Recreating The Bobcat Burger

February 21, 2010


Bobcat Burger

It used to be the case that I was in the minority; my obsession with burgers and their buns has been a long time raging. Now every London blogger, their partner, pet and best mate seems to be fixated on them. My main issue was always the bun, which was what led me to arrange The Great Bun Tasting and to make several batches of these.  They are pretty much the ideal bun – a slightly sweet brioche with a structure that is light yet robust enough to last without turning to mush.

The problem with burgers in London is that decent ones are so few and far between that when we do actually find one, everyone gets worked up to the extent that the hype exceeds reality. It’s like playing a favourite song to death; it becomes so familiar that you almost have to try harder to enjoy it. The Hawksmoor burger is a perfect example.

In America though, they do things differently; we are teased with stories of delicious burgers on every other block. The interesting thing though is that while they are generally regarded with appropriate respect, most seem completely unpretentious. Fast food; high quality; grabbed and gobbled. American burgers is a subject I spend quite a bit of time reading about but sadly, I’ve not yet had a chance to visit for real. My excitement at discovering The Meatwagon then, in an industrial estate on my very own home turf of Peckham, was off the scale and then some. It was there that I tasted my first Bobcat Burger; I’ve craved another ever since. My love affair with Hamburger America had begun.

Then I got my hands on this book by George Motz and, as if that wasn’t good enough, it came with a DVD which is, quite simply, brilliant. Motz basically journeyed across America in search of the best burger joints (100 made the final cut) and the result is a charming record of the daily lives of each joint, the history, the customers and of course, the burgers – some of which are simply outrageous.

The film opens for example with ‘Dyer’s Restaurant’ where, “it’s all about the grease” – deep fried burgers. Super thin patties are plunged into NINETY ONE YEAR OLD oil until cooked and then lifted out and squeezed, an oleaginous waterfall gushing forth. The grease is apparently ‘strained and processed’ every day but seriously, that fat has never been changed. Dyer’s consider this their selling point though and when they moved premises, the oil moved to the new location accompanied by a police escort and TV crew. Not joking.

Twenty minutes in and I was worried; a steamed burger with steamed cheese came next, followed by the peanut butter burger and then the plain old butter burger, which in case you are wondering is simply piled, piled with what I would estimate to be at least 5 or 6 tablespoons of butter. Amongst the extreme though there are the sublime and by the end of the film I was salivating.

The Bobcat Bite (New Mexico) is owned by John and Bonnie Eckre (above), who are very proud of their Green Chilli Cheeseburger. People actually come in coachloads to visit the place and often end up with a lengthy wait due to the limited seating capacity; Bonnie describes how customers have been known to wait for an hour outside without a grumble. The burgers are worth it.

The Bobcat is this: prime beef topped with chillies fried in butter; sinful juices seep through the meat. Cheese is then melted on top of the chillies, sealing the spicy layer. A sprinkle of their ‘famous’ tangy slaw provides crunch and contrast. When I found the recipe for Bobcat slaw in Hamburger America there was no stopping me; I made buns, the slaw and some patties from ground beef shoulder. Mild Turkish chillies were fried in butter, piled high and sealed with a cheesy vacuum. That cat was finally mine.

Some burger recommendations that will come as no surprise: if you live in London and you are not suffering from burger fatigue, I recommend you visit The Meat Wagon. It goes without saying that Hamburger America should also go on the wish list. While you are waiting for those things to happen, why not try the recipe/s below and inject a little New Mexican love into your boiger? It’s a taste sensation and no mistakin’.

Bobcat Burgers (from Bobcat Bite, New Mexico)

Ground beef shoulder, for making the patties, or ground beef of your choice. You want a good bit of fat in there basically. I wanted to experiment with a mixture of cuts but didn’t have time
Mild green chillies (or hot, up to you), sliced
Butter and a touch of oil, for frying
Cheese slice of your choice

I use this recipe for the buns – it’s the best I’ve come across

Bobcat Bite Slaw (from Hamburger America)
This is a half quantity. Double this apparently keeps the Bobcat Bite going for 1 day. It is best the day after it has been made.

1 small head white cabbage, core removed and finely shredded
1/2 large green bell pepper, grated
110g caster sugar (yep, really)
235ml white vinegar (trust me)
60ml flavourless oil, such as groundnut
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1 tablespoon mustard

Mix it all together. Keep in the fridge and give it a good stir before serving.


Toast your buns. Gently fry your chillies in a healthy amount of butter (20g or so) and begin frying your burgers. I use a cast iron pan for this – if you have a proper hot plate then use that – I am jealous. When you flip the burger, it’s time to put those chillies on followed by the cheese. Once the cheese has melted you are good to go. Get that burger in that bun. Top with slaw (and anything else you fancy) and serve.

