is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

The Ultimate Umami Bomb Burger

Umami bomb burger

Win the burger game by amping up the umami.

Scientists tell us that the tongue can sense only five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. Everything else is technically called aroma and is sensed by the olfactory sensor above the nose. Together, taste and aroma give us flavor. Umami (pronounced ooh-MAH-mee) is a savory taste found in tomatoes, mushrooms, cheeses, soy sauce, and meats. The sensation is caused by an amino acid named glutamate, and monosodium glutamate (MSG) is probably the best known umami enhancer. MSG is readily available at grocery stores under the brand name Ac’cent. Click here for more about this controversial product. I like to dust steaks, burgers and ribs with MSG to amp up the flavor. It’s subtle, but people notice. For example, I advised a struggling neighborhood BBQ team to goose up their ribs with a little MSG, and they immediately began bringing home trophies.

When it comes to umami, it doesn’t get any better than a big juicy hamburger, grilled just right and loaded with your favorite toppings. So when I heard of a restaurant called Umami Burgers, I was intrigued. The task of taking a popular taste sensation to a new, higher level fascinated me. Since no Umami Burger restaurants were in my vicinity, I resolved to make my own umami burger.

Although MSG leapt to the top of my experimental ingredients list, it is only a flavor enhancer and not big enough to overtake the already powerful flavors of essential burger elements like cheese, tomatoes and bacon. How then to create a recipe worthy of the name Umami Burger? After noodling with a variety of possibilities (some delicious like gruyere cheese sauce; others wacky like mixing dried portabello mushrooms into the meat), I gravitated toward more common ingredients. The usual suspects of bacon and tomatoes made the cut in my final recipe, but the secret sauce that pushes this burger over the top is Umami Mayo. And just to mess with your taste buds, I added spicy, sweet, crisp pickles for contrast.

There are many ways to cook hamburgers, and Meathead’s reverse sear method for Steakhouse Steakburgers is one of the best, giving you thick, extra juicy burgers. Although nothing about this recipe is difficult, there are several moving parts that have to come together at the same time. I recommend that you read the recipe all the way through once to get an idea of how the burger is put together. This is an important cooking concept the French call mise en place. Loosely, it means, “put everything in its place.” If you’re easily distracted, like me, prep the ingredients before grilling the burgers so you don’t burn them.

Also, you absolutely must use an instant read digital thermometer here to nail the safe and juicy internal meat temp of 160°F. Click here to read our Reviews and Ratings of Thermometers. If you ignore this warning and try to go by color or the touch test alone, raw meat or stiff hockey pucks may await you.

Double Whammy Umami Burger Recipe

Umami bomb burger
Tried this recipe?Tell others what you thought of it and give it a star rating below.
3.58 from 21 votes
Ingredients like bacon, Parmesan cheese, and Ac'cent amp up the savory umami taste in this burger recipe.

Serve with: an IPA.

Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Difficulty: Moderate


Servings: 4 Umami Burgers


Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 5 minutes


Bacon BBQ Sauce

  • 8 to 12 slices bacon, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 cup tomato based mild BBQ sauce such as my own Black Swan Sweet Cognac Sauce or KC Classic BBQ Sauce
  • 2/3 cup prepared mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano not the tasteless sawdust in a green tube
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Vegetables and Buns

  • 16 crisp cold bread and butter sweet pickle chips (from the refrigerated deli)
  • 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 leaves bibb lettuce, washed
  • 4 slices raw red onion, about 1/8" thick
  • 4 slices ripe tomato, about 1/4" thick
  • 4 Kaiser or brioche buns, lightly toasted


  • 2 pounds ground meat (such a beef chuck and/or short rib at 20% to 30% fat)
  • 2 teaspoons Morton's kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon MSG (Ac'cent)
About the BBQ sauce. Whatever sauce you use, make sure it is tomato based and not just flavored corn syrup. Tomatoes are a great source of umami in this recipe.
About the MSG. Produced commercially since the early 1900s, MSG has gained popularity throughout the world as a flavor enhancer. Although never scientifically proven, many believe MSG causes headaches. If it bugs you, leave it out because this recipe has many other sources of the savory fifth taste. However, I am a believer that when it comes to big messy burgers, more is more. If you agree, don't forget the MSG. Learn more at our Glossary of Cooking and BBQ Lingo.
About the salt. Remember, Morton coarse kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.
Metric conversion:

