Corned Beef Burgers – 1953

So, last year was… something wasn’t it? This past summer, in the middle of all the rumored shortages and panic buying I bought a few packs of corned beef, since, hey, you never know. And I figured no better time to try out a few more varieties of shelf-stable food. Now, finding recipes to go along with that canned corned beef was another matter. I was hoping for something other than corned beef hash, and after flipping through a cookbook I’d put by the wayside I just happened to find something that drew my curiosity.


  • 1 12-ounce can corned beef, finely chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons catsup
  • Dash of pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 T mayonnaise
  • 6 hamburger buns

:Ingredient note: So, if there’s one way to describe corned beef, it’s ‘salty’. So why this recipe decides to add 1/2 tsp of salt I have no idea. Normally I try to go with the recipe as written, but quite frankly I didn’t want to waste ingredients, so I estimated how much 1/12 tsp of salt would be and added that to one ‘patty’ before cooking.

Okay. So to start with the corned beef has to be… finely chopped. And to that I have to say, seriously? Canned corn beef doen’t ‘chop’ at all – it, at best, crumbles- so I guess we try to finely crumble the corned beef without letting it mush together.

Combine all ingredients except buns (and in this attempt, salt), mix thoroughly and season to taste.

after which you’ll have something with almost the consistency of ultra fatty, squished up, raw hamburger. 

And we shape it into 6 patties- not all that hard but it is messy. Here’s when I added a tiny bit of salt to one patty, so we can see what the original recipe would taste like.

And then grill slowly about ten minutes. And, ladies and gents, welcome to my next hiccup- this is why it’s important to read the instructions ahead of time, focusing on the actual words instead of just skimming through to get the gist. Because my grill hasn’t been… well… grill-ready in oh, about two years. So I heated up a skillet and crossed my fingers.

And, well, maybe ten minutes would have done okay for a grill, but for the stovetop it just didn’t cut it. I ended up standing there for over twenty minutes, watching as the strange pasty circles in the pan bubbled. Yes, bubbled. Almost like pancake batter- though thankfully not that bad. Of course, pancakes eventually set up too, so you know, maybe I would have preferred it if the pancake comparison had been more apt. It still fits for the first attempt at flipping, anyway, since the ‘burgers’ squished to one side and then the other as I tried to get the pink area facing the oven hood facing the heated surface instead. Finally, after about thirteen minutes I got them all turned over- to be faced with this.

Well… that’s something.

Settling into the realization that I had probably just wasted a can of corned beef I sighed and waited for another ten minutes in hopes that the other side would solidify without the blackened layer. After that point I just gave up and, knowing the corned beef was already cooked anyway before being sealed in its oddly shaped tin, scooped the mixture onto a bun, as per the recipes final directions, like a strange half-squishy sloppy joe.

The verdict:

Okay, ‘burger’ this is not. That was clearly either false advertising or a case of corned beef being entirely different in the 1950s. But it’s, strangely, not bad. Not great, but not bad. I didn’t have to fix anything else for lunch, and the only bits that got tossed away was that unfortunate patty that was given the dose of salt. That one was nearly inedible.

It has a weird consistency, though not as mushy as I initially feared. Really, the problem there is there’s not anything to hold the patty together (ketchup and mayo aren’t exactly known as great binding agents). This stuff ends up more like a fine textured sloppy joe more than anything burger related. Additionally, the ratio of corned beef to bun felt a little skimpy (I would have made maybe five patties instead of six), but then I don’t know if you’d want to ingest that much sodium at once… though I later discovered if you soak the meat beforehand that takes care of the saltiness. The recipe recommends serving a slice of tomato or cheese on the ‘burger’ and while the tomato wasn’t bad, the cheese was just about too much.

Appearance –   2.5/5   
Aroma – 4/5
Taste –  3/5 (if salt is omitted or corned beef is soaked)
Texture – 2.5/5

Overall 3/5 – (if the salt is omitted) Not sure I’d eat it again, certainly not if cooked as written. But with some tweaks it would be serviceable, and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it if someone made it for me. And hey, now I know something I can do with a can of corned beef, as long as the salt issue is taken care of.

Corned Beef Burgers

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Rating: ★★★
  • Print
from Parents’ Magazine Family Cookbook, 1953


1 12-ounce can corned beef, finely chopped
4 Tablespoons catsup
Dash of pepper
½ tsp salt
3 T mayonnaise
6 hamburger buns


Combine all of the ingredients, except for the buns, mixing well and seasoning to taste.

Form six patties and grill slowly, for ten minutes or until browned.

Serve on buns with slices of tomato or cheese.

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