The much-needed comfort food to get through the coronavirus lockdown

These newfangled cheeseburgers are are a better way

Published April 4, 2020 4:29PM (EDT)

Prop stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food stylist: Samantha Senevirante. (Julia Gartland/Food52)
Prop stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food stylist: Samantha Senevirante. (Julia Gartland/Food52)

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Where I'm from in New Jersey, a cheeseburger means one thing and one thing only — cheese melted on top of a burger — and such seems to be the consensus everywhere else. As Merriam-Webster defines it, a cheeseburger is "a hamburger topped with a slice of cheese." My dad likes to call his a "cheddar-burger," so there's no room for confusion, while others call it a "quarter-pounder with cheese" or a "Royale with cheese". But in any case, the technique is the same.

If you head midwest, you'll meet another sort of cheeseburger, though it goes by a different name: Juicy Lucy (or Jucy Lucy, depending on who you ask). According to FoodStoned:

There's an amazing thing that happens when the cheese is set inside the beef instead of on top. The hot beef fat dripping onto a highly meltable cheese (American being the optimal choice here) results in a molten concoction that brings danger onto unsuspecting mouths, but immense amounts of joy to those who display patience.


Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food stylist: Samantha Senevirante.

Today, we'll be making a cheeseburger, but not with cheese on top, or stuffed inside. Instead, the cheese will be anywhere and everywhere — and, really, why haven't we been doing this all along?

Here's the gist: Mix ground beef with grated cheese. Roll into meatballs (cheeseballs? cheese-meatballs?). Get a cast-iron skillet roaring hot, add the balls, and smash them into oblivion with a sturdy spatula. Wait two shakes of a lamb's tail, flip, and crack open a beer.

You might recognize this as the Genius smashburger method a la J. Kenji López-Alt. As our Genius captain Kristen Miglore explains it, "If you smash your burger as soon as it hits the skillet — while the meat and fat are still cold — there won't be any juices (yet) to lose. You'll maximize the points of contact with the raging hot pan, so it all sears into a salty, beefy crust."


Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food stylist: Samantha Senevirante.

In this case, that turns into a salty, beefy, cheesy crust. As the patty cooks in the skillet, the cheese starts to brown and crisp, forming a crackly, frico-like exterior, while the inside turns melty and gooey. I like cheddar best, though this can certainly be swapped for another semi-firm variety, depending on what you have in stock. Think: Gruyère, provolone, young gouda or asiago.

As with any burger, the bread and toppings are totally up to you. I'm usually partial to a chewy English muffin, mustard-mayo, bread-and-butter pickles, and a tuft of iceberg. But these days, I'm partial to whatever is in my kitchen. And if there's a forgotten bag of French fries somewhere in the freezer to go with? Even better.

Cheesiest Cheesburgers

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 2 minutes

Makes: 1 double cheeseburger


  • 4 ounces ground beef (I used 15% fat)
  • 1 1/2 ounces sharp cheddar, grated (about ½ cup)
  • 1 English muffin, potato bun, or brioche roll
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Your pick of condiments and toppings 


  1. Add the ground beef and grated cheddar to a bowl and gently combine by hand until they're totally incorporated. Divide in half and roll into two balls.
  2. If you want a toasty bun, toast it now. Then treat to whatever condiments and toppings you're into (see Author Notes), so your bun is at-the-ready as soon as the patties come out of the pan.
  3. Turn on the hood of your stove. Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat until it's super hot and starting to smoke. Add the cheesy beef balls, evenly spaced out, then smash with a metal spatula until they're slightly wider than the bun you're using (figure about 3½ inches in diameter), and immediately season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, confidently scrape-and-flip, then cook for another 45 seconds. Stack the patties on top of each other, transfer to the bun, close up, and serve on the immediate.

By Emma Laperruque

MORE FROM Emma Laperruque

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Cheeseburgers Comfort Food Food52 Recipes