Want to try a new burger on the griddle? Add this western style cowboy burger with homemade fried onion rings, bacon, barbecue sauce, and cheddar cheese to your list of burgers to make on the griddle or flat top grill!
A good classic smash burger simply dressed with mayo and pickles is hard to beat. But every now and then, you want to try a different griddle burger. After all, one of my favorite things about cooking is the creativity aspect and thinking up new flavor combinations or cooking methods.
Over the years, we’ve made some awesome burgers like this pub burger with homemade beer cheese dip and the classic Juicy Lucy. Heck, we’ve even added fried eggs and hash browns to a smash burger patty for this epic breakfast burger.
But surprisingly enough, we’ve never made a Western-style Cowboy Burger… until today.
What is a Cowboy Burger?
A Western burger, sometimes called a cowboy burger, is typically made of an 80/20 ground beef burger patty topped with melted cheese, bacon, barbecue sauce, and fried onion rings.
Of course there are many variations to a Western style burger. Some Western burgers have American cheese and some have cheddar. Some include bacon, some don’t. Some of the cowboy burgers have a mixture of barbecue sauce and mayonnaise for the spread, and some just use straight barbecue sauce.
But overall, the addition of barbecue sauce and fried onion rings is what really defines the common Western burger.
Ingredients for this Western Style Cowboy Burger
Here are the ingredients that I used for my take on the cowboy burger:
For our version of the cowboy burger, we started off with a slightly thicker smash burger. We used 80/20 ground chuck, but pretty much any ground beef should work, as long as the fat content is similar to 80/20 beef. Any leaner and your burger may be a bit dry.
The Homemade Onion Rings
I personally preferred these homemade onion rings on the side of the burger, because they were so dang good by themselves with a little homemade dipping sauce. Here’s what you need for the fried onion strings:
- thinly sliced onions
- ground panko crumbs – I took regular panko and pulsed it in the blender for a few seconds so it had a finer texture.
- black pepper
- seasoned salt
- granulated garlic (or substitute garlic powder)
We used a thick sliced cheddar for our Western burger, but you can also use American cheese. Most Western burgers have either of those cheese options. The addition of a bit of spice from sliced pepper jack would be good on this cowboy burger also.
The Toppings and Bun
We served our cowboy burger on a brioche bun for a nice hint of sweetness, but you can use your favorite hamburger buns. You will also need your favorite barbecue sauce and two strips of bacon per burger.
CHEF’S NOTE – If you want to mellow out the barbecue taste of your cowboy burger, then I would recommend mixing your barbecue sauce with some mayonnaise to create your own Western burger sauce. The Rufus Teague Smoky Apple barbecue sauce that I used was pretty strong, and when I make this burger again, I might try a barbecue sauce and mayo combination.
How to Make a Western BBQ Burger on the Griddle
This cowboy burger on the griddle takes a bit longer to make because it starts with homemade onion rings. If you want to save some time, try some store-bought fried onions or even a mix of fried onions and fried jalapeños. You can usually find these in the produce or salad toppings section of the grocery store.
But here’s how to make the Western burger with your own homemade buttermilk fried onion rings:
Step 1: Make the homemade onion rings.
Before you start making your Western style cowboy burger, you’ll need to fry up some onion rings.
First, cut a large onion into thin slices, about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick. Then, separate the onion slices into individual rings and soak them in a large bowl of buttermilk for about 2 hours. You only need enough buttermilk to cover the onions.
When the onion rings are almost done soaking, make the dry mixture to coat them in. Combine the flour, fine panko crumbs, salt, pepper, and other spices in a large bowl and mix together. Here’s what you should have so far:
*Note – I wanted the Japanese style panko bread crumbs to have a finer texture, closer to the consistency of the flour and spices, because the onion rings are thinner. So I portioned out 3/4 cup of Panko, and then I pulsed it in the blender for a few seconds before adding it to the flour mixture.
Next, add the buttermilk soaked onion rings to the dry mix and toss together so that each ring is evenly coated. Work in smaller batches for better coverage. When you’re done, this is what your coated onion rings should look like before going in the fryer:
Then, add the onion rings to vegetable oil (or your favorite frying oil). I recommend using a candy or oil thermometer to be sure that your oil is about 350 – 375 degrees F before adding the onion rings. Fry the onion rings in batches to not overcrowd the pot, and they should look something like this when they’re done:
*By the way, these homemade fried onion rings are fantastic by themselves with some of the homemade ranch dipping sauce that I made for these bacon cheese potato wedges!
When your onion rings are done frying, you’re really just making smash burgers on the griddle to finish off this awesome Western burger!
Step 2: Cook the bacon on the griddle.
To make the cook time a bit quicker, you’ll need to do a little multitasking.
While your oil is preheating and your onions are frying, cook a few slices of bacon on the griddle. When the bacon is done to your liking, take it off the griddle and transfer to a paper towel. Then, it’s time to make your cowboy burger patties.
Step 3: Make the Cowboy Burger patties.
