TAMPA (WFLA) – The Big Game Tailgate Crew met up with the Zakarian Family authors of, “The Family that Cooks Together” to make the perfect messy burger — Which is perfect for “The Big Game”

The Best Messy Burger

Here’s our Zakarian hamburger motto: When eating burgers, mess is best. They should be juicy, piled with delicious toppings, and deliver huge on beef taste. Also, do not kill your burger by overcooking it. The best taste comes from a high fat content in the beef, plus cooking it to medium-rare—or medium, max. If you cook it more than that, the meat will dry out. If you currently like a well-done burger, try little by little weaning off this preference by cooking the meat just a tad less each time.

The recipe forms four burgers, but if you prefer small burgers or sliders, simply divide the beef into smaller portions. Serves 4


For the Burger Sauce

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup finely chopped dill pickle
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced shallot
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Burgers

  • 1½ pounds ground chuck (25 percent fat)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 8 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 potato hamburger buns, with sesame seeds
  • Melted butter or extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • 4 leaves Bibb or green-leaf lettuce
  • 4 slices tomato
  • 4 kosher dill pickle spears

Helpful Tools

  • 4-inch ring cutter
  • Cast iron pan or griddle


  1. To make the burger sauce: Combine the ketchup, mayonnaise, chopped pickle, horseradish, shallot, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  2. To make the burgers: Fit a small piece of plastic wrap inside a 4-inch ring cutter. Place about 6 ounces of ground chuck in the plastic and lightly press into the mold just to flatten a touch. Repeat with the remainder of the ground chuck. Generously season the patties with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the canola oil in a cast iron pan or griddle until it begins to smoke. Place the patties in the hot pan and sear on the first side, about 4 minutes. Flip and top each with two slices of cheese. Cook another 4 minutes on the other side for medium-rare. Remove the burgers from the pan and rest, about 10 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, brush the cut sides of buns with butter or olive oil. Place cut side down in the hot pan and cook until lightly golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. To assemble, place a patty on the bottom half of each bun and top with a lettuce leaf and a slice of tomato. Spread each bun top with some sauce, place on the patties, and serve with a pickle spear.

Burger Cooking Tips

  • Season the patties generously with salt and pepper on both sides and edges.
  • Patties should be cold when hitting griddle or grill.
  • Let the patties rest for 5 to 10 minutes once they are done cooking. This prevents juices from running all over when you bite or cut them.