The Best Umami Burger Recipe

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The Umami burger boasts mushrooms, onions, parmesan disks and the signature umami ketchup.
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In “Year of the Cow,” author Jared Stone buys a cow and gets to know his steer, while taking a deeper look at our diets and eating habits.
1 hr 30 min COOK TIME
30 min PREP TIME


    Umami ketchup

    • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 large white onion, diced
    • 1 ⁄ 2 cup cider vinegar
    • 1 ⁄ 3 cup packed dark brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
    • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
    • 2 teaspoons tamari
    • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 5 anchovy fillets, finely chopped and mashed to a paste

    Caramelized onion

    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    • 1 large white onion, sliced

    Roasted tomatoes

    • 6 plum tomatoes
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil

    Shiitake mushrooms

    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, finely diced

    Parmesan disks

    • 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded

    The burger

    • 1 pound ground beef
    • Kosher salt
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    • 4 good-quality hamburger buns


    • Wire coat hanger (optional)
    • Needle-nose pliers (optional)
    • The patience of a saint


    • To make the umami ketchup, begin by pureeing the tomatoes in a blender until smooth.
    • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan until shimmery, then add the onion. Cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and slightly translucent but not browned. If you hear sizzling, lower the heat.
    • Pour the pureed tomatoes into the saucepan, along with the vinegar, brown sugar, tomato paste, and salt. Slide this pan to a back burner, uncovered, and leave it alone to simmer gently over low heat for 1 hour. We’ll come back to this later to add the rest of the ingredients. Don’t let it boil vigorously — it can watch you cook, but it shouldn’t comment.
    • To make the caramelized onion, begin by melting the butter over low heat in another skillet (cast iron is nice), then add the onion. Let it cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 45 to 60 minutes, until brown, sexy, and wildly caramelized. (Again, if they make noise, turn down the heat.)
    • While the onions are caramelizing, make the roasted tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
    • Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and lay them cut side up on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with the oil and roast in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until they’ve shriveled and are beginning to caramelize. Be prepared for smoke.
    • Pull the roasted tomatoes from your oven and stash them somewhere out of the way to cool.
    • Knock your oven temp down to 300 degrees F.
    • After 1 hour, remove the pureed tomatoes from the heat of your back burner. Add the oyster sauce, tamari, Worcestershire sauce, and anchovies to the tomato mixture. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth.
    • Fill a large steel bowl (or sink, or something similar) with icy water to create an ice bath. Stash the ketchup saucepan in the ice bath to cool, making sure the water from the bath remains below the lip of the pan so water doesn’t flood in and wreck the ketchup. When the ketchup is at about room temperature, move it to the fridge until ready to serve. (How are those onions from step 4 doing? Don’t forget about them.)
    • To make the shiitake mushrooms, begin by melting the butter in a skillet over low heat (it can be the same one used for the onions if they’re done already), then add the mushrooms. Cook over medium heat for about 7 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender. Set aside.
    • To make the Parmesan disks, begin by folding a piece of aluminum foil into a sturdy strip and wrapping it around the circumference of a hamburger bun. Fold the ends over each other to make a bun- sized circular mold. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and drop your aluminum mold on top. Sprinkle the Parmesan into your mold, forming a disk of grated Parmesan the exact diameter of your hamburger bun and about 1⁄8 inch thick. Repeat three more times — creating four disks total.
    • Slip the sheet pan (making sure to keep it level!) into your oven, which should now be at about 300 degrees F. Bake these little disks for about 10 minutes, until just golden and transformed into tiny cheese Frisbees. Set aside. They should still be pliable when you pull them from the oven and will harden as they cool. If your onions are done, pull them from the heat and set aside.
    • Finally! The beef! Season the meat with a heavy pinch of salt and divide it into four patties, using the same mold you used for your Parmesan crisps for size.
    • Cook the burgers on (preferably) a cast-iron griddle or a grill over high heat for about 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Under no circumstances should you press down on the burgers with a spatula while they’re cooking. It’s bad for your soul. When the burgers have finished cooking, set them aside to rest.
    • Butter the hamburger buns. Don’t be shy: Spread the butter to the very edge of the bun — it’ll help them brown evenly. Drop the buns, butter side down, onto the griddle or grill for a few minutes, until they’ve reached the appropriate level of toasted Maillard-y glory. Badass move: Brand your buns. Straighten out a plain wire coat hanger. Remove any and all nonmetal pieces from the hanger and fold the end into either the shape of your initial or that of your guest. Then bend the wire 90 degrees (needle-nose pliers help), so that the letter is perpendicular to the rest of the wire’s length. You’ve just created a branding iron. Stash it in a 400 degrees F oven for 20 minutes, or until hot. Be careful. Using oven gloves (duh), remove your branding iron and brand the top half of each bun.
    • Take a deep breath. You’re about to eat. Bring out all the toppings and accoutrements from hiding and get ready to assemble the burger.
    • First place the bottom half of a bun in the center of a large plate. On top of this bun, smear some umami ketchup and then place a beef patty. Next comes the Parmesan crisp, a few mushrooms, a few tomato halves, and some onion. Place the top half of the bun on top, being careful not to press down.
    • Serve, enjoy, and bask in richly deserved adulation.

      More from Year of the Cow:

      History of Angus Cattle
      Excerpted from Year of the Cow: How 420 Pounds of Beef Built a Better Life for One American Family. Copyright © 2015 by Jared Stone. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Buy this book from our store: Year of the Cow.

    Award winning producer Jared Stone presents his informative adventure after buying an Angus cow direct from the rancher in Year of the Cow (Flatiron Books, 2015). Stone explores the consumption habits of previous generations. While working his way through his cow, he becomes more mindful of his diet and bravely confronts challenges with a humorous attitude.

    You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Year of the Cow.

    Umami Burger, a restaurant that originated in Los Angeles, makes what is in my opinion one of the best burgers on the planet. This is an approximation of their signature sandwich. It isn’t the same, but it’s close.

    To make a good burger, you need good ground beef. You have several options:

    (a) Use ground beef from the supermarket. Get 80/20 ground chuck if they have it.

    (b) Grind your own. Run 85 percent chuck and 15 percent sirloin through a hand grinder or the grinder attachment on your stand mixer.

    (c) Use already ground beef from your meat share or grass- fed steer. This is what I did.

    If you’d like to prove yourself a true badass, you can brand the buns. See instructions below.