Great Canadian Burgers: Editors’ Custom-Made Burger Recipes and Tips

Our editors set out to create some of the tastiest, most creative and downright different burgers, and the results were…interesting. Feast on a fish burger, chow down on a cheeseburger, and get grilling tips from the big man himself, Editor in Chief Robert Goyette, with these Editor’s Custom-Made burger tips and recipes.

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Val's Elk Burger

Val’s Elk Burger

Valerie Howes, Reader’s Digest Food and Blog Editor

Val: Elk meat is tender, mild and slightly sweet in flavour, but it’s so lean that to make the patty moist, you need to add a little beef suet.

I also mixed finely chopped red onion and thyme into the patty, then after shaping and chilling it, I salted and peppered both sides generously, before searing it in a very hot skillet.

The patty is cooked to medium-rare in the oven, for about ten minutes, and then topped with slices of chevre noir–a salty, grainy goat cheddar from Quebec.

After that, you pop the burger under the grill for a minute or two till the cheese melts and bubbles.

I served the burger between slices of warm, lightly toasted rosemary focaccia, with a chunky and tangy condiment made from cranberries, orange zest, orange juice, cinnamon, star anise, maple syrup and onions caramelized in sherry.

The garnish is Ontario seedling salad–a mix of sweet young plants such as fennel, sunflower and amaranth, and tiny edible flower petals.

Val’s Secret?: Once you’ve shaped your patty, make indentations across it with your finger so that it doesn’t puff up while you’re cooking. Otherwise, you might need to flatten it with your spatula in the skillet, and that lets the juices escape.

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Sam's Smoky Pinto Burger

Sam’s Smoky Pinto Burger

Samantha Rideout, Reader’s Digest Assistant Editor

Sam: Despite being an omnivore, I don’t see veggie patties as the poor cousins within the burger family.

It was inspired by one of the offerings at La Paryse, a lively post-drinking spot in Montreal’s Latin Quarter. Topped with herbed sour cream, their pinto-bean burger is perfect for satisfying beer-induced protein cravings.

For my own burger, I mixed a 15-oz can’s worth of drained and mashed pinto beans with ½ cup (125 mL) chopped raw onion, a pinch of paprika, a pinch of garlic salt, ½ cup (125 mL) bread crumbs and 3 tbsp (45 mL) of my favourite BBQ sauce, which happens to be Western Smokehouse Diana Sauce.

To glue it all together, I used a few tablespoons of thick organic yogurt from a local dairy, but I just as easily could’ve used an egg (a free-range or organic egg, in my case, since I’m prone to feeling guilty about animal welfare).

I formed patties by spooning the mixture, pancake-style, into a stovetop pan. After frying them over medium-high heat until they were dark-brown on both sides, I chilled them for an hour to prevent crumbling.

I then placed them in thick, onion-flavored buns, because if you ask my taste buds, it’s hard to use too much onion. I dressed them with jalepeños, grated cheddar, more BBQ sauce, Dijon mustard, mixed greens and mashed avocado.

Sam’s Secret?: For the final touch, the icing on the patty, if you will? A sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.

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Lise's Baha Fish Burger

Lise’s Baha Fish Burger

Lise Boullard, Reader’s Digest Assistant Editor

Lise: One of my favourite things to make and eat are fish tacos. For this burger I took all of the fillings I use to make Tilapia cajun tacos, and threw them into a whole-wheat hamburger bun.

Ingredients (for one burger):

1 whole wheat bun
1 fillet tilapia (or other dense white fish)
1 tsp cajun spices (or more to taste)
1 tsp olive oil
Feta cheese, crumbled
Shredded lettuce
Avocado slices
Tomato slices
Red onion slices
Hot sauce
Lime wedges


-Preheat oven to 400 degrees

-Place tilapia fillet in a foil-covered pan. Drizzle with a little oil. Sprinkle tilapia with cajun spices (to taste) and massage it into the fish with your hands. Flip fish fillet over and repeat the entire process on other size. Place another piece of foil on top to cover fish.

-Bake tilapia for about ten minutes (on until cooked inside).

-Toast bun, then stack it with the ingredients listed above, including the fish, in what ever order you like. Squeeze a little lime juice (and hot sauce if you like it really hot!) on top of the ingredients.

