Introduction: Purgatory Burgers

Picture of Purgatory Burgers

This is a recipe for burgers and buns that look like roasted on hellfire...

I got the inspiration for this recipe when I stumbled across an article about a Japanese food trend: Black hot dogs and burgers. The pictures were stunning and I was very intrigued to try to replicate the buns and burgers. The article mentioned the use of bamboo charcoal for the black food. I couldn't find bamboo charcoal here - but came up with an similar solution and I'm pretty happy with the results.

I think these black burgers fit not only for Halloween - I bet you could find use for them at the first of April as well...

Step 1: The Magic Ingredient

Picture of The Magic Ingredient

I couldn't find bamboo charcoal and had no desire to use artificial food color.
So I decided to experiment with medicinal charcoal a.k.a. activated charcoal.

Medicinal charcoal is traditionally used to treat diarrhea and poisonings. In the European Union it is also used as food colorant (known as additive E153). You can buy activated charcoal at the pharmacy.

So far I made the black burgers two times, I used two different products: charcoal tablets and charcoal powder. I bought both at local pharmacies. The recipe worked with both, but I recommend the powdered charcoal, it's easier to handle and also cheaper (50 grams where about six or seven Euros). The tablets also gave the burgers a slightly sandy mouth feel (The tablets consist of charcoal, bentonite and cornstarch, I think the bentonite caused the sandyness...)

When I bought the charcoal I asked the pharmacists about side effects and they told me to keep in mind, that medicinal charcoal could interfere with other medication and cause constipation.
Which means: If you or your guests takes medication you probably should skip the purgatory burgers (or talk to a pharmacist/doctor first)
People with digestive problems probably should as well rather stick to burgers from heaven...

(If you follow the recipe you consume 1,25 grams charcoal in one burger.
- to treat poisoning with charcoal you have to consume 0,5 to 1 gram per kilo of your bodyweight (for example a 150 pound person would have to consume between 35 and 70 grams of charcoal...
- for treating diarrhea the daily dose is 1,5 to 4 grams)

I never had any trouble after eating purgatory burgers (but I never had more than two at a time).
If you are concerned about the effects of charcoal consumption you should ask your pharmacist about it.
These wikipedia articles may give you some information as well: Activated charcoal and Charcoal biscuit

IMPORTANT: Please handle the charcoal powder with care. The charcoal powder/dust shouldn't be inhaled!

ALTERNATIVES: Instructables member hughw99 suggested the use of squid ink instead of charcoal. You may not add additional salt when using squid ink, since it is already salty as he mentions.

Step 2: Bun Ingredients

Picture of Bun Ingredients

The amounts I'm giving here are for just four burgers. You can of course double or triple the amounts if you need more...

To make the burger buns you'll need:

For the dough:
- one and a half and a quarter cup (250 grams) Flour
- one teaspoon dry Yeast
- half a cup (125 ml) of warm Water (not warmer than a hot shower - if the water is hot enough to burn you it will burn your yeast as well)
- one and a half tablespoons of Sugar
- half a teaspoon Salt
- one teaspoon Medicinal Charcoal (2,5 grams) (this equals 10 tablets of the brand I used)
- two tablespoon of Apple juice (or Water)

For the bun topping:
- Black Sesame Seeds

To brush the buns after baking:
- one tablespoon of melted Butter

Step 3: Dough Preparation I

Picture of Dough Preparation I

Put the flour into a bowl.

Mix the warm water, sugar, yeast and salt.

Add the liquid to the flour and let it just sit like this until the next step is performed.

Step 4: Dough Preparation II

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I dissolved the charcoal in a tablespoon of Apple juice (I like the taste, you could use water as well). If you use charcoal tablets you should smash them in a mortal before you dissolve them.

Add the charcoal slurry to the flour in the bowl and mix everything.

Knead the dough for about five minutes (you could use a machine or do it by hand)

Cover the bowl and let the dough rest at a warm spot. Depending on the temperature it takes about an hour for the dough to double in size. (The dough NEEDS to double in size.)

Step 5: Bun Shaping

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When the dough has doubled in size you can continue with the bun preparation process.

Take the dough and knead it again.
Divide it in four parts.
Shape them into buns and place those on a baking sheet, covered with parchment paper.
Wet the buns surface with water and sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top.
Cover them with a clean tea towel and let the buns rest for about 45 minutes.