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    Reply Lizzie February 21, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    That looks SO delicious. Is it French (the squeezy bottle type) mustard you use in the slaw?

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    Reply gastrogeek February 21, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    90 year old oil??! That is actually just insane! And also undoubtedly insanely good. Loving your description of the “”oleaginous waterfall gushing forth”. My stomach is now demanding that I make this burger immediately or at the very least check out the meat wagon – sounds like a proper find.

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    Reply Sarah, Maison Cupcake February 21, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Burger looks amazing, although I’m always wary of eating anything wider than my own head!

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    Reply peter February 21, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    I tip my hat to a gal that goes all the way with a burger and makes the hamburger bun.

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    Reply ginandcrumpets February 21, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Some of those burgers sound completely insane. Your burger looks completely delicious. Ever since you wrote about the Bobcat Burger, it’s been on my list of Things I Must Eat. It’s a life goal and I’m powerless to resist.

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    Reply Su-Lin February 21, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    I am all over this burger like a rash. Nom nom nom.

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    Reply Jones February 21, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    The ingredients list for the Bobcat Bite Slaw looks truly bonkers, just the cabbage and pepper and that much sugar and vinegar. I’m going to trust you and go for it though, especially after your tweets about eating it straight out of the fridge!

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    Reply The Graphic Foodie February 22, 2010 at 8:58 am

    My stomach loudly grumbled at the top picture, then turned at the idea of ninety year old cooking oil – yerk!

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    Reply Laissez Fare February 22, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Great post Helen. Agree that a lot of us food bloggers are hyping what are some pretty average burgers by American standards whenever the next ‘new thing’ is ‘discovered’. Though I guess it can’t be helped as there is a dearth of decent burgers in the UK from what I’ve seen since I moved here 10 years ago…though there is a real push to innovate and improve in the last few years. I can’t wait to read that book and/or watch the DVD, it sounds like a lot of fun. That Bobcat Bite burger and the one fried in 90-year old oil both sound completely bonkers, but you have to admire their passion! 🙂

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    Reply An American in London February 22, 2010 at 10:29 am

    I’d like to note that neither I nor Londonelicious (two Americans) have joined in the blogging frenzy about burgers. Ironic? : )

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    Reply The Shed February 22, 2010 at 10:36 am

    I am sooooo doing this, though can’t promise to make my own buns (respecktaah). Chillies fried in butter is possitively inspirational! Big mistake looking at this before lunch….I think I’ll go dribble in private.

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    Reply Mr Noodles February 22, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    It was a bad idea to read this before lunch ! You hit the nail on the head when you say the buns are a big problem ! The other thing about London burgers is that bloggers seem fixated on trying them at either upmarket steak restaurants or “gourmet” chains. In doing that, they miss out the pub burger scene – many of whose burgers are better than the “gourmet” chains like Byron.

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    Reply Alex February 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Until ShakeShack decide to grace us with one of their fine institutions, homemade is the only way to go. Unless you are offering yours up for sale? I would travel for that burger.

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    Reply Greedy Diva February 22, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Great post, Helen, and I completely agree about the dangers of over-hype re some of London’s burgers. I second Alex – quality of life in London would improve significantly if Shake Shack would come to town! Your burger looks completely delicious.

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    Reply George@CulinaryTravels February 22, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    That burger looks magnificent, but, 90year old oil – OMG!

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    Reply DaveyTwoMeals February 22, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    The search for the perfect burger is a noble one, especially homemade.
    If I’m ever in New Mexico, Bobcat Bite will have my business!
    Anyone else enjoyed a Fergburger in Queenstown, NZ? They are simply heaven in a bun!

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    Reply Helen February 22, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Lizzie – I think you mean French’s Mild and Sweet? The greatest of all burger mustards ever ever ever? Well I do put that in my boigers normally but for this slaw I used Dijon because it really needed more of a kick and I don’t think the French’s would have been strong enough. Can’t beat an extra squeeze of it though, with a blob of ketchup.

    Gastrogeek – I know! I was watching it with mouth agape. Truly flabbergasting. I did laugh. There is actual footage of the police escort.

    Sarah – Well it was a fairly big burger but it wasn’t that big! Unless you have an unusally small head in which case I apologise for making a joke out of it…

    Peter – Thank you sir.

    ginandcrumpets – a local gal n all – it’s so very nearly within your reach…

    Su-Lin – I reckon you are going to love that bobcat.

    Jones – That’s exactly what I thought when I saw it but seriously, it works. It’s an intense slaw alright but in the burger it’s jst the right amount of tang.

    Graphic Foodie – A rollercoaster rode for the stomach! I cna promise you the bobcat will only show love to your tummy.

    Laissez Fare – yeah exactly. I mean it wasn’t a criticism, just an observation. I think it’s just getting a bit out of control.

