking to your fingers.

Kris Kowalski Christiansen, Kowalski's Chief Operating Officer

KRIS KOWALSKI CHRISTIANSEN (Chief Operating Officer) – A lover of all things classic, Kris can definitely be described as a burger devotee. "My favorite burger is made with our 93% lean ground beef or Akaushi ground chuck. I like a bit of Kowalski's Sea Salt and Black Peppercorns, Cheddar, shredded mixed greens, a juicy red tomato slice, white onion and ketchup on the side for dipping! I've been trying to go bunless, but when I really want to indulge I will have one of our Sweet Egg Buns or a multigrain burger bun."

Russ Tourville, Kowalski's Bakery Director

RUSS TOURVILLE (Bakery Director) – Russ loves a tuna burger, done medium-rare. Just a little bit of egg and panko breadcrumbs hold together patties of finely diced sushi-grade tuna flavored with sesame oil, soy sauce, finely diced red bell pepper and green onion. They're cooked in a skillet just until their browned on the outside. The icing on the cake (a bakery metaphor, of course) is a homemade Sriracha mayo he makes with 1 part sour cream, 2 parts mayo and a hearty helping of Sriracha with a little lemon juice, honey, green onion, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Boyd Oase, Kowalski's Meat and Seafood Director

BOYD OASE (Meat & Seafood Director) – He describes his best burger as "basic," but it's no surprise our "meat guy" upgrades to Prime ground chuck (85% lean), occasionally adding chopped uncooked bacon to the mix. Boyd swears by his trusted cast iron skillet. He puts 1/3 lb. balls in a very hot pan and then uses a heavy glass to push down and form the patty as it sears. Before turning, he seasons the uncooked side with salt and pepper. When his "basic" burger is close to done, he adds sautéed onions and mushrooms and a slice of Cheddar cheese on top until melted. His bun of choice is a buttered pretzel bun, cooked right next to the burger in his cast iron skillet.

Laurie Bell, Kowalski's Marketing Director

LAURIE BELL (Marketing Director) – Our little cheese lover will eat cheese anytime, anywhere, but not on her burger. Laurie says, "My favorite burger is a medium to well-done short rib burger with lettuce, pickles and ketchup. A little mayo is good, too. BUT NO CHEESE!!!!! I love the Sweet Egg Bun from the Bakery, too."

Terri Bennis, Kowalski's Vice President of Perishable Operations

TERRI BENNIS (Vice President of Perishable Operations) – Terri has a refined palate and loves to share recipes, like her favorite True Blue Burgers:

TRUE BLUE BURGERS permalink icon

1 ½ lb. Akaushi ground beef
1 tbsp. crushed dried rosemary
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 large red onion sliced 1/4" thick
- olive oil, for grilling
8 oz. soft blue cheese
6 hamburger buns, lightly toasted
6 leaves red leaf lettuce or other crispy lettuce

Combine ground beef, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl; mix well. Shape into six 1/2" thick patties. Brush onion slices with olive oil. Grill burgers and onions separately directly over heat, lid down, on a grill preheated to high heat until desired doneness, turning once (3-4 min. per side for medium). When burgers are just about done, top evenly with blue cheese and grilled onions. Serve on toasted buns with lettuce.

Serves 6.

Roxanne Kielbasa, Kowalski's Catering Director

ROXANNE KIELBASA (Catering Director) – Roxanne says, "I like my burger to taste like summer! I make a ground chuck burger on a grilled baguette brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper. I top it with sliced vine-on tomato, more salt and pepper, a thick slice of Buffalo mozzarella, [more] salt, lots of fresh garden basil and a drizzle of balsamic reduction."

Joe Moore, Kowalski's Imported Cheese Specialist

JOE MOORE (Imported Cheese Specialist) – It's no surprise Joe likes a little cheese on his burger. In this case it's Israeli feta, which perfectly complements his lamb burgers. With the warmer weather, he prefers something lighter, serving his on a just-right-for-summer Greek salad instead of a bun.

Mark Wachter, Kowalski's Floral and Gift Director

MARK WACHTER (Gift and Floral Director) – Mark knows how to live; if you're going to have a burger, go big. His favorite toppings include bacon, avocado and a fried egg.

Jenny Mahoney, Kowalski's Deli Director

JENNY MAHONEY (Deli Director) – A turkey burger is Jenny's burger of choice, on Kowalski's Fresh White Hamburger Bun with a nice slice of Monterey Jack or Muenster, fresh onion, mustard and ketchup.


I would love it if Debbie Leland would share her Cuban Black Bean Burger recipe. My husband has been asking for veggie burgers lately..

Hi Karen,

You can find Debbie Leland’s recipe for Cuban Black Bean Burgers here: http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=2001066. It comes from the Happy Herbivore Cookbook by Lindsay S. Nixon, which has many great easy vegan recipes. Debbie adds 1/2 cup of oats, which makes the burgers stick together better. The Lime Cream she tops the burgers with is simply soft tofu with a little lime juice, garlic, salt and chili powder to taste.

Thanks for the question!

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