1947 Burger

Sam Jones Burger Recipe

There were two other barbecue restaurants run by our family members in Ayden when Pete and Robert opened Skylight in 1947. Pete cooked up a great burger. In fact, he served a lot of things that weren’t barbecue, as my dad explains:

They felt like they were competing against two seasoned veterans in the barbecue business in a small town. And so, daddy sold everything. There were hotdogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, ice cream, milkshakes, orangeades—I mean, you name it, he sold everything. Barbecue was still his main squeeze.

If I had to guess, it was probably a plain patty with no seasoning on the flat top. We’re not trying to replicate that, but this is our homage to Skylight and the fact that it didn’t just serve barbecue.

Pete didn’t switch from white bread to buns for the barbecue sandwiches until 1989. I assume he didn’t bother with buns for the burgers at the beginning either. For the burger at Sam Jones BBQ, we use the same bun that the barbecue sandwich is served on, a Martin’s potato roll, but go ahead and try it on two slices of cheap, white bread if you’re yearning for the authentic 1947 experience.


Makes 1 burger


5 ounces (80/20) ground chuck
Dusting of Rub Potion Number Swine
1 slice American cheese, preferably not a plastic-coated single
1 Martin’s potato roll, buttered on the cut sides
Squeeze each of ketchup and yellow mustard
2 slices dill pickle
2 slices red onion
Shredded iceberg lettuce
1 slice tomato


Press the beef into a 41⁄2-inch patty that’s about 1⁄2 inch thick. Place it in a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Season the patty with the rub and cook on one side for about 4 minutes. Flip and season the other side with the rub. Cook until just shy of the desired doneness—about 3 more minutes for medium. Top the burger, still in the pan, with the cheese slice and cook until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute, or less if you use a lid. Grill the cut side of the buttered bun lightly in the same pan while the cheese is melting.

Place the bun on a plate and add ketchup, mustard, and pickles, and then the burger patty on the bottom of the bun. Place the onions, lettuce, and tomato slice on top of the bun and add the top bun. Fold over and enjoy.

Reprinted with permission from Whole Hog BBQ by Sam Jones & Daniel Vaughn, copyright © 2019. Photographs by Denny Culbert. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.