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Published September 04, 2012, 11:40 PM

Burger breakdown: Get creative when building this favorite American classic

Just about everyone – vegetarians and meat eaters alike – loves a good burger, whether they’re all-beef, bison, turkey, veggie, fish or anything in between.

By: Jeff Tiedeman, Grand Forks Herald food editor, INFORUM

Just about everyone – vegetarians and meat eaters alike – loves a good burger, whether they’re all-beef, bison, turkey, veggie, fish or anything in between.

Perhaps the biggest reason burgers are so popular is that they are so readily available (in restaurants) and are easy to prepare (at home).

While I’ll occasionally have a burger when we go out to eat, my preference is one straight from my backyard barbecue, and the nice weather this summer has given me (and other grilling enthusiasts) plenty of opportunities to flip to my heart’s content=.

In the Tiedeman household – and a lot of others in this neck of the woods – many a burger are made with some sort of ground wild game – plain and/or mixed with pork or beef. (Ours are half-elk, half-beef seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce.)

But that’s not to say we eat burgers made strictly with meat. One of our favorite burgers is made with portabella mushrooms marinated in balsamic vinegar.

A healthy fit

Burgers can be part of a healthy diet, according to Becky Westereng, licensed registered dietitian at Altru Health System in Grand Forks. But reasonable portions are the key.

“A quarter-pound burger provides protein to build muscle, zinc for a healthy immune system, phosphorus for strong teeth and bones, iron to help carry oxygen to muscles to prevent fatigue and B vitamins to help you use the energy from food,” said Westereng, who also is a certified specialist in sports dietetics and a certified diabetes educator.

This serving size is in sharp contrast to the offerings at some restaurants these days, where you can get burgers up to a pound, and TV shows such as the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food,” where host Adam Richman is routinely challenged to eat burgers that definitely defy the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate recommendation of limiting portions of meat to 3- to 4-ounce servings (the size of a deck of cards or the palm of a woman’s hand).

For example, here are some of Richman’s gargantuan endeavors, which I wouldn’t recommend you try to duplicate:

  • The Sasquatch Hamburger (The Big Foot Lodge/Kooky Canuck, Memphis, Tenn.), a massive burger consisting of 7½ pounds of beef on a 2-pound bun.

  • The O.M.G. Burger (Lindy’s on 4th, Tucson, Ariz.), 12 beef patties with 12 slices of cheese on an enormous bun.

  • Fifth Third Burger: (West Michigan Whitecaps Ballpark, Comstock Park, Mich.), a massive burger made of five-pound burger patties plus all the fixings.

A traditionalist

When it comes to what goes on my burgers, I’m pretty much a traditionalist. Just give me some ketchup, mustard, a slice of onion and a dill pickle, and I’m a happy camper.

I haven’t thought yet about putting away my grill for the season. I’m anticipating that there still will be a few more cookouts with burgers as the centerpiece before we have to deal with the cold and snow.

And trust me; they won’t of “Man vs. Food” proportions, either.

Tiedeman is food editor at the Grand Forks Herald.