It’s time for another installment of my ongoing Overthinking Classics series. If you’re new here, Overthinking Classics is a video series where I dissect beloved dishes, overthink them from every angle, and rebuild them into my version of perfect. I say “my version of perfect” because what you look for in, say, a plate of pasta might be very different than what I look for. Today, I’m tackling the classic cheeseburger. A year-round favorite that really comes into its own in the summer. Pair this bad boy with a milkshake and a side of fries for the full nostalgic experience.
Before we get to the process behind what I consider to be the perfect cheeseburger, let’s talk a little about the sandwich itself. The sandwich’s true origins are hotly contested. Two claims out of California date the cheeseburger back to the mid to late 1920s. While two venues, one in Colorado and one in Kentucky, claim to have invented the sandwich at some point in the 1930s. Regardless of who has the true tale, it’s clear the cheeseburger is an American invention. In fact, this BBQ and Drivethru icon is so popular, that more than 50 billion are consumed every year in the US alone.
While Canada is not as deeply associated with cheeseburgers as the United States is, they are still extremely ubiquitous here as well. And I grew up worshipping them. To me, there is no better combo than a burger and fries on a hot summer day. So without further ado, allow me to walk you through how to make my ideal classic cheeseburger.
Unsurprisingly, this recipe starts with meat. Be sure to select medium ground meat and not lean. Burgers need fat or they become sad and dry. And make sure you treat that ground beef right. When making burgers you should treat your meat like pastry. Handle it as little as possible and keep it chill right up to the minute it hits the grill. We don’t want to melt any of that glorious fat with our hot little hands prematurely. And keep things simple with the seasoning. Think of your patties as you would a steak, salt and pepper are all that’s required. So to sum up, treat your burgers like a pastry steak. Does that make sense?
Once your patties are how you like them, chill them and prep all of your toppings. Now, I really got into the weeds here. Burger toppings are so personal, but when it comes to Overthinking Classics I try to remain as true to, well, the classic as possible. But there is a lot of variation here. For example, I agonized over lettuce. Lettuce! I was torn between using iceberg or romaine, or butter, or green leaf – it was a tough call. I went with the iceberg in the end for the crunch. But I’m still not easy in my decision. Sometimes it’s the simplest recipes that make me waffle the most.
Now, let’s talk about cooking methods. I went with a cast-iron griddle on a charcoal BBQ and I added butter and oil to it. This is admittedly indulgent given the burgers already have a good amount of fat. But do I recommend this method? Absolutely! It yields some pretty fantastic burgers. And we have to talk about the cheese. I used two kinds of cheese. An aged Beemster for the sharpness and a slice of American cheese for the nostalgia and melt-ability. I stand by my cheese choices but you can of course pop any kind of cheese you like on there.
So that’s the cliff notes version of this Classic Cheeseburger. If you have any lingering questions, the lady in the video below will undoubtedly address them. She’s a real talker. I really hope you give these burgers a go. They are quite honestly my new favorite thing to make and, of course, eat.
The Classic Cheeseburger
- 1 cast iron griddle or skillet
- 300g (10.5 oz) medium ground beef
- ½ red onion sliced into half moons
- 1 large tomato sliced
- 1 small head iceberg lettuce torn
- 1-2 dill pickles sliced
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup Aged Gouda finely shredded
- 2 slices American cheese
- 2 sesame seed potato buns
- mustard for serving
- ketchup for serving
- mayo for serving
- Take half of the ground beef and form it into a mound. Place a plate on top and press. Repeat with the remaining half of the ground beef. Create a deep indent in the center of the Patty with your thumb. ** Season with salt and pepper and place the patties in the fridge.
- While the burgers are chilling prep all your toppings and, if necessary preheat your grill. I fill two BBQ baskets with coals on either side of the BBQ and place a cast-iron griddle in the center. I then heated the grill to about 375°F. ***
- Once the griddle is smoking hot, add the butter followed by a tablespoon of olive oil. Add your patties to the griddle and cook for 2-3 minutes a side. When you flip the burgers the first time add the gouda. Cook the burger for a minute more before adding a slice of American cheese. Put the cover on the BBQ and cook for an additional minute.
- Take the burgers off of the griddle and set the aside. Working quickly, rub the buns in the residual butter and burger juice and place them directly over the coals, or over high heat if using a stove. Toast until golden.
- Build your burger to your taste. But here's how I do it. I like to start by adding mustard, ketchup, and pickles to the bottom bun. Then on top of that, I put the first of two installments of lettuce. **** On top of the lettuce I place the burger and top it with onion, tomato, and yet more lettuce. Finally, I take the top bun, slather it with mayo, and place on top. Serve immediately with a side of fries.