Do you harbor a not-so-secret nostalgia for Super Mario Brothers? A deep, greasy love for bacon? Do you keep watch for hidden coins and magic mushrooms? Then prove your side-scrolling street cred by taking on an entire army of Koopa Troopas in their final-boss bacon turtle burger form. You don't have to leave home, much less take a ride in a flying castle.
Make these Koopa Troopa Bacon Turtle Burgers for your next game night, with 1Up Mushroom Burgers for the vegetarians, Piranha Plant cupcakes for dessert, and any of these super awesome Mario-themed decorations.
Where did this idea come from? My friend Ishan had seen bacon turtle burgers floating around on the internet, and we decided they clearly needed to be taken to the next level as Koopa Troopas. I've improved the instructions to a) use a normal-sized burger, b) actually look like a turtle, and c) have a sweet (and throwable) Koopa Troopa turtle shell. What could be better?
Step 1: Tools & Ingredients
3 pounds ground beef
burger seasonings of your choice (I used fresh-grated garlic, salt, pepper, and chili powder)
1 pound bacon
1 pack hot dogs
food coloring (your choice of brightly-colored but likely-carcinogenic Red #5 as pictured here, or more natural varieties)
8 hamburger buns (light-colored bread tops best)
paintbrush (for food color application)
baking sheet with sides (to catch fat drips)
baking rack that fits onto your baking sheet (optional but a VERY smart idea)
instant-read meat thermometer (optional but again a VERY smart idea)
Step 2: Prep Ground Beef
Mix your preferred seasonings into your ground beef, then form into roughly 1/3-pound patties. You should get 8-9 patties from 3 pounds of ground beef.
Step 3: Prep Hot Dogs
Cut your hot dogs in half, so you have two half-length cylinders.
Cut one of these cylinders lengthwise into quarters to create 4 legs, then cut two or three slits into the curved end to make toes. They'll curl apart when cooked, and create visibly separate toes.
Cut the other cylinder in half lengthwise. One half will become your turtle's head, and the other its tail. To create the head, trim a bit off the sides to form a neck. Cut a thin V out of the other half for the tail. You'll probably want to cut about 1/3 of the length off both the head and the tail to avoid having to shove so much spare hot dog into the burger.
Arrange hotdog legs, tail, and head around your patty, and re-shape as necessary to create your desired turtle. The legs should be placed at 4 equidistant locations around the burger, with the head and tail placed opposite each other in the middle as shown in picture 2.
Step 4: Insert Hot Dogs
Make a small hole in the burger (with your pinky, a chopstick, or the back end of a wooden spoon) for each piece of hot dog, and gently insert each limb into the burger. Squish the burger back into place to support the hot dog pieces and prevent slippage.
Adjust angle/location as necessary.
Step 5: Wrap In Bacon
Now is the time to get serious: we're wrapping this thing in a basket weave of delicious, greasy bacon. Your 1/3-pound burger will likely require four slices of bacon.
Arrange the four slices of bacon as shown in the first picture above. Note that the bacon slices are arrayed in a grid, with the turtle legs poking out of the four corners and the head/tail poking out between parallel pieces. Overlap slices to begin the basket weave, leaving one long end and one short end in opposing directions.
Now flip your burger: place another plate on top of your burger, flip the plates over, give your (now top) plate a couple of taps to ensure the burger has detatched, and remove the plate. Voila, a perfectly-flipped bacon and burger unit.
Pass the long ends of the bacon over the top of the burger, and weave together as shown in picture 3. Tuck the short ends in as appropriate to match the basket weave.
Flip the turtle burger again, and tuck in any remaining ends to match the existing basket weave pattern. Secure bacon ends and all 6 turtle limbs with toothpicks to prevent unrolling or sliding during the cooking process.
Step 6: Cook
Place on a baking rack inside a baking sheet with enough of a lip to contain any bacon/burger drippings.
Cover delicate leg, tail, and head tips in foil to slow cooking and prevent burning, then cover the entire baking sheet loosely in foil. Be careful not to stab your foil with the toothpicks; instead use them to help tent your foil over the burgers.
Bake at 350F until the burgers reach an internal temperature of 155F as tested with the instant-read thermometer, then remove the top foil (leave the hotdog covers in place) and bake another ~5 minutes to crisp the bacon. You could also hit it with a blowtorch if you like an especially crispy exterior.
Remove from oven, remove remaining foil, and allow burgers to cool/solidify a bit before removing the supporting toothpicks.
Step 7: Decorate Bun
Choose a color for your Koopa's shell, and squirt a bit of food coloring into a small bowl or glass.
Dip your paintbrush in the food coloring*, and paint the top of the bun. Be sure to leave a thin band around the bottom of your bun, just like a real-life Koopa Troopa. Allow to dry fully before serving.
*Again, note that there are lots of options for food coloring. I've used the standard-issue dyes here, but you may choose to use natural food colors instead. My kids don't eat the buns, so this was more for brightly-colored style points.
Step 8: Assemble and Serve
It's time to turn your bacon turtle burger into a Koopa Troopa Bacon Turtle Burger!
Scoot your turtle burger onto the waiting Koopa shell bun. If you're adding lettuce, cheese, mayo, or other condiments, I recommend putting them on the bottom bun to minimize visual interference with the top shell - everyone needs to KNOW this is a Koopa. Take a few pictures, then eat your Koopa Burger, shell and all!
These store and reheat well, but you probably won't need to especially if there are kids around. My little ones ate twice as much as usual (because OMG TURTLE BURGERS!), which has inspired me to make more critter-themed food. Stay tuned for more geeky kid-friendly food!