The Engineer’s Kitchen: Southwestern Pepper Burger

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Engineering With Heat

Southwester Pepper BurgerIt’s round two of burgers for this week’s installment of The Engineer’s Kitchen. While last week I upped the ante a bit and went outside the box using bison as our main protein for the burgers, this week we bring it back in a bit and go with ground sirloin. The reason being that I am not focusing as much on the meat as I am on the condiments this time around. With the bison, I topped it with a simple apple slaw in order to enhance the flavor more from the meat. This week I am doing burgers with a little Southwest kick in honor of our summer intern Ryan who is on break from Arizona State. Unfortunately he is probably the only one in Arizona that doesn’t care for the food to be too spicy. So with that in mind, I kept the heat on the low end of the Scoville Scale in creating a grilled pepper cheese burger served with a spicy BBQ sauce on a toasted ciabatta roll. You can make the BBQ sauce a day or two in advance and save it in a sealed container in the refrigerator. This does allow for a better flavor, as the ingredients will have more time to meld together.

Understanding The Heat

To get an idea of the heat produced from the Poblano pepper that I used, we refer to the above mentioned Scoville Scale. Basically the scale ranges from zero, or no significant heat, upwards of 2,000,000 plus. Our Poblano pepper comes in between 1,000 and 2,000 on the Scoville scale. In relation, a bell pepper would have a ranking of zero, while a Jalapeño pepper would register around 2,500. So you can see that we will get the a little spice without too much heat.

Southwestern Style BBQ Sauce:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Salt to taste

Whisk together all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring up to a fast simmer on medium heat. Continue to stir while cooking until it reduces to the desired thickness. You can leave it more on the watery side if you plan to use it for basting meats as you grill, or let it thicken and use it as a sauce for burgers or to go on the side of whatever you are serving. The chili powder and sugar can be adjusted accordingly depending on how hot or sweet you like it.

Chili Pepper on GrillI started off the meal today by starting the grill on the highest setting and placing the pepper on the grill directly over the flame. This was so I could get a good char on all sides of the pepper. Once the pepper had blackened and was starting to blister, I removed it from the grill and placed it in a medium sized paper bag and sealed it tight. Once the pepper has cooled, remove it from the bag and it should peel quite easily. Place it to the side for now and get those burgers on the grill. I did nothing more that salt and pepper the burgers for this lunch as the majority of the flavor will be in the sauce and the Poblano.

As the burgers cook, you can slice the Poblano into thin strips about ½ inches wide. You can also take this time to slice up fresh tomato and get the lettuce ready. About 2 minutes before the burgers are to come off the grill, it’s time to toss on the cheese and get the rolls on for toasting. Keep an eye on the ciabatta rolls as they tend to burn easily. For the cheese selection today, I went with a nice pepper jack. It seemed to fit into the theme.


Once everything comes off the grill, assembly is pretty straight forward. From the bottom up I start with the bun, then my lettuce, the burger, sliced tomato, the grilled peppers, some of that spicy sauce and finally the top bun. This order seemed to be the less messy and shows the burger off nicely.




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