Grilling may be a favorite American pastime, but you can cook with flavors from around the world. This kabab burger, fashioned after a traditional Persian Ground Beef Kabob (Koobideh) is robust, refreshing, and ready for your table in (half the time) of a regular beef kabob. Sponsored by Harris Ranch Beef Company.
Summer break has begun for my family and we are loving these lazy mornings, longer days and soaking in the warmer temps. The casual schedule follows the So Cal casual way of living, and that means keeping it simple even at dinner time.
Slow summer days means meals cooked on the grill. Whether it’s just the five of us or a small family dinner for 20, we just love cooking over fire. And to celebrate Independence day and our general love for summer, I’m sharing this kabab burger recipe with you.
The flavors behind the Persian kabab burger
Fourth of July barbecues just beg for flame kissed burgers, so it might seem odd that I’m suggesting a Persian burger to celebrate America’s birthday. But you see, that’s the beauty of this country. We all came from some place else at one point in time, and American cuisine is equally a melting pot influenced from all over the world.
My father’s parents arrived as kids with their families from Poland and Lithuania around 1915. My mother came from Iran in the 1960’s to earn her graduate degree. I grew up eating Persian food and pickled herring along with Tex-Mex in Houston, and now my own children are enjoying Persian food and many other great fusion dishes here in San Diego.
This Persian influenced kabab burger is a simpler and yes, Americanized way of enjoying koobideh kabob, ground beef kabob (kebab/kabab) prepared on long flat skewers. If you ever tried to make koobideh kabab at home, you know it’s a challenge to get the mix just right and cook it evenly so the meat does not fall off the skewers.
Unlike regular hamburger mix, this kabab burger mix includes a lot of grated onions, which is a key ingredient to making koobideh kabab. By grating the onions by hand or in the food processor, they completely melt and mix in with the ground beef giving uniform flavor. You don’t want to bite into a piece of onion for this kabab burger.
I also added more flavor into the kabab mix by including fresh parsley, mint, garlic powder, salt, pepper and another Persian touch, sumac. Sumac is that crimson colored spice pictured below. It has a wonderful tart flavor that is served with Persian kabob and it really pairs well this kabab burger.
Selecting the best ground meat for kabab burger
Persian koobideh kabab can be made with ground beef alone or in a mixture of ground beef and lamb. As with koobideh kabab, you want the fat, so do not use extra lean meat, but do choose the 80/20 variety. The fat will burn off and melt into the burger, keeping it moist, juicy and full of flavor.
This kabab burger is made with Harris Ranch 81/19 Ground Beef. You might think that all ground beef is the same? Oh no, my dear reader, you are gravely mistaken.
If you live in California, then you probably have heard of Harris Ranch Beef Company. Established in Coalinga, CA in 1937, this family run ranch is a icon in the ranching industry. They are the only rancher that controls the entire beef production process, from the ranchers who raise the cattle to the custom made feed at the feed lot to their own processing plant.
With all the craze for grass fed beef, you would think it would produce a superior and better tasting burger. But time and again, Harris Ranch’s grass fed and grain finished beef beats purely grass fed beef in blind taste tests. And I’m not just talking steaks, either.
I honestly thought all ground beef tasted the same, unless you were talking about ground sirloin or grinding your own meat. Yes, we’ve done that, too! But I made some plain burgers with just Harris Ranch’s ground beef and I couldn’t believe how much flavor was busting through a very simple burger.
Is Harris Ranch Beef antibiotic free? Yes, it is. In fact, FDA guidelines require that all meat sold in stores MUST BE antibiotic free. The custom feed Harris Ranch feeds their cattle for the last couple of months is completely antibiotic free. Not all cattle ranchers take this much thought and care in the handling or quality of beef they produce.
In fact, Harris Ranch only gives cattle antibiotics when a cow’s health is compromised and only under the care of a veterinarian. Harris Ranch then insures that the cattle is antibiotic free for 30 days (not the federally mandated 14 days) before processing, to guarantee no trace of antibiotics leading to the consumer.
