Barbecue Pork Burgers

Spicing up store-bought—or homemade—barbecue sauce with cayenne and vinegar is an easy trick that makes a big difference. Here, the barbecue sauce is mixed into the meat, slathered onto the cooked pork burgers for the last minute of grilling, and brushed on the bun.

Although most of the ground pork that you buy in the supermarket doesn’t indicate what part of the pig it hails from, we know that good pork burgers, like good beef burgers, is made from shoulder meat. If you have access to a butcher, ask for pork ground from the shoulder (ideally the pork butt, a confusingly named shoulder cut). It’s got a good ratio of meat to fat, and for a juicy, flavorful burger, lean is not the way to go; fat is where the real flavor is. For the best texture, ask the butcher to run it through the grinder only once, on a coarse setting.–The Editors of Gourmet

LC Make a Pig of Oneself Note

These oh-so-clever pork burgers brilliantly riff on slow-roasted pulled pig, juxtaposing the sweet tenderness of ground pork with the tang of doctored-up bottled (or homemade)  barbecue sauce and the crunch of a quick slaw in this weeknight-friendly, slap-it-on-the-grill incarnation. Whether you indulge in the full-scale rendition or in wee-but-messy sliders, go ahead, make a pig of yourself.

Barbecue Pork Burgers Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 30 M
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • For the slaw
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 1/2 cup very finely shredded carrot
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh chives or scallions
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the pork burgers
  • 1/2 cup your fave tomato-based barbecue sauce (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil, for the grill rack
  • 4 buns or kaiser rolls or soft squishy breadstuff of some sort, split and toasted or grilled

Directions

  • Make the slaw
  • 1. Whisk together the mayonnaise, milk, and vinegar in a large bowl until smooth. Add the cabbage, carrot, chives, and salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat. Let the slaw stand at room temperature, uncovered, while you cook the burgers or, if you prefer your slaw crisp, cover it and refrigerate it for up to 8 hours.
  • Make the pork burgers
  • 2. Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal or medium heat for gas.
  • 3. Stir together the barbecue sauce, cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and vinegar in a small bowl until combined.
  • 4. Gently mix together the pork, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the barbecue sauce mixture until combined. Do not overmix. Form the mixture into 4 patties, each about 4 inches in diameter and 3/4 of an inch thick, being careful not to pack the pork too tightly.
  • 5. Oil the grill rack and then grill the burgers, flipping them every few minutes, until just cooked through, 6 to 10 minutes total. Then brush the top of each patty with 1 tablespoon or more of the barbecue sauce mixture, flip again, and grill for 30 seconds. Repeat, so that both sides have been slathered with the barbecue sauce mixture. Brush the cut sides of each of the buns with the remaining barbecue sauce mixture.
  • 6. Assemble the burgers, starting with the buns and the burgers and adding a heaping spoonful of coleslaw atop each one. Don’t forget to grab the napkins.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice

My 12-year-old nephew, who's quite selective about what he eats, would happily tuck into barbecue ribs and hamburgers and nothing else if he had his druthers. So while I suspected these barbecue pork burgers would be an easy sell—seeing as they're a melding of the two things he loves most—there are no guarantees. I used his favorite homemade barbecue sauce (which we always keep in the fridge), omitted the cayenne because he likes a milder heat, and I left the coleslaw on the side. Also, since we live in a Manhattan apartment, I couldn't grill the burgers so I sizzled them in a cast-iron skillet slicked with olive oil until browned on each side, then brushed both sides with the remaining barbecue sauce and slid the skillet into a 350° oven just until the burgers were cooked through. The burgers remained incredibly moist and the tang from the sauce was just right. I swear only a minute or so elapsed from when I put the burger down in front of him and when it was practically demolished. He's been begging me for them each day ever since–sometimes twice a day. We'll definitely be adding these to our list of regulars. What can I say? Kid knows a good thing when he tastes it.

Testers Choice
Jo Ann Brown

Jul 02, 2012

We really enjoyed these pork burgers. Feeling brazen, I used our favorite hot & spicy barbecue sauce, which was a great match with the cool coleslaw. I totally recommend a good, sturdy kaiser bun (I like mine with sesame seeds) as the coleslaw needs a toothsome roll with a good crust for balance. Although totally not necessary, I swiped a little butter on the roll before grilling. This is a super easy recipe and a new favorite for me.

