The Juicy Lucy – the Ultimate Cheese Stuffed Burger

The Juicy Lucy (or Jucy Lucy), the iconic cheese stuffed burger, is a Minnesota thing, you betcha! Two rival Minnesota bars, Matt’s and the 5-8 Tavern have been making these for decades, but recently the cheese stuffed burger has gone all gourmet and with good reason. There’s something about a great crusty burger with an ooey, gooey, cheesy filling that just puts all other cheeseburgers to shame.

Juicy Lucy - The ultimate cheese stuffed burger - btw - never cut in half! For display purposes only!
Juicy Lucy – The ultimate cheese stuffed burger – btw – never cut in half! For display purposes only!

While the Juicy Lucys and various Minnesota restaurants that make them have been featured on several shows, I credit Food Wars and Diners Drive Ins and Dives for their recent popularity. Guy Fieri has featured  The Nook and the Blue Door Pub on his show, both who do upscale versions, and now I see recipes everywhere.

Here’s how to make a great one, from a Minnesotan, with all the tricks and tips you really need to know. I’m even going to say these are BETTER than any restaurant I’ve mentioned in the Twin Cities – I know, because I’ve tried them all. You just can’t beat the care you can put into your own when you make them at home!

This isn't just any steakhouse style burger - This is a Juicy Lucy - with hot, melty cheese inside!
This isn’t just any steakhouse style burger – This is a Juicy Lucy – with hot, melty cheese inside!

The cost, too, is a pittance of what you pay for one when eating out, although these are big burgers and not the cheapest to make. Let’s just say no one will want seconds! Serve up with an inexpensive side; my crispy Stupid Simple Sweet Potato Fries or Bomb Baked Potato Wedges would be great here. If you’re going wild, maybe my Vidalia Onion Rings with a Chili Lime Dipping Sauce.

Check out Aldi when they have their ground beef on sale ($2.89 a pound – don’t use the chub packs; they have beautiful ground beef in the refrigerator section) and don’t forget to pick up your “fancy” cheese  there. It’s always a bit hit and miss, but they have some great prices. I do like to shop elsewhere for my buns – in many stores the bakery versions are less than the prepackaged ones that you’ll find hanging out with the bread.

Juicy Lucy - look at this gorgeous crust - it's the salt and cast iron pan!
Juicy Lucy – look at this gorgeous crust – it’s the salt and cast iron pan!
The Recipe and Method:

Use 8 ounces of ground beef and 1 to 2 ounces of cheese per person. Use a good, fatty ground beef. 75 to 80 percent. It minimizes the chances of leakage and let’s face it, you’re eating a half pound of beef with a couple of ounces of cheese – why worry about health at this point, eh?

First of all, don’t smash your ground beef with a skillet, don’t smash the middle down after it’s formed, and don’t be tempted to work seasonings into the beef itself – I’ve seen these techniques in recipes and you’ll be risking, dare I say it? Premature ejaculation of the cheese.

Instead, be gentle. Don’t overwork. Use plastic wrap (or parchment, or consider recycling and use a plastic bag) to facilitate forming and moving without making any cracks in the burger.

Divide your eight ounces of beef into two balls, gently flatten and with your fingertips, work from the center out, pressing the center with a bit of pressure to get a patty about 5 1/2″ round. Just leave the edges pretty much alone for now. You can even see little dents in the burger, below, from my fingers and you can tell I didn’t absolutely “smash” it. I worked it just enough to make sure there were no holes or cracks. Really, I almost “coaxed” it into the round shape.

Then season with salt and pepper or another seasoning of your choice, fill with the cheese, leaving an edge all round. Put the two patties together using the plastic to transfer the top over and press, almost crimp, the edges together. There will be a hump in the middle, leave it alone. Then smoosh the edges up to bring it level with the mound of cheese using the curved palm of your hand.

Make sure there are no holes or cracks! Smooth them over if there are. You should have a burger about five inches across and an inch tall, and it will shrink about another half an inch as it cooks. Your burger will have straight sides, so if you want you can round those off a bit. It really doesn’t matter.

Now heat your skillet or better yet, cast iron pan over medium high heat until it’s nearly smoking. Toss in a ridiculous amount of salt, about 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon (don’t worry, most of it won’t be on your burger; it acts as a barrier to form the crust and prevent sticking) and add your burgers, using the plastic to transfer it into the pan. If you’re making several, use more than one pan.

Turