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Perfect Burgers

Updated: 8/14/21 2:00 amPublished: 6/14/19
By Catherine Newman

By Catherine Newman

Makes: 4 servings

Total carbohydrates:  3 grams per serving (+ whatever your toppings add)

Hands-on time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

As everyone who is avoiding carbs or gluten already knows: a burger wrapped in a single leaf of lettuce is a fine thing to eat, but it’s not like eating a burger on a bun. And this isn’t either, really, but oh, it is so much closer! Using thick slabs of iceberg lettuce not only gives you a convincing bun-like way to hold your burger and fixings − it also adds a satisfying crunch. Plus, you’ll have plenty of lettuce leftover to make a salad! If you have another way you’re sure is the best way to cook the burgers, go ahead. Otherwise try this fantastic smash-and-fry crusty-burger method and see what you think.


1 pound ground beef


2 heads iceberg lettuce

Other favorite burger toppings: cheese, pickles, onions, etc.

Chipotle mayonnaise (made by whisking 1 teaspoon of chipotle puree,* a pinch of salt, and the juice of half a lime into a third of a cup of mayonnaise)

*To make the chipotle puree, scrape an entire (7-ounce) tin of chipotle in adobo (brands to look for include Embasa, San Marcos, Herdes, and La Costena) into the blender and puree it. Store it in your fridge in an impeccably clean glass jar where it will keep indefinitely − unless it doesn’t, which is what sometime happens. A thin layer of oil over the top seems to help keep it longer in the fridge.


1. Begin heating a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.

2. While the skillet heats, divide the ground beef into 4 portions, and gently shape each portion into a wide, flattish patty that’s around 4 ½ or 5 inches in diameter. Salt each side of each burger significantly.

3. When the skillet is very hot (after around 5 minutes, a flick of water should sizzle and evaporate), add the patties, using the flat bottom of a Pyrex or other heatproof dish to quickly smash each one flat after you put it in the pan.

4. Cook the burgers for around 3 minutes, or until the bottom is crusty and dark brown, then flip them and cook another 3 minutes, or until done to your liking. If you’re adding cheese, you can put it on about two minutes before you think the burgers are done.

5. Meanwhile, cut 4 half-inch slices from each head of iceberg lettuce: you’ll cut the rounded side off of 4 different faces of each lettuce head so you’ll end up with 8 skinny domed slices. These slices don’t need to be perfect. (You’ll have leftover inner lettuce, which you can store in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.)

6. Arrange four lettuce “buns” cut-side up, top each with the burger and fixings, then add the remaining “buns” cut-side down.

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]

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About the authors

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop... Read the full bio »