Step 6: Bake and Add Glow

Picture of Bake and Add Glow

Bake the buns in the preheated oven:

375° F / 190°C for 15 to 20 minutes

You might want to check on them after about 15 minutes. Since they are black it is kind of hard to tell when they are done...

Edit: Instructables member t.rohner made a great suggestion in the comments: Take a part of the uncolored dough to make a white control bun. Bake it together with it's black siblings. On white bun you will easily recognize the browning process and therefore find the right moment to turn off the oven!

Brush the hot buns immediately with some melted butter and let them cool down completely.

Step 7: Black Bean Burger Patties Ingredients

Picture of Black Bean Burger Patties Ingredients

You probably could use the charcoal to colorize real meat - but I've never tried this myself.

I made black bean burger patties for my black buns. I added charcoal to the mashed beans because black bean burgers naturally just have a brown color.
I used dried black beans since I couldn't find canned ones.

You need:

- half a cup of dried black beans
- one teaspoon activated charcoal
- one teaspoon of olive oil to fry the onions and about one tablespoon for frying the patties.
- one onion, diced
- one (or more) cloves of garlic, mashed
- one egg
- two tablespoons of breadcrumbs
- one tablespoon of soysauce
- about one teaspoon each of: ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, powdered paprika and cumin

It seems to me like the charcoal absorbs some saltyness and spicyness - the flavors aren't very intense in these burgers. You might add a little more spiciness to them than you usually would.

Step 8: Black Bean Burger Patties Mixing

Picture of Black Bean Burger Patties Mixing

Meanwhile you can prepare the bean burger meat:
Take half a cup of black beans and cook them in three cups of water until they are done, maybe almost overcooked.
I used a pressure cooker and it took just 30 min but the time very much depends on the beans, it can take up to an hour... and even longer without an pressure cooker

The half a cup of dried beans resulted about one and a half cup of cooked beans.
I use just one cup of cooked beans for the patties.

I mashed the beans with a fork.

I fried the diced onion and the garlic in some olive oil until they started to brown and added them to the bean mush. Then I mixed in all the spices, the egg and breadcrumbs and the charcoal.

This mixture gave me a nice and shapeable dough which I formed into patties.

Step 9: Black Bean Burger Patties Frying

Picture of Black Bean Burger Patties Frying

I fried the patties for about 5 minutes on each side on medium heat.

Step 10: Assembling

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I'm pretty sure you know already how to assemble a burger. So just follow your instincts.

I used tomatoes and lettuce and a fair amount of hot sauce - since I think burgers from purgatory need to be hot ;)

Step 11: Further Reading

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If this instructable sparked your interest in monochromatic food you should read this instructable to get even more inspiration.

Or you could take a look at the work of the fabulous artist Sophie Calle. Her work "Chromatic Diet" is based on monochromatic meals (the rest of her oeuvre isn't about food but well worth to look into!).


chantz1618 (author)2017-01-12

I followed the instructions to the letter. With 1t charcoal, the dough was very light grey, nothing like what the pictures show. I then added 1T charcoal and the buns came out nice and dark, but when I baked them the texture was gritty. It was like eating food with sand in it :( I used activated charcoal that came in the form of a very fine powder (it looked finer than the one in the pic and definitely finer than what you would get by crushing pills). Does anyone have a happy medium that would produce buns that are black, but without the grit?

spunk (author)chantz16182017-01-13

I'm sorry to hear your burgers turned out sandy.

Did you dissolve the charcoal in some liquid before you added it to the flour?

Other than that I have no clue what could have went wrong...

chantz1618 (author)spunk2017-01-16

I did, but charcoal doesn't truly dissolve in water. Even the grey buns (with 1t charcoal powder) tasted sandy. Incidentally, did your buns turn that black with only 1t???

madflower (author)2014-11-16

You should make your own charcoal, or just grind up like chunked charcoal. They sell it for grilling in the states ie not briquets. You want to avoid the binders which is the cornstarch and bentonite clay. :)

spunk (author)madflower2014-11-16

You can avoid the binders by using the charcoal powder instead of the tablets.

