Captain D’s Lamb Burgers

Eric Dominijanni is a captain in the United States Marine Corps. He’s as patriotic a soldier as you’ll ever find. To him, fellow marines are like family. They deserve the best of what he can provide. In Iraq, during the initial march into Baghdad, this cooking-obsessed soldier brought along his espresso maker, and he even made paella for his troops in the back of his Assault Amphibian vehicle. “I may have had to fight like a barbarian, but I didn’t have to eat like one,” he says.

For lamb burgers, “Captain D,” as he likes to be called, explains the role of his ingredients in military terms. “The lamb is the main effort. The cheese is supporting-effort number one, and the mission of all the other spices and flavors is to make the lamb a success.”

Lamb burger success depends on the proper heat of the charcoal. If the temperature is too high, a thick burger will burn on the outside before the inside is done, so Captain D recommends medium heat for his lamb burgers. Even at that safe temperature, he suggests that if the burger is turning too dark too fast, slide it over indirect heat for the final few minutes of cooking.–Jamie Purviance

Captain D's Lamb Burgers Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 2 H, 25 M
  • Makes 4 big servings


  • 2 pounds freshly ground lamb
  • 1/3 cup minced red onions
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, optional
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 slices sourdough bread, each about 1/2 inch thick
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 thin slices ripe tomato
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup crumbled blue or feta cheese


  • 1. In a large bowl, gently mix the burger ingredients until evenly distributed. Gently shape the meat into 4 patties of equal size and thickness, each about 1/2 pound and 1 inch thick. With your fingertips or thumb, make a shallow depression about 1 inch wide in the center of each patty so the centers are about 3/4 inch thick. This will help the patties cook evenly and prevent them from puffing on the grill. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
  • 2. Prepare a two-zone fire for medium heat (see Note).
  • 3. Brush the cooking grate clean. Grill the lamb patties over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until well browned on the first side, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the patties over and continue to grill over direct medium heat, 6 to 8 minutes for medium doneness, swapping their positions as needed for even cooking.
  • 4. While the lamb burgers are finishing on the second side, lightly brush the bread slices with oil and toast them over indirect medium heat, 1 to 2 minutes, turning once and swapping their positions as needed for even cooking.
  • 5. Serve the lamb burgers warm on the toasted bread with the tomato slices, spinach, and cheese.


  • The two-zone fire combines direct heat (where the food cooks directly above the coals) and indirect heat (where the food cooks above and to the side of the coals). Direct medium heat is 350°F to 450°F (175°C to 230°C) or being able to hold your hand over the grill for 5 to 7 seconds.
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