The One-Ingredient Secret to Better Burgers Is Already in Your Fridge

published Jul 4, 2021
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Burger patties with a partially assembled burger, pickles and sliced tomatoes
Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

Summer is officially here! Whether you’re having dinner with family or hosting a backyard gathering, what could be more synonymous with dining al fresco than the classic burger? Crowd-pleasing, versatile, and simple to prepare, it’s the quintessential outdoor meal. But how do you get a tasty, flavorful burger that doesn’t take too much time or fussy preparation?

Brush the burger with a little bit of yellow mustard!

We first saw this tip mentioned on the Instagram Story of vodka sawce king Dan Pelosi, of the deliciously funny food blog Grossy Pelosi. In it, he mentions that he brushes his grilled burgers with a bit of mustard, a tip he picked up from Bon Appetit’s Andy Baraghani. After a little research on the technique, we discovered that there’s actually an In-N-Out connection.

It turns out the tip comes from the not-so-secret menu of the West Coast burger joint. If you aren’t familiar with the chain, burgers cooked with mustard are lovingly referred to as Animal Style. Although I recommend trying it in person, you don’t have to go all the way to California to experience a little Animal Style. The next time you grill burgers, just apply yellow mustard to the uncooked side of each patty after the initial sear. It’s so simple, but yields such satisfying results.

Why Mustard Is So Good on Meat

If you’ve ever had barbecue in South Carolina, this tip is similar to the tradition of adding mustard to meat while it slowly cooks. Much like adding mayonnaise to bread for a better grilled cheese, the mustard melts beautifully on a hot burger, the heat caramelizing the mustard’s bite to complement the meat. Applying this condiment also can lightly season the meat since mustard contains salt, sugar, vinegar, and other seasonings. But if yellow mustard isn’t your thing, no problem! Trying out different mustards could be a great way to add a new dimension to whatever type of burger you’re cooking.

The best part of the mustard trick is you don’t need any special tools or ingredients. I’ve tried this on three different occasions using classic yellow, Dijon, and honey mustard on burgers and was surprised at how much we liked the new addition. I also tried using Impossible meat with similarly pleasing results — everyone was asking for another serving. My mother-in-law even said she didn’t even need cheese on her burger.

I bet this technique could even work with different types of burgers, such as chicken or pork. A chicken burger brushed with honey mustard is definitely going to make an appearance on my meal plan in the coming weeks. To read more about different mustard brands and which ones you might consider purchasing, check out our mustard brand rundown.

So the next time you want to add easy and reliable flavor to cooked meats, consider layering mustard on during cooking. From my household’s full stomachs, I can confirm this tip is a keeper.