Most food holidays may be faintly ridiculous, but we’ll celebrate any one of them if it means an excuse to eat something delicious (like we need one of those…). September 18 is National Cheeseburger Day, and that means it’s the perfect time to make the ultimate cheeseburger: the Juicy Lucy.
Invented somewhere in Minnesota (exact origins continue to be debated), the Juicy Lucy—or Jucy Lucy—is a cheeseburger that deceives you when you first behold it.
Looking for all the world like a plain beef patty with nary a crumble of blue cheese or shred of cheddar in sight, it actually contains a gooey molten core of cheese stuffed right into the burger that oozes into (and out of ) every bite.
Just because you have beautifully fatty, gooey cheese enriching each morsel, doesn’t mean you can get away with sub-par beef. For a truly juicy, delicious burger, choose a blend of high-quality chuck with at least 15 percent fat, if not 20 percent. Grind your own if you can.
This burger recipe flavors the ground beef with the usual salt and pepper, as well as a bit of garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce. Mix them in with your hands only until everything is combined (doing it with a fork or spoon makes it easier to over-mix and that leads to dry, dense burgers and general despair, so don’t be shy about getting in there).
Beef and Bacon Blend, 2 pounds for $22 at Porter Road
A mix of dry-aged ground beef & pasture-raised bacon makes great burgers. (Spend $75 & get free ground beef while supplies last.)
Related Reading: The Best Meat Delivery Services and Butcher Subscription Boxes
Don’t over-handle the meat when you’re forming the patties either (seriously, you don’t want to toughen it up), and be sure to let the burger rest for a bit once it’s done cooking. Not only does that ensure you don’t burn your face off with lava-like molten cheese, it lets the burger juices redistribute.
American cheese is not fancy, but it is perfect for burgers and the traditional choice for a Juicy Lucy. Nothing melts quite so smoothly—but a close second is a nice cheddar. Just don’t go too fancy with your choice of cheddar or the flavor will overwhelm and the ooze factor won’t be on point (i.e., the aged stuff is best saved for crackers). You can also try a pepper Jack.
If you secretly love American cheese and recognize its superior melting abilities but still just can’t bring yourself to buy it, try a homemade American cheese recipe. (It’s an amalgam of Comté, cheddar, and gouda cheeses, plus sodium citrate and iota carrageenan, and melts like Velveeta.)
In any case, you’ll stuff a thick stack of your chosen cheese between two burger patties and then seal the edges together (don’t leave any gaps or you’ll lose your liquid gold), then cook them on a grill or griddle.
Related Reading: The Best Grilled Cheese You’ve Never Had
This is a simple burger and simple accouterments are called for. We like the sharpness of pickles to cut through the rich meat and cheese, and a basic, soft bun (no need for fancy brioche, and anything too crusty will ruin the soft, gooey perfection of the burger bite, but do lightly toast the cut sides of your bun in butter for the ideal burger vehicle).
Put some ketchup on it if you must, or even mustard. If you’re a lily gilder, top it off with an extra slice of cheese and caramelized onions—maybe even some Russian dressing (sort of an animal style deal).
You can make these on a grill pan or griddle indoors or an actual grill outside if the weather’s holding up where you are; either way, you’re in for a cheesy treat.
- 4 slices American cheese (about 3 ounces)
- 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck (15 to 20 percent fat content), chilled
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Vegetable oil, for oiling the grill
- 4 (4-inch) hamburger buns, split and toasted
- Sliced pickles, for serving
- Cut each slice of cheese in half, then in half again to form 4 squares. Stack the pieces on top of each other to form 4 stacks; set aside.
- Place the meat in a large bowl and add the salt, garlic powder, Worcestershire, and pepper. Mix with your hands until just evenly combined.
- Divide the meat into 8 equal portions and place on a work surface. Using your fingertips, press 2 portions of the meat into 2 rough 1/4-inch-thick patties that are each about 1 inch wider in diameter than the hamburger buns. Place 1 stack of cheese in the center of 1 of the patties. Top with the second patty and pinch the edges to form a tight seal. Cup each patty with your hands to round out the edges, and press on the top to flatten slightly into a single thick patty. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining portions of meat and cheese to form 4 patties in total. Refrigerate while you prepare the grill.
- Heat a grill pan or outdoor grill to medium high (about 375°F to 425°F). When the grill is ready, use tongs to rub the grate with several layers of paper towels dipped in vegetable oil.
- Place the reserved patties on the grill, close the grill, and cook undisturbed (do not press down on the patties) until dark grill marks appear on the bottom, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using a spatula, flip the patties, close the grill again, and cook until grill marks appear on the second side and the patties are cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove to a clean plate and let rest in a warm place or tent loosely with foil for 5 minutes. Place a patty on each bun bottom, top with pickles, and cover with a bun top. Serve immediately.
Lodge Cast Iron Reversible Grill/Griddle, $29.97 on Amazon
Use this for griddle-grilled burgers, but be sure to crank the heat up for a good sear.
Related Reading: How to Make Healthier Fries
Related Video: A Closer Look at the Juicy Lucy