Lise’s Secret?: Oven-baking the fish is an efficient way to cook it when you don’t have time to pull out the BBQ.

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Joannie's Tempeh Burger

Joannie’s Tempeh Burger

Joannie Fredette, Sè Web Editor

Joannie: I don’t eat meat, but I’m still a huge fan of burgers grilled on the BBQ. After all, who isn’t? So this time I’ve tried a tempeh burger – a soy meal eaten regularly in Indonesia.

I add organic strong cheddar, caramelized onions, avocados and fried mushrooms, which keeps things vegetarian, healthy and high in protein.

This burger was inspired by my trip to Indonesia, but still has a Canadian taste. It represents the multiculturalism of our country, and the tempeh I used was even made in Canada.

If I’m feeling particularly adventurous I like to add marinated spicy eggplants to give it some added flavour, and sometimes even grilled vegetables can be interesting.

I hate when people just assume you want ketchup on your burger … it ruins everything!

Joannie’s Secret: My magic touch is definitely my handmade mayonnaise, which has a little bit of paprika and curry to spice it up. This combination matches perfectly with the tempeh, and makes a truly irresistible treat.

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Jennifer's Chipotle and Cheese All-Beef Burger

Jennifer’s Chipotle and Cheese All-Beef Burger

Jennifer Reynolds, Reader’s Digest Managing Editor – Digital

Jennifer: My burger is all-Canadian beef (medium is the best bet for juiciness and flavour) with a bit of Mexican flair; the key ingredient is a few dashes of chipotle en adobo sauce that gives it a smoky flavour with a bit of a kick. If you can’t find the real thing, Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce is a good substitute.

Cheese is also key. In my house we have The Cheese Wars; my husband insists on processed-cheese slices (the ‘secret weapon’ he calls them) while I prefer old cheddar.

Then it’s ketchup, mustard and relish, a thick slice of red onion, ripe tomato, and pickles. Lots of pickles. Bread and butter are a favourite, but I never met a pickle I didn’t like.

Jennifer’s Secret: There is no bun like a toasted bun.

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Stephanie's Lemon-Basil Tofu Burger

Stephanie’s Lemon-Basil Tofu Burger

Stephanie Verge, Reader’s Digest Senior Editor

Stephanie: This burger allows me to feel virtuous-there’s no gluten or dairy and the bacon is organic-with very little effort. Cross my heart, I don’t even miss the bun.


– Cut a block of extra-firm tofu crosswise into slices

– Marinate for an hour in a mixture of fresh basil (1/3 cup, finely chopped), Dijon mustard (2 tbsp), grated lemon rind (2 tsp), fresh lemon juice (1/3 cup), olive oil (1 tbsp), garlic (3 cloves, minced), salt and pepper.

– Throw the tofu steaks on the barbecue and grill for about three minutes each side.

– Take a large chard leaf (any leafy green works well, but rainbow chard is the prettiest) and lay it out flat.

– Spread hummus across its entire surface then layer green onions and red peppers (both grilled, the latter peeled), bacon, alfalfa sprouts and a tofu steak on one half of the leaf. Top with hot peppers.

– Fold the whole thing up like a burrito and tuck in.

Stephanie’s Secret?: I have a long-standing fear of barbecues (you just never know when they’re going to blow), so my patented technique involves standing far away from the grill and directing from a distance. Not that much instruction is required-it’s difficult to screw up tofu.

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Robert's Beefy BBQ Delight

Robert’s Beefy BBQ Delight

Robert Goyette, Reader’s Digest Editor-in-Chief

Ask Robert and he’ll tell you a burger is only as good as the chef behind the grill. Although he sticks to the all-beef basic and is sparse with his toppings (ketchup, mustard, cheese, onions and tomatoes), Robert’s cooking methods are anything but simple.

Robert: At a cooking school I learned that to achieve perfectly browned patties, you must wait for the barbecue to warm up to 180 Celsius (350 F), then lightly oil the grills and sear the outside of the meat (one minute at ten o’clock; one minute at two o’clock, turn and repeat; lines must be brown not black). Then move the meat to the top shelf and let it cook as if in an oven for five to eight minutes more. That guarantees your meat with be hot enough to be safe. For the kids I drop a slice of cheese on top while I brown onions in a side dish. Bon appetit!

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