Simple Ingredients Make the Perfect Burger: Palapa Burgers

Published June 6, 2013 by jenmatteson

With our parents, Nate and I went to Belize last year…like last year February 2012, sadly, not this past winter 😦  I did quite a bit of research before we went to get in the know about the best places to go.  The Palapa Bar was highly recommended on Trip Advisor, not only for its excellent, friendly service, beautiful location, the fact that you can float in inner tubes in the ocean while drinks are lowered down to you in a bucket, and that you can leave your mark (if you can find a place to do so), but because of their burgers.  For all reasons listed, we hit this place one of the first days we were there.

Palapa Bar, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Well, we ended up spending the majority of the day here.  A quick recap of notable events: my mom got nice and toasted (and I don’t mean sunburned).My parents enjoying panty rippers at the Palapa Bar

I found a swimsuit twin,

My swim suit twin

we left several marks on the bar,

One of our marks on the bar

My mom's doing...still not sure what it says.

Our mark <3

we floated in inner tubes and had drinks lowered to us,

My dad enjoying his panty ripper in the tube

soaked up the sun,

Nate and I having fun in the sun at the Palapa Bar

and last but certainly not least, we had a burger.  Usually I’d be skeptical and say it was just the atmosphere that made these burgers so delicious, but I must reject that theory.  Why? Because we got the secret recipe from the owner and have made them at home.

Palapa Burgers

That’s right, it’s a very secret recipe that I am about to share with you.  The ingredients are so simple, and there are so few, you might actually think it couldn’t be true.  Well guess what?  It is.

Palapa Burgers

Now, I’m certainly guilty of loading my ground beef with seasoning and onions and whatever else comes to mind before making my patties, but sometimes, you must adhere to KISS (keep it simple sweetheart).  Sometimes adding ingredients is necessary if you’re making a turkey or chicken burger, mostly because they don’t have a lot of flavor alone, nor is there enough fat to keep them juicy.  But sometimes, a plain and simple beef burger is where it’s at!

So, here it goes – I’m giving up the secret ingredients now.  Ground beef (and not that lean crap that’s got no flavor; get the  fatty stuff, like 80/20), salt and pepper.  Yep, that’s it.  Aren’t you sad you didn’t think of this?  Don’t you feel stupid for looking up a burger recipe that is so simple?  Well, don’t.  I like people like you who keep me blogging about the stuff I’m blogging about.  And you trust me to give you good info, and well, this is GREAT info.  Best burger, hands down.

Palapa Burgers

Palapa Burgers

Source: Not at all adapted from The Palapa Bar
Servings: 4


1 lb ground beef
Kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper


1. Preheat grill to medium-high.  Divide beef into four equal parts and shape into patties.  Transfer to plate and season top side generously with salt and pepper.

Here’s a hint: Do you ever suffer from a bloated burger?  You know, when it shrinks in diameter but plumps up in the middle, almost like a slightly flattened meatball?  Well, if you gently press your thumbs into the center of the patty before grilling it, this will prevent the bloated burger, thus making it pretty and fit on your bun (and in your mouth) much easier.

Press thumb into center of patty to prevent burger bloat

2. Once grill is heated, place patties on hottest part of the grill, seasoned side down.  Season the top side of the burgers.  Grill over medium-high heat until you begin to see “burger sweat”.  These are juices that accumulate on the top of the burger.  It’s hard to say how long based on how you like your burger cooked and the temp you are grilling at.  About 5-6 minutes should be efficient for a 1/4 pound burger cooked to medium.  It’s time to flip**.  Grill for 1-2 minutes less than you did the other side.  If you want cheese, add it in the last 1 minute of cooking.  Close the top and cook until cheese is melted.

3. Remove from the grill and do yourself a favor.  Let the burger rest for at least 5 minutes before shoving it down your pie hole.  This will allow the juices to redistribute, making it a flavor explosion in your mouth.  Serve with desired garnishments.

**Two important things about flipping burgers, and more broadly, meat in general. 

1. If you cannot easily get your spatula under it because the meat is sticking to the grates, than guess what?  It’s not time to flip.  Do not, I repeat, do not try flipping it anyway, otherwise your poor burger is going to fall apart.

2. Please note that meat needs, and should be, flipped only once.  Just once.  Two is too many.  None is not enough.  Once.  And stop playing with it on the grill for God’s sake.  It’s already dead and will not play with you back.  Just let it do its thing and enjoy the weather.  The more you move, play with, and flip your meat, the more dry and sucky it will be.  For real.

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