These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page


  • Prep. Make and prep all the toppings ahead of time, including the Bacon BBQ sauce, Umami Mayo, the veg, and the toasted buns. You want everything ready, so the burgers can be assembled as soon as the meat is finished cooking.
  • For the bacon BBQ sauce, begin by cooking the bacon in a covered pan over low heat until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon or tongs and drain on paper towels. Discard the grease from the pan and quickly wipe out the pan with paper towels. Return the bacon to the pan and pour in the BBQ Sauce. Heat the bacon and sauce over low heat, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir now and then to prevent any sticking. Cover the pan and leave the bacon sauce on the stove.
  • For the umami mayo, whisk together the mayo, Parmesan, and mustard. Cover and refrigerate until needed. You can also make the mayo up to 2 days ahead.
  • To make the spicy sweet pickle chips, combine the pickle chips and red pepper flakes in a bowl, stirring thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until needed. You can also make these up to 2 days ahead.
  • Prep the lettuce, tomato and onion, cover and keep them in the fridge until needed, up to 2 hours.
  • Divide the meat into four 8-ounce portions. Gently form the meat into patties that are approximately 1/2-inch wider than the bun to allow for shrinkage during the cooking process. Sprinkle salt and MSG on each side. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
  • Fire up. Prepare a grill for How to Control Temperature with Indirect Cooking and The 2-Zone Setup for BBQ by placing a chimney full of pre-heated charcoal briquets on one side of the grill's charcoal grate in order to create direct and indirect cooking zones. Adjust the grill vents to bring the temperature to about 225°F on the indirect side. Add 2 to 3 chunks of your favorite smoking wood to the charcoal for flavor. On a gas grill, adjust the temperature knobs so that one half of the grill is off and the other half is heated enough to maintain a temperature of approximately 225°F on the indirect side.
  • Lightly toast the inside of the buns over direct heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and slather 2 to 3 tablespoons Umami Mayo inside both the top and bottom buns. Put the bottom buns on a serving platter and the top buns off to the side. On each of the bottom buns, place 1 slice of red onion topped with 4 spicy sweet pickle chips.
  • Cook. Place the burgers on the indirect side of the grill. Cover the grill, positioning the vent directly above the burgers in order to force the smoke over and around the meat. Cook the patties for about 10 minutes. Push the tip of a rapid-read thermometer such as the Thermapen into the side of both burgers. When the temperature reaches 105°F, flip the burgers, and cook for approximately 10 minutes more. Because the burgers are not over direct heat, you do not need to flip them often.
  • When the burgers are about 20°F below the final doneness temp you want (see's award winning Food Temperature Guide), get ready to move them to the direct-heat zone. If you are on a gas grill, crank it up to high. If you have a pellet cooker or another grill that doesn't have enough radiant heat to sear, put a cast iron pan or griddle in there: when the griddle collects a lot of heat, it can do the job.
  • Put the burgers on the direct heat side to brown them. Leave the lid up so the heat is concentrated on one side of each burger. If the fire flares up, move the burger to another spot because flare ups can deposit bad-tasting soot. Flip the meat every minute, acting like a human rotisserie, so all the energy is focused on one surface at a time. The interior will warm, but not too much. Remove the burgers when browned and the interior reaches 5°F below the desired doneness temperature. Don't overcook them while waiting for the second side to be perfect. If one side is paler than the other, that's acceptable.
  • Serve. When the burgers reach the desired internal doneness, place one patty on each of the pre-assembled bottom buns. Give each burger a grinding or two of coarse ground black pepper. You salt fiends should hold off on "salting to taste" because these babies pack quite a savory wallop as is. Top each patty with a generous spoonful of Bacon BBQ sauce, 1 slice of tomato, 1 piece of lettuce and an umami mayo slathered top bun. Whammy!

Related articles

Published On: 2/21/2018 Last Modified: 4/24/2021

  • Max Good - Max Good,'s Vice President of Product Reviews & Keeper of the Flame, is the man in charge of finding the best products for the Equipment Reviews section. Max bottles his own barbecue sauce recipes and now sells them around the country.

If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and much more!

Millions come to every month for quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 4,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner like TV network or a magazine publisher to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club, but please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get 21 great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial membership, and help keep this site alive.

Post comments and questions below


1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.



Click for comments...


These are not ads or paid placements. These are some of our favorite tools and toys.

These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys:

Bring The Heat With Broil King Signet’s Dual Tube Burners

3 burner gas grill

The Broil King Signet 320 is a modestly priced, 3-burner gas grill that packs a lot of value and power under the hood. Broil King’s proprietary, dual-tube burners get hot fast and are able to achieve high, searing temps that rival most comparatively priced gas grills. The quality cast aluminum housing carries a Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Click here to read our complete review

The Efficiency Of A Kamado Plus The Flexibility Of The Slow ‘N Sear Insert

kamado grill
Built around SnS Grill’s patented Slow ‘N Sear charcoal kettle accessory, this 22-inch kamado is a premium ceramic grill that brings true 2-zone cooking to a kamado.

Click here for our article on this exciting cooker

The Pit Barrel Cooker May Be Too Easy

The PBC has a rabid cult following for good reason. It is absolutely positively without a doubt the best bargain on a smoker in the world. Period. This baby will cook circles around the cheap offset sideways barrel smokers because temperature control is so much easier.

Click here to read our detailed review and the raves from people who own them

Compact Powerful Sear Machine For Your Next Tailgater

Char-Broil’s Grill2Go x200 is a super-portable, fun little sizzler made of heavy, rust-proof cast aluminum. The lid snaps shut. Grab the handle and you’re off to the party! Char-Broil’s TRU-Infrared design produces searing heat while reducing fuel consumption. A 16 ounce LP gas canister is enough to keep you flipping burgers for hours.

Click here to read our detailed review and to order

Is This Superb Charcoal Grill A Kamado Killer?

The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, this rust free, cast aluminum charcoal grill is durable and easy to use. Four-way venting means it’s easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is beautifully designed, completely portable, and much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than any round kamado.

Click here to read our detailed review of the PK 360

Click here to order directly and get an exclusive deal

The Undisputed Champion!

Thermapen One Instant Read Thermometer

ThermoWorks’ Thermapen ONE provides an accurate reading in one second or less. The ONE also includes features that are common on high-end instruments: automatic backlight, rotating display, and water resistant seals. Don’t accept cheap substitutes.
Click here to read our comprehensive Platinum Medal review

GrillGrates Take Gas Grills To The Infrared Zone

GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, kill hotspots, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke.

Click here for more about what makes these grates so special