The process for making the burgers is very similar to making regular smash burgers on the griddle, except instead of American cheese, I used a sharp cheddar.
Portion your ground beef into balls that are about 3 – 3.5 oz. in weight. You can use my 1/3 cup measuring cup hack to make sure your beef balls are the right size:
Then, place the beef balls on your hot griddle (about 400 – 425 degrees F) and smash them down. When the patties are smashed, season them on the top exposed side with your favorite burger seasoning. I only season this one side of my smash burgers because the patties are so thin. Also, if you season the second side of your burgers after you flip them, then the seasonings on that second side will never really get a chance to cook.
Here’s what your burgers should look like on the griddle:
After you flip the burgers to the second side, immediately add your cheese slices and continue to cook until the burgers are done. If you’re using sliced cheddar, your griddle cowboy burgers should look something like this:
After adding the sliced cheddar, your burgers should only need another minute or two to finish cooking. Then, stack two patties just like you would for a double smash burger.
Step 4: Build your Western Style Cowboy Burger.
When the cheeseburger patties and fried onion rings are done, it’s time to assemble your barbecue cowboy burger.
Just add some barbecue sauce (or barbecue mayo mixture) to the bottom toasted bun. Top with your double cheeseburger, some of the fried onions, bacon, and barbecue sauce.
Western BBQ Cowboy Burger Recipe
Want to print this cowboy burger recipe to add to your list of griddle burgers to make? Just use the recipe card down below:
Western BBQ Cowboy Burger with Homemade Onion Rings
- 12-14 oz 80/20 ground beef
- your favorite burger seasoning
- 4 slices cheese American or cheddar
- 4 strips bacon
- hamburger buns
- barbecue sauce
For the Homemade Onion Rings
- 1 large onion cut into thin slices about 1/8" to 1/4" thick
- 2 cups buttermilk or enough to cover the onion slices in a bowl
- 2 cups flour
- ¾ cup Japanese style panko bread crumbs
- 1 tbsp salt
- ½ tbsp black pepper
- ½ tbsp seasoned salt
- ½ tbsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp paprika
- vegetable, peanut, or canola oil for frying
- Place sliced onion rings in a medium bowl. Add just enough buttermilk to submerge the onions. Place in the refrigerator to soak for 2 hours.
- While the onions are soaking in the buttermilk, make the flour coating. Pulse the panko bread crumbs in a blender for a few seconds until they are a finer consistency. Then, combine flour, panko, salt, pepper, seasoned salt, garlic powder, and paprika in a large bowl. Mix well and set aside.
- Add frying oil to a large heavy-bottomed pot, about 1/3 full. Heat oil until it reaches about 350-375 degrees F. While oil is heating, and working in small batches, add the soaked onion rings to the flour mixture. Toss to coat the onion rings in the flour. Shake off excess flour and transfer to a plate. Continue until all onion rings are coated.
- Carefully add the coated onion rings to the hot oil in small batches. Fry until golden brown on all sides. Remove from the oil with a strainer and transfer fried onion rings to a wire cooling rack or paper towel set on top of a baking sheet.
- Preheat griddle to a temperature of about 350 – 375 degrees F.
- While onion rings are frying, cook bacon on the griddle until done to your liking. When bacon is done, remove from the griddle and set aside. Adjust the griddle temperature to about 425 degrees F.
- Portion the ground beef into 4 equally sized, loosely packed balls. *You can use a 1/3 cup measuring cup for the perfect amount of beef, then roll into a ball.
- When the griddle is hot, place the beef balls on the griddle surface, making sure that you have enough space to smash and flip the patties. Immediately smash the balls as you would for smash burgers. Season the top side with your favorite burger seasoning, or salt and pepper.
- Toast the burger buns on the griddle, cut side down, while the burgers continue to cook. When buns are done toasting, remove them from the griddle.
- When burgers are a bit more than halfway cooked through (and there are still some pink spots on top), use a spatula or scraper to flip the burgers to the second side, making sure to scrape under the burger crust to remove it from the griddle with your burgers.
- Immediately after flipping the burger patties, top each with one slice of cheese. When the cheese is melted (probably less than 1 minute), stack two burger patties on top of each other to make two double smash burgers. Immediately remove from the griddle and allow to rest for 1-2 minutes.
- Build your cowboy burger – Add barbecue sauce to the bottom bun. Top with the double cheeseburger, cooked bacon strips, and homemade onion rings. Add more bbq sauce if you wish. Serve warm and enjoy!
- If you want your Western style burgers to have less of a barbecue taste, mix equal parts of barbecue sauce and mayonnaise for a simple burger sauce.
- Want to save time? Try this Cowboy Burger with store-bought crispy onions. Find them in the produce or salad toppings section of the grocery store.
- Feel free to experiment with the cheese. American or pepper jack cheese slices would also be great for this Cowboy Burger!
- This recipe makes more onion rings than what you will need for 2 burgers. Serve them on the side with ketchup or ranch for dipping.
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