My Dad's Secret Ingredient for the Best Burgers

You’ll find it in the soup aisle.

my dad's secret ingredient for the best burgers

Anna Barabanova/Unsplash

Like many people my age, my mom did most of the cooking throughout my childhood, but my dad did the grilling. He would grill burgers each summer, but not until July when the fresh Jersey corn on the cob and tomatoes were in season. They were essential to the meal’s perfection, as was the secret ingredient in his burgers.

My dad would light the charcoal kettle grill and bring out the ground beef patties mixed with this secret ingredient, which, to be honest, was the secret ingredient of most families’ homemade burgers in the 1980s—a packet of dry onion soup mix.

I thought using dry onion soup in burgers had gone out of fashion, but I was wrong. It’s one of the surprising ingredients in the Best Burger Ever, which reviewers say is “incredibly easy to make,” “a very tasty burger,” and “goes over well with company.”  Sounds like this may be the perfect burger for all your summer cook-out needs.

Why Use Onion Soup Mix in Burgers?

A packet of onion soup mix is an inexpensive way to add a lot of savory flavor to food without doing a lot of work. It adds depth of flavor to burgers and many more dishes like beef stroganoff, chili, and French onion dip.

This burger recipe calls for lean ground beef so that the burgers will lose some of the flavor from the lost fat. The punch of flavor from the dry onion soup mix helps make up for that.

Lipton is the OG brand of dry onion soup mix, but most grocery chains have their brand of the mix too. Whether you choose the name brand or the store brand, a two-pack is usually under $2, making it an easy and affordable way to add a touch of umami to burgers.

If you want to make burgers with soup mix, but don’t have a packet on hand, you can DIY dry onion soup mix with ingredients you probably already have on your spice rack.

The other surprising ingredient in this burger recipe is oats. Yes, oats.

Why Use Rolled Oats in Burgers?

Oats don’t add a lot of flavor to burgers, but they offer two things: a way to stretch your money and whole-grain goodness.

The Best Burger Ever calls for the addition of a 3/4 cup of rolled oats to 2 pounds of extra lean ground beef. You’ll get more patties with the addition of the inexpensive oats, stretching your grocery budget.

The whole grains in oats also add additional protein and some fiber to the burgers.

One reviewer suggested, “Mix up the patties ahead of time so the oats have time to absorb moisture and soften.” That sounds like a good suggestion to me.

With the addition of soup mix, oats, and an egg, many reviewers mentioned these burgers are reminiscent of meatloaf. That makes sense to me. The meatloaf recipe that I’ve made for my family for many years is the Rempel Family Meatloaf, and it too uses a packet of onion soup mix and an egg (but no oats). Whenever I’ve tried a different meatloaf recipe, my kids have vehemently requested to “go back to the one we like, Mom.” Just like with my dad’s burgers, I have a feeling that the magic is in the onion soup mix.

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