The $20 Burger

Published on October 6, 2022 | Updated on July 17, 2024 | by Allen Bixby

What is the 20 dollar burger and what makes these tavern burgers so iconic? We’ll take a look at if these novelty burgers are worth the money and we’ll show you how you can enjoy a feast of a burger like this at home with our complete copycat recipe and tutorial.

Trying to say what constitutes a great burger has actually become a much harder task. When my brother moved to town we went on a burger tour of the area, some joints I had been to, others only heard about. This was a search for what would best be called Tavern burgers. Super tasty, relatively simple, guaranteed to be messy all the way up your arms. It was awesome.

Another category are more gourmet burgers with higher quality meats and cheeses, buns and other ingredients. This is another great group of burger offerings.

Delicious Tower burger

About the only category we’ve left alone is the ‘mile-high’ category. Sorry, but if it is totally impossible to actually take a bite with a human mouth then it is stupid. Sure, a brisket -sausage -pastrami -cheese- tomatoes- onions- grilled onions- onion rings- fried egg- cheese sauce- bacon- jalapeno- multi patty monstrosity has some wonderful stuff on it, but all together? Unable to eat as anything resembling a sandwich and it topples over when you pull out the skewer hidden inside.

No thanks.

Traditional burger makings

Don’t misunderstand, a burger with any 2 or 3 items off that list can be great. A non-traditional burger is just fine with us. For this project however, we are going to hearken back to an actual bestselling burger from our real-life restaurant, one that people ordered again and again; during the pandemic, this novelty burger grew more in popularly.  We did a take on the classic bacon cheese burger that was very unique a decade ago, and still tastes great.

The patty itself had the bacon, cheese and beef. The trimmings we served were traditional, lettuce, onion tomato, and burger sauce. Folks might add pickles, or mix up the saucing with catsup or the mustard of their choice, but it was meant to be a straightforward classic burger item.

Our way in a commercial kitchen

We made a few batches per week of this burger because it didn’t freeze well in our opinion. One batch was 3 pounds of bacon run through a meat grinder mixed with 5 pounds of ground beef. That’s right, ground bacon mixed with the ground beef, then shaped into 8-ounce patties wrapped around apiece of sharp cheddar cheese. We’d either slice the block cheese extra thick and cut those into quarters, or use a standard slice and fold it to shape.

Here’s a little peek behind the professional curtain. Sometimes an excellent menu idea ends up being problematic. In this case, things that are worthy of note, but certainly not deal breakers. Starting with 80/20 ground beef (20{33fafff82620d55c01e7e54e5509f1f12e5413cbb2b32b1b762de9ae00e8563e} fat) and then adding the ground bacon made for a lot of fat to release during cooking. Using our gas flame broiler, we never actually caused the fire suppression system to engage, but the flare ups could be monumental at times. That was manageable. Getting the outside overdone from the flames, while the inside was not cooked, required paying attention to avoid. Sometimes an oven finish or such was necessary. Still worth it.

Easier DIY

Burger Close up

Having the bacon flavor permeate throughout is the goal. To avoid other pitfalls, and because not everyone has meat grinder at home, we are using lightly cooked bacon for this. That will render about out half the fats making the final cooking process easier, safer, and cleaner. We share the precooking bacon technique in this article for you. We used bacon that averages over 1 ounce per strip raw weight which is how we will calculate the amount of ground beef to use.

One issue with any stuffed burger is that they can have a tendency to split while cooking. Not always of course, just enough to be annoying. In an effort to have an easy path to a great burger, we utilize an egg as a binder, some bread crumbs to retain flavors and juice. As long as we are mixing something up, we tossed in some very finely chopped onion for texture and flavor. Rather than salt we add a little Worcestershire sauce and a couple dashes hot sauce to open the flavors up.


Different type of cheese in store

This is the component to customize to your tastes. Because the point we haven’t really dwelled on about a great burger, is that it truly all comes down to what you like. We mentioned seeking out classic flavors to bring together, even that has different meanings to each person.

Cheese on burger meat

There are just a couple basic parameters to picking a cheese. Flavor is obvious, and we expect you will pick what you like. Cheese that is too hard may not get fully melted in the burger. You should bring this burger up 160°F or so internal temperature for the meat. Which doesn’t melt aged parmesan for instance. And you want to watch the other aspect of melting, cheese that becomes grainy when melted. Beyond that have fun, we chose a nice sharp white cheddar that got nicely soft but didn’t run all over when we cut it in half.

Tips and tricks

patty sealed in plastic film

Shaping burgers is usually quite easy, in this case you only have one additional thing to be aware of; the cheese should be sealed inside. Essentially, we make two patties, put the cheese down, cover with the other patty and seal the edges well. Push the shape a taller while you pinch the edges, then flatten back down to a uniform height.

Cooked patties

We want an internal temperature of 160°F or so, unless you ground your own beef, then you can use a more rare temperature. Since we don’t want a black charcoal exterior, we recommend broiling at medium high as opposed to full flame. We also closed the cover to help it cook more thoroughly. This recipe is scalable. We only did two burgers, but it will expand easily to produce more burgers.


$20 Burger Recipe

Allen Bixby
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course classic, Dinner, upscale
Cuisine American
Servings 2
Calories 929 kcal


  • 4 Strips Bacon partially cooked, cold
  • ¼ Medium onion
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Dashes Hot sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Bread crumbs
  • 10 Ounces Ground beef
  • 3 Ounces Cheese


  • Finely mince onion
  • Mince bacon
  • In a bowl whisk together egg, Worcestershire and hot sauce
  • Add bread crumbs, bacon, onion, and ground beef
  • Mix until well blended
  • Divide evenly into 2 balls for each burger
  • Flatten one ball, place cheese on top
  • Flatten remaining ball and place on top to cover the cheese
  • Crimp edges and push back in to plump burger
  • Flatten last time between two sheets of plastic film
  • Broil or grill over medium high heat 7-10 minutes per side until cooked through
  • Build it on a bun with your favorite condiments
  • Serve and enjoy


Difficulty; 1 spatula


Calories: 929kcal
Keyword $20 burger, make $20 burger, novelty burger, tavern burger, twenty dollar burger
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
About the Author Allen Bixby

A retired restaurateur, not quite ready to stop playing in the kitchen.

I have had the pleasure of watching amazing high end chefs, and classic American style diner cooking, creating a very diverse background with food. Add both parents teaching English, watching Julia Childs and Graham Kerr as a child, and learning to bake bread from my Finnish great grandma, and you get a decent recipe for a knowledgeable voice to write about food.

From recipe design to equipment testing, there is a broad spectrum of entertaining aspects of food and how we do what we do every day to feed our loved ones!

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