Testers Choice
Lynne Brenner

Jul 02, 2012

These burgers were a deliciously satisfying departure from the usual beef burger (which I do love). They were easy to put together and had a wonderful tang and a bit of heat from the vinegar and BBQ sauce. I used a sauce called Old South, which is described on the label as “Texas/Tennessee style” and is not too sweet or too thick. I cooked the burgers on a gas grill over medium heat. Since it was ground pork, I used an instant-read thermometer to check doneness–it took about 10 minutes to reach 160°F (71°C) on my grill. The burgers were moist and my only complaint was that they were much too salty for me. I would not add salt to the burgers. The slaw was also quick to put together and reminded me of the slaw my mother used to make with the mayo/milk/vinegar dressing. The carrots added a bit of sweetness and color. These would be a tasty and unexpected treat to add to your next barbecue.

Testers Choice
Sita Krishnaswamy

Jul 02, 2012

Quite an easy meal to put together, especially with a store-bought sauce. I used a sauce that’s bottled locally, though I prefer my own version of BBQ sauce. The burgers were a teensy bit dry. I would like to baste it with a little more sauce than what is called for in the recipe. Otherwise, quite a flavorful meal. The slaw was very delicious and I would it eat it as a side with roast chicken or turkey as well.

Testers Choice
Lori Widmeyer

Jul 02, 2012

These were very good burgers and a nice change. My family does not really like coleslaw, and although we have heard of people putting coleslaw on pulled pork barbecue, we had never tried it. We were all a little surprised that we liked it. It lends a little crunch to the sandwich, like adding lettuce to a burger, and it provided a nice contrast to the spicy barbecue sauce mixture. We used Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce and cooked the burgers on the grill.

Testers Choice
Karen Depp

Jul 02, 2012

What could be better than some Berkshire pork made into one of the best burgers around? These pork burgers are spicy, but not too hot, with just a hint of the pulled pork taste. The barbecue sauce you use will definitely make a difference. And so will the pork. I liked this so much that I have made it three different times with three different sauces and two different kinds of ground pork. All were spot on! The slaw is equally as delicious as the burger and just as easy. This is definitely a go-to recipe.

Testers Choice
Joan Osborne

Jul 02, 2012

We loved this. The slaw was so simple that I had my doubts whether it’d be good, but I sure was wrong. It went perfectly with the pork burgers. We grilled our burgers longer than six minutes, though, as we didn’t want undercooked pork. I thought maybe slathering the sauce on the bun was a bit over the top, since you also add some to the raw meat as well as the cooked burgers on the grill, but that idea was also proved wrong. Delicious! This is a wonderful change to a plain old hamburger and we’ll be adding these to our grill again this summer. We used Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle Barbecue Sauce for an extra little kick and served our burgers on onion kaiser buns.

Testers Choice
Kim Venglar

Jul 02, 2012

Being a Texas girl, I’ve never had slaw on a sandwich before, but I have always wanted to try it. After making this recipe, I may never go back to beef burgers again. When you take that first bite, you have all these flavors bouncing around on your tongue. The mild spicy heat from the pork along with the zippy tang of the slaw dressing. It’s like heaven in your mouth. The only thing I did different in the recipe was to make them into sliders instead of big burgers. (I use the Sara Lee Wheat Honey Dinner Rolls for buns, because a big burger is just too much to eat.) The recipe is very easy to put together and quick to cook. The only thing I would change would be to assemble the slaw when I start cooking the pork. I like very fresh crisp cabbage in my slaw, so I don’t want it sitting in the mayonnaise-based dressing very long. I would never make it eight hours ahead of time because I just don’t like limp, soggy slaw. My mayonnaise-slaw-hating hubby even said he would eat these again. Coming from him, that’s a very high compliment. The sauce I used was Terry Chandler’s Outlaw Chef Brand Badlands BBQ Sauce.

Testers Choice
Helen Doberstein

Jul 02, 2012

These are easy to make and quick for a weeknight meal. I used some leftover barbecue sauce I made last week and jazzed it up with some additional cayenne and vinegar to thin it a little. I think this would be great with almost any barbecue sauce you chose to make it with. The slaw is creamy and the perfect foil for the spiciness of the burger and sauce. While messy to eat, everyone wanted seconds. It was a shame that it only serves four as written. I will certainly be making this again, but in a larger batch so seconds will be available.

Testers Choice
Jenna Helwig

Jul 02, 2012

My family and I devoured these burgers as well as the slaw. The pork burgers were juicy and just spicy enough to add a healthy kick. The coleslaw was crisp and tangy. As a bonus, both were very simple to make. The flavor cornerstone of the burgers is the tarted-up barbecue sauce, which does triple duty: stirred into the pork mixture, brushed on while the burgers are grilling, and then slathered on the bun. Quick note: I highly recommend a brioche bun. The buttery sweetness was a great counterpoint. The slaw on my burger was delicious, too.

