Generally speaking, there are two kinds of cheeseburgers: First, what we’ll call the classic melter, where you plop a slice of cheese on top of a just-flipped patty. And second, the Juicy Lucy, a midwestern approach where cheese gets stuffed inside the raw patty, only to ooze out after being cooked and cut, like a chocolate lava cake. This Big Little Recipe is neither. Instead, grated cheese gets mixed right with the ground beef, so the two can become one. When given the ultra-quick smashburger treatment—I used J. Kenji Lopéz-Alt’s Genius method as a launching pad—the cheese not only melts throughout the burger patty, but it creates a crispy, crackly, cheesy crust, just like a frico.
Now, when it comes to bread and toppings, I’m of the belief that burgers are a choose-your-own-adventure sandwich, which means you get to lead the way. I’m loyal to barely-toasted, squidgy English muffins, iceberg lettuce, bread-and-butter pickles, and mustard-mayo. But maybe you prefer a potato bun or pretzel roll or buttery brioche. Maybe you want avocado and tomato, or bacon and kimchi, or no toppings at all. It’s all good. Just make sure that you eat this right away, when the cheese is still warm and melty. It goes without saying that this scales up easily—just keep in mind that each beef ball needs its own space to smash and brown, so use a big enough pan or multiple pans as needed. —Emma Laperruque
1 double cheeseburger
ground beef (I used 15% fat)
1 1/2 ounces
sharp cheddar, grated (about ½ cup)
English muffin, potato bun, or brioche roll
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Your pick of condiments and toppings (see Author Notes)
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.
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.
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.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.