I don't think grilling charcoal is really a foodgrade product... But you probably could make your own charcoal like in these instructables here or here.

madflower (author)spunk2014-11-16

I don't think it matters. char is char. I think it is called lump charcoal. The easiest way to do it for a small scale, is to get like a pot with a lid, chunk up pieces of wood and bake it in the fireplace. (you need to let the gas escape as the gases can be dangerous, but you don't want to let air in. Plus you will smoke up the kitchen if you do it in the oven. :) ) You also get tarry residue, so use an old pan or container. The best container I have seen for fireplaces is actually a metal drafting or welding rod tube with the slide on top, and holes poked in one end.

boocat (author)madflower2015-10-29

Well, I think it does matter. By "char is char" I think you mean "carbon is carbon" but "all charcoal isn't the same charcoal." Different substances may be charred. For example, I used to use vine charcoal sticks to draw in art class and we were told they were made from willow sticks and grape vine clippings. But I know wisteria is also used to make drawing charcoals and I wouldn't eat wisteria.

Activated charcoal could have sorbitol in it. That is a sugar alcohol like xylitol. I can't each much of that without it having a laxative effect.

Maybe try checking a reputable medical site like the Mayo Clinic site before you do anything.

I found the following link, too. It presents some information about charcoal the carbon and the after products. Please be careful.

kathy.liu.3720 (author)madflower2015-10-29

Activated charcoal is pure carbon and is heavily processed to remove inpurities. Heavily burnt substances can have dangerous carcinogens like acrylamide. Commercially sold grilling charcoal cab have petroleum substances. So these would be removed in the process of making pure carbon charcoal.

ThisIsMyNameOK (author)madflower2014-11-17

Oh, goodness, no! Please do not make your own charcoal, or grind up regular charcoal for cooking, and mix it with food. That could be very unhealthy. Even the activated charcoal can be dangerous, as pointed out here in this Insteuctable.

You can make activated charcoal, which I suppose would be as edible as the kind sold in drug stores. But you would have to be very, very careful to make sure that it is safe.

boocat (author)2015-10-29

I read some place that they use squid ink in these burgers.

roflcakevortex (author)2015-05-29

why isn't this called Burgatory?

spunk (author)roflcakevortex2015-06-02

good point :)

hotvedt (author)2014-11-21

Another warning about charcoal powder: It may be somewhat explosive if spread in air. Have this in mind and take precautions while grinding etc.

Cool looking burger, no doubt.

stephanie.l.pyke (author)hotvedt2014-11-21

to be far, flour is also explosive if spread in the air ;)

hotvedt (author)stephanie.l.pyke2014-11-21

Indeed. I just felt the need to mention it, because I once had a small mishap while grinding charcoal that I was going to use as colorant in soap. It seems, however, a little more "aggressive" than ordinary flour.

drewbaee (author)2014-11-19

I'm pretty sure the black coloring from the Japanese burgers are squid ink buns

It's both squid ink AND bamboo charcoal

eruger (author)drewbaee2014-11-21

That's what I figured, just like gourmet black pasta. Btw, people will say that squid ink is flavorless, but I can taste it, and like the mild zing it adds.

HandiGirl (author)2014-11-18

Thankyou for your e-mail. Referring to the burger from Hell, I read the instructable very quickly. Thankyou for your info.....but, even so, isnot charcoal flavoured buns, toxic? Charcoal is composed of burnt bits of wood pieces, isn't that so?

eruger (author)HandiGirl2014-11-21

Activated charcoal is basically pure carbon. About as non-toxic as it gets.

eruger (author)eruger2014-11-21

Other charcoal may not be non-toxic though. Briquettes, for example often have petroleum additives to make them more durable in shipping and easier to light. Most charcoal is also only partially carbonized, so it's still full of compounds from the original material as well as byproducts from the first time it was burned to make charcoal of it. The process of producing activated charcoal however, is specifically engineered to remove almost every single atom of anything but carbon from the material. It's one of the most elementally pure substances created by man.

immaculatelation (author)2014-11-18

I bet this would look even more stunning with Red Velvet lettuce & Cherokee Purple or black tomatoes.

astrong0 (author)2014-11-17

Squid ink.......... which means that there is some unfortunate soul who has to harvest the ink from squids (Or just squid? pretty sure its squids).

