We were actually a little indignant when we discovered the Oklahoma onion burger. We have eaten a lot of burgers. A lot of great burgers in a lot of regional styles. How could we have spent all those decades eating burgers, enjoying burgers, talking about how much we love burgers, without someone from Oklahoma speaking up about this incredible thing that we've been missing? Are you trying to keep it a secret or something, Oklahoma?? Well, we're about to let the secret out.
The Oklahoma onion burger, for the uninitiated (like us, thank you very much) is a burger patty with thin slices of onion smashed right into the meat. The burger meat and onions cook together, infusing meat with onion and onion with meat, until the burger is cooked, the onions are caramelized and darkly crispy and the burger Gods are pleased. Sounds amazing right? We pretty much need to eat one immediately.
The onion burger was invented (according to one legend) at the Hamburger Inn in Ardmore, Oklahoma by a man named Ross Davis. Some of the most famous and popular onion burgers today, come from Sid's Diner in El Reno, OK. Owner Marty Hall told Serious Eats his version of the invention of the Oklahoma onion burger:
It was back in the twenties, back during the Depression. Onions were cheap then and hamburger meat was expensive. Same as it is now. But we were a lot poorer then. So Ross came up with this idea of adding onions to the burgers and smashing them into the meat with the back of his spatula. He called them Depression burgers and he'd smash a half-onion's worth of shreds into a five-cent burger...
In case you can't quite picture a half-onion's worth of shreds being smashed into a burger patty, check out this video from Johnnie's Grill, another El Reno onion burger institution.
That's a lot of onions, you guys. A lot of onions that are definitely going to get smashed into our burgers, maybe from now on. Still having trouble picturing it? Get the Sid's Onion Burger recipe from Saveur. Happy smashing!