Can kabab burgers be cooked rare?
When I enjoy a delicious steak, there is no question to I like it cooked: medium rare. With steaks, any harmful bacteria sits on the surface of the cut meat. They are killed off by searing and cooking the meat, even when the center is left rare.
But ground beef is minced and mixed together, so the harmful bacteria is all over the mixture, including the center. So the only way to completely kill of any harmful bacteria is to cook it completely. This is the case whether you are using any ground meat, whether it is ground beef or ground lamb.
Cooking your kabab burger to medium heat internally doesn’t mean you’re left with a dry burger. This is why we use the 80/20 meat, ground beef with 20% fat. The fat melts into the burger, with the excess fat dripping off into the fire, leaving you a moist and delicious burger.
Serving up kabab burgers
When it comes to koobideh kabob, it is served on a bed of incredible basmati rice topped with saffron. Fresh herbs are always on hand, as well as sumac. For side dishes, nothing beats a bowl of mast o khiar (persian yogurt with cucumbers) or shirazi salad (Persian cucumber tomato salad).
I wanted to create a burger that ultimately tastes like a kabab sandwich, but in a burger form. So this kabab burger is topped with additional sumac, a spoonful of mast o khiar, sliced tomatoes and radishes, and of course, fresh herbs. For the herbs, feel free to choose any variety. My favorites are fresh basil and tarragon. You can also use mint, green onions and watercress.
Kabab burgers versus koobideh kabob
When my mother-in-law makes koobideh kabob, the mixing process is very unique. You are creating a fluffy meat mixture that requires a food processor and a lot of hand massaging. She always told me that this isn’t hamburger we are making, but kabob.
Kinda ironic that I turned kabab into a hamburger! Because, honestly, to make koobideh requires a lot of time and work. I eliminated the tedious mixing process because we are making hamburgers and not skewered kabobs. I do add more flavors into the burger mix to really bring out the essence of a platter of kabob koobideh.
My family was all over this burger, even my very Persian husband, who was happy not to maneuver the meat onto the skewers or hover over the kabob while they cooked over fire. A simpler, Americanized version of a Persian classic. Fusing my two worlds into one great tasting burger.
How to grill the kabab burger
If you have more questions on how to grill a kabab burger or any burger, then Harris Ranch Inn and Restaurant’s Executive Chef Reagan and I show you in this great video. I had the opportunity to visit him at the Inn and we had a wonderful time talking beef and grilling up these fabulous burgers!
- 2 lbs ground beef 80/20
- 1 medium onion, grated
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 2 TBS chopped mint
- 2 tsp sumac
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 6 burger buns
- 6 radishes, sliced
- 6 slices tomatoes
- 2 sprigs fresh basil
- 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
- 1 TBS sumac, divided
- Mast o khiar (yogurt with cucumbers)
- In a bowl, combine ground beef, grated onions, parsley, mint, sumac, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Let mixture sit for 2-3 hours for the flavors to meld together.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
- Divide meat into 6 equal portions and shape each into a patty that is 1/2-inch-thick and roughly 1/2-inch wider than the burger buns.
- Using your thumb, make an indentation into the center of each burger patty. This prevents burgers from doming up in the center while it cooks.
- Brush grate with oil then place hamburger patties on the grill indentation-side up.
- Grill burgers for 4-5 minutes on each side (8 minutes total for medium-rare, 10 minutes total for medium). Let burgers rest 2-3 minutes.
- To assemble the kabab burgers, place a patty inside a hamburger bun and and sprinkle with a little sumac and spread cucumber yogurt on top. Add slices of tomatoes, radishes and herbs and finish with the bun top.
- Serve with additional yogurt sauce.
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Serving Size:1 burger
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 580 Total Fat: 29g Saturated Fat: 10g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 14g Cholesterol: 135mg Sodium: 630mg Carbohydrates: 32g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 8g Protein: 46g