mikeasaurus (author)2014-11-16

You totally beat me to it! I was planning on making these black burgers soon, yours look good! I'll be using your Instructable when I make mine!

spunk (author)mikeasaurus2014-11-17

I see a huge demand for a squid ink burger 'ible :)

And I insist on a "I made it" reply!

stevenvachon (author)2014-11-16

So, what's a burger from hell, then? Cheesey and spicy?

spunk (author)stevenvachon2014-11-16

:) Since they don't contain any Alliterations they may taste a little blander then those from purgatory...

stevenvachon (author)spunk2014-11-16

Grammar ain't gonna make our food taste good :P

spunk (author)stevenvachon2014-11-17

The sizzle sells the steak ;)

sdelgadillo (author)2014-11-17

Stupid question here....
Does the charcoal mess with the flavor?? Specially the buns I guess...

spunk (author)sdelgadillo2014-11-17

The charcoal doesn't really add a specific flavor to the bun and burger (at least I'm not able to detect it).

But I had the impression the burgers lost some salty- and spicyness due the charcoal. I really liked the buns, the taste was just fine.

Eh Lie Us! (author)sdelgadillo2014-11-17

I was wondering the same thing.

porschef (author)2014-11-17

All that bkack food stuff in the crevaces of your

spunk (author)porschef2014-11-17

I'd say that would be perfect for Halloween - Unfortunately neither teeth nor kitchen utensils get stained by the charcoal.

kudzu63 (author)2014-11-17

Cool idea. 'Cept the whole visual appeal thingy. LOL That's why green ketchup never made it I guess.

thePrimativ (author)2014-11-17

Squid ink is also used and I think it would be better than eating charcoal

GlennT2 (author)2014-11-16

A word of caution to those taking any medication; there are nearly 1,700 medications that are affected by the use of charcoal tablets, I would be cautious with any quantity in food. Please feel free to research this online; interaction lists are available online. Charcoal is used in an ER setting for drug overdoses; charcoal acts as a filter and filters out toxins, including any medications you may be taking. I would find use some other means to obtain the black coloration.

nliwilson (author)GlennT22014-11-17

I'm heavily medicated for severe pain and I shouldn't use activated charcoal as I'm on slow release medication.

wobblycogs (author)2014-11-17

You could add a slice of black pudding to that burger as well for added blackness, assuming of course you aren't squeamish about eating black pudding.

rint (author)2014-11-16

looks great! Butt is it healthy? And do you tast the charcoal?

nomesy81 (author)2014-11-16

you could also just use black food dye. Yes, they make it. it's commonly used to dye fondant in baking...

bettina-sisr (author)2014-11-16

Awesome! I love this, and if you look up what most prepackaged foods look like before they're colored you'll find that this (by comparison) looks delicious! Re: squid ink, when I was a kid and I swam too close to them (on purpose) I would get "inked", of course I loved it!

Homee2010 (author)2014-11-16

I think this is way cool. Going in my "saved" folder for use next summer!!!!

HandiGirl (author)2014-11-16

Inspiring photo....full of contrast .......but , I hope you didnot ingest this black thing....overly cooked carbohydrates and overly cooked proteins are sources for cancer in the GIT (gastro intestinal tract) ...just speaking as a nutritional scientist.

Homee2010 (author)HandiGirl2014-11-16

HandiGirl, I think you missed the point here. It's the CHARCOAL that makes the burger look black, not from grilling it to hockey-puck doneness....

fixfireleo (author)2014-11-16

who, these days, isnt on 6 different meds?

spunk (author)fixfireleo2014-11-16

Me :) and apparently a bunch of japanese people...

t.rohner (author)2014-11-16

I just made black grissinis a couple of times.

To control the baking process, i divide the dough in two parts and add charcoal only to half the dough and bake it together.

I bought my charcoal powder for 10 Euros for 1000g.

spunk (author)t.rohner2014-11-16

That's a great tip! I'll include it in the instructable. Thank You!

As others have said, squid ink. Here in Asia you can buy black pasta, black carbonara sauce, black bread, and, of course ink, all made from squid ink. Never had the desire to try it myself, but that's just me.

About This Instructable




Bio: I like to divert stuff from its intended use. Most of my crafting is based on re-use and recycling due to my urge to use ... More »
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