When Rachael Ray wants big flavour in a burger, she thinks small.

Because though Ray considers herself an equal opportunity eater when it comes to burger varieties, her favourites are the trendy two- and three-bite versions.

"I make so many different types of burgers it's unfair to play favourites," Ray said in an email interview. "But I do believe the best burgers come in slider size. I am slider obsessed. They are easy to hold, easier to cook perfectly and the bun never gets soggy."

And so for AP's 20 Burgers of Summer series, Ray offered a ground sirloin slider jammed with flavour from Worcestershire sauce, herbs, ancho chili powder and — for good measure — beer.

To jack the flavour even more, she bastes the burgers as they cook with a homemade maple syrup-spiked smoky barbecue sauce and tops them with pickled cucumbers and an oil-and-vinegar red cabbage slaw.

Yum-o! doesn't do these diminutive burgers justice.

"The killer part of this recipe is my spicy pickle recipe and my homemade BBQ sauce recipe," said Ray, who served the burger at a block party she threw in Brooklyn in June. "I am really proud of it and can't stop talking about it."

Long known for her 30-minute meals, Ray made a serious mark on the burger world in 2007 when she hosted her Burger Bash at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. It since has become an annual tradition and last year spawned a similar event at the New York Wine and Food Festival.

"Imagine a tent filled with the best chefs in the country making nothing but signature burgers," she said. "For someone who loves all things between the bun, Burger Bash is one of my most memorable yearly burger experiences."

Spicy Kirby Cucumber Slices
Prep time: 10 minutes active (plus overnight refrigeration)

 

Ingredients

 


  • 500 ml (2 cups) white balsamic or cider vinegar

  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar

  • 10 ml (2 tsp) salt

  • 10 ml (2 tsp) black peppercorns

  • 2 cloves garlic, halved

  • 4 bay leaves

  • 150 ml (2/3 cup) water

  • 1 small red chili pepper, sliced

  • 4 kirby (pickling) cucumbers, cut into 5-mm (1/4-inch) slices

  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

  • 10 ml (2 tsp) fresh dill

  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) mustard seeds

  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) coriander seeds


Preperation

 


  • In a small saucepan over high, combine vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

  • In a small bowl, combine chili pepper, cucumber slices, onion, dill, mustard seeds and coriander seeds. Pour in hot brine.

  • Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally.



Makes 750 ml (3 cups).

———

Smoky Barbecue Sauce
Prep time: 25 minutes


Ingredients



  • 250 ml (1 cup) ketchup

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) dark brown sugar

  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) dark amber (Grade B) maple syrup

  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) Worcestershire sauce

  • 22 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) cider vinegar

  • 5 ml (1 tsp) smoked sweet paprika

  • Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste


Preperation
In a small saucepan over medium-low, combine all ingredients. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until thickened. Set aside to cool.

Makes 375 ml (1 1/2 cups).

———

Oil and Vinegar Slaw
Ray suggests you prepare the slaw just before making the burgers.
Prep time: 5 minutes



  • 250 g (1/2 lb) shredded red cabbage

  • 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced

  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) cider vinegar

  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) vegetable oil

  • Celery salt, to taste

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

  • In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and toss thoroughly.



Makes 750 ml (3 cups).

———

Beer Chili Burgers
Prep time: 25 minutes


Ingredients



  • 1 kg (2 lb) ground sirloin

  • Montreal Steak Seasoning (by McCormick) or a blend of kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) Worcestershire sauce

  • 5 ml (1 tsp) dried marjoram

  • 5 ml (1 tsp) dried thyme

  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) ancho chili powder

  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) beer

  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil

  • Barbecue sauce (see recipe above)

  • 10 slider (small burger) rolls

  • Spicy kirby cucumber slices (see recipe above)

  • Oil-and-vinegar slaw (see recipe above)


Preperation:



  • Heat a grill to medium.

  • In a large bowl, combine ground meat with steak seasoning (or salt and pepper). Add Worcestershire, marjoram, thyme, chili powder and beer. Mix thoroughly.

  • Form mixture into 10 slider-sized (use your rolls as a guide) patties, then drizzle each with a bit of the vegetable oil.

  • Place sliders on grill and cook for 5 minutes per side for medium-rare, basting liberally with barbecue sauce as they cook.

  • Place burgers on rolls and top with cucumber slices and slaw.



Makes 10 sliders.

Nutrition information per slider with condiments (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 405 calories; 164 calories from fat; 19 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 50 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrate; 24 g protein; 2 g fibre; 671 mg sodium.