Welcome to One Pot Bangers, Benjamin Kemper’s column, where you’ll find our freshest, boldest cooking ideas that require just one pot, skillet, or sheet pan. Busy week? We’ve got you covered with these low-effort, high-reward recipes from around the globe.
When my mom was out of town, my brother and I were stuck with “Dad meals.” Turkey burgers and Bush’s baked beans. Fish and canned corn. Chicken.
But there was one Dad meal that we’d race downstairs for: sloppy joes. The sloppy joe—if you haven’t had the pleasure—is an American dish of gloopy, pebbly beef drenched in sweet-sour sauce and spooned onto a hamburger bun. The ingredients are few, and definitely Dad-approved: ground beef, vinegar, ketchup, bread. The three of us would eat the sandwiches hunched over the counter, our chins glistening with red-orange grease. Sloppy, indeed.
I hadn’t thought about those sloppy joes in decades—until a recipe caught my eye in Myers + Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery. It looked like an absolute bombshell: a Korean riff that called for flank steak, gochujang, sesame oil, and homemade cucumber kimchi. Props to the culinarians out there patient enough to pickle and marinate and pot-watch for hours to make a humble sloppy joe. Me on a Tuesday? No chance. I needed to get dinner on the table.
So I cheated. Paring back chef Joanne Chang’s recipe, I swapped in steak for ground beef and drew on a few tricks of the trade: baking soda in the beef for tenderness, cornstarch in the sauce to rein in the “sloppy,” browned tomato paste for an undertow of umami.
Call it a son meal. I should make it for my dad sometime. I owe him a dinner or two.
- ¾ tsp. tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 lb. 85 percent lean ground beef
- ¾ tsp. cornstarch
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced scallions, plus more for garnish
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
- 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp. gochujang
- 1 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp. ketchup
- 2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
- 2 tsp. fish sauce
- ¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 4 soft rolls, halved, toasted, and buttered
- Kimchi, finely chopped, for topping
- White sesame seeds, for garnish