    An American in London – Yeah, it makes perfect sense to me. I understand why people are getting excited, I mean, we’ve been deprived of anything decent for so long but to you guys it must seem ridiculous.

    The shed – Thanks. If you can ever summon up the energy to make those buns though then you won’t regret it – they are the best buns I have ever eaten. A brilliant recipe.

    Mr. Noodles – Yes! I know you’ve done a post about this too which I have yet to read as my google reader is bursting but believe me I am looking forward to it with interest. I bet there are some great ones out there. We just gotta find em.

    Alex – Hmm. I will give it some careful thought 😉 Gravy’s burgers.

    Greedy Diva – I have Shake Shack envy!!

    George – Shocking isn’t it? But they swear this is the secret to their success. I’d have to try one.

    Davey – I sadly have not, having never been to NZ. What’s so special about it then? Share your burger knowledge!!

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    Reply Cynthia February 22, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Helen, everything you make suddenly makes me crave it.

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    Reply Fig and Cherry February 23, 2010 at 10:14 am

    I love it when you wax lyrical about burgers, you describe your passion for them so succinctly 🙂

    I have had the pleasure of an American burger, they are truly good and I hope you get to try one soon (in the US!).

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    Reply Trissa February 23, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    You even made your own buns?! Amazing! This looks delicious.

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    Reply Charlie February 23, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    We need to do a burger challenge. So much moaning about shitty burgers. let see if we can make some that the grumps wont grumble about!!

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    Reply Jonathan February 23, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    What a fantastic ground beef shoulder, cheese and chilli sandwich. Top class. I wonder how much longer they can go on using that 90 year old oil… especially in a country that is normally quite sniffy about these sorts of things.

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    Reply aforkfulofspaghetti February 24, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Wow. Talk about dedication to the cause… 😉

    Great post, great-looking burger. Wish I could have tasted it.

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    Reply Maunika February 25, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Helen you honestly cook the most lush food ever! I’ve had lunch but this burger demands me to get stuck in! Its so good. Cant beat chillies in butter. Only wish you were closer to my home I’d be asking you to bring this burger along every week!

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    Reply shayma February 25, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    that burger really looks gorgeous, almost as gorgeous as your best chicken sandwich ever! my parents live near five guys (of obama fame) in dc which i love, i was recently in manhattan and i was told i made the mistake of my life by not going to shake shack burger, but the lines were so long. what do you think about the GBK craze in the UK?

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    Reply Helen February 25, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Cynthia – I could say the same of you!

    Fig and Cherry – I can only dream…

    Trissa – Oh yes indeedy. The best damn burger bun recipe I ever came across. Problem is now that I find it hard to eat any other.

    Charlie – Yes! Come on then, put your money where your mouth is and send an e-mail…

    Jonathan – I know! I was amazed too. Thing is they’ve been going for so long. I do wonder what ‘processed’ means exactly.

    aforkfulofspaghetti – I’m nothing if not dedicated to the burger cause.

    Maunika – Thank you 🙂

    Shayma – Yes I hear a lot about shake shack! Jealous. GBK burgers are ok I suppose – I’d eat one if I had to. They are very much a burger produced for the UK masses. Not really my cup of tea.

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    Reply Anne February 26, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    The best burger I’ve ever tasted was from Shake Shack and I agree – till I get back to NY homemade is the only way to go – and this one looks perfect! Shall be making it, and the slaw and buns, next time I get the craving!

    LOVE this post 🙂

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    Reply Jeanne @ CookSister! February 27, 2010 at 12:35 am

    It’s so unfair – there are great burgers around every corner in the US and here… not so much. I want that book!! Nick will think he’s died and gone to heaven when I make these. Thanks 🙂

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    Reply Oysterculture February 27, 2010 at 3:48 am

    I cannot say I actually take my American burgers for granted, and believe me we have some horrid ones here, but when they’re good they are good! Living in an apartment without a grill I rarely make burgers at home. To me, homemade burgers have a very strong association with the grill.

    Now this Bobcat burger has my name all over it! I love chillies and that coupled with the burger sounds like heaven.

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    Reply TheWinesleuth February 28, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Did Dairy Queen make the cut? Growing up in Central CA, they were the best! In-n-Out and Checkers are great chains if you’re just going thru the drive-thru…sometimes I do miss America. And don’t even get me started on the woeful Mexican food offerings, where are the taco trucks when you need them? 🙂

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    Reply TV Food and Drink March 2, 2010 at 1:13 am

    Oh the juiciness. Thank you so much for this posting. I will be making these this coming weekend along with the buns from Smitten Kitchen, and all those I know will bow at my feet!!

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    Reply Steben June 19, 2010 at 11:38 am

    This is the best friggin’ hamburger I’ve ever eaten. The slaws masterful lol

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