Testers Choice
Natalie Reebel

Jul 02, 2012

This is a great way to get a pulled pork sandwich without all the work. It’s simply what happens when you marry ground pork with great barbecue sauce. I used some homemade barbecue sauce and added the extra ingredients. This made for an incredible sauce with a great kick. I am sure the additions to our favorite store-bought sauce, KC Masterpiece, would have a similar result. The coleslaw is tangy and refreshing, adding a perfect crunch to the burger, and balancing out the flavor of the barbecue sauce. The burger itself is juicy and flavorful. We did cook ours about 12 minutes to get it to 155°F (68°C).


Comments
Comments
  1. Rick Casner says:

    To paraphrase…I’ll have what she’s having.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Let us know when you do, Casner. Curious to hear what you think…I’d been clamoring to try these ever since they were on the cover of Gourmet Magazine, god rest its soul, several years ago…

  2. Zanne says:

    I would really love to try this recipe, but the ground pork doesn’t look too good in the supermarket. Since I live in an area that only has a Walmart and a Food Lion, getting good meat is not an easy feat. If I bought pork shoulder, is there any reason I couldn’t put it in the food processor to grind it? And of course, I’ll have to make this GF–I think Dr Schar’s bread/rolls will be great.Looks yummy! Thanks.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Zanne, I love the way you’re thinking. Although I’m not certain that a food processor will actually grind the pork shoulder. I fear that even if you cut the pork into chunks before pulsing, that you’d end up with tough and odd-size pork shrapnel rather than a homogenous blend of pork and fat. Is there a butcher at the Food Lion? Could you take a pkg of pork shoulder from the meat case to him or her and ask for it to be ground on the spot? Let us know what you decide to do and how it goes…

      • zanne says:

        Renee,
        I just recently/finally got a food processor (thrift shop bargain, Cuisinart!) and according to the general instructions, if I cut meat into cubes and partially freeze, I should be able to pulse to get a rough grind. We have a “butcher” (I use the term loosely) at Food Lion, but I don’t believe they’ll grind anything other than beef.
        Never heard of “pork schrapnel” – LOL, does it hurt when it hits you?

        I will try the processor method with a small amount and see what happens. I’ll post the results, good or bad. I’m going to try this with beef (chuck) also. If it works, the possiblities: ground pork, beef, lamb, chicken – WOW! :-}

        • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

          Hi Zanne, I have to jump into this discussion because I am ever so curious about this method. I’ve never tried freezing the meat, perhaps that is the trick? I usually end up with a mixture that does not resemble ground meat in any way, shape or form. Please report back, fingers crossed.

          • zanne says:

            From the Cuisinart instructions:
            To chop meat, poultry, fish and seafood:
            The food should be very cold, but not frozen. Cut it into 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces to ensure an even chop. Using the ON button, process no more than the recommended amount at one time (see table inside front cover). Press the PULSE button 3 or 4 times at a rate of 1 second on, 1 second off. If the food is not chopped finely enough, let the processor run continuously for a few seconds. Check the texture often to avoid overprocessing. Use a spatula to scrape food from the sides of the bowl as necessary.

            Of course, I couldn’t find the “table inside the front cover” as I downloaded the instructions. But I will try this in the next week and report back.

  3. RisaG says:

    These sound really good. I adore pulled pork but it takes some time to make and these don’t. Great idea to get the flavor of pulled pork without all that slow cooking. I am a huge fan of Southern bbq and can’t always find the time to make it. I’ve used pork in burgers before, with great success.This will be a great substitute. I’m going to try them. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Let us know when you do, RisaG! Can’t wait to hear what you think. Everyone we know who’s went a little weak in the knees when they tried them…

  4. Jeff says:

    This barbecue pork burger recipe is amazing! I agree with you, fat is where the real flavor is.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      We ain’t arguing, Jeff. Lovely to hear you tried it and liked it…

  5. Jeff's Plate says:

    This is my heaven! That coleslaw is definitely something else! Instant Droolage!

  6. Faye Dee says:

    Fantastic!!! I have never fixed pork burgers before. I have never been a slaw person either. This is a keeper. Added balsamic vinegar to Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Love to hear it, Faye! Many, many thanks for taking the time to let us know. We’ve heard so many folks say they’re totally hooked on this recipe. Look forward to hearing which recipe from the site you try next…

  7. Muy interesante. Todo este tipo de platos. Me encantan:)

  8. Maggie says:

    Any problem with prepping the patties the night before? Or even freezing for later??

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Maggie, I think that they would be great made the night before. Freezing can sometimes affect the meat’s flavor and texture.

  9. Tara says:

    Do you have the recipe for this burger buns? They look delicious with the pork burger!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Don’t they, Tara? Actually, while we don’t have that specific recipe from the photograph, we do have this burger buns recipe that is off-the-hook exceptional. Trust me. I know plenty of folks who say there’s no going back to store-bought buns—or, for that matter, any other homemade buns—after trying these. Kindly let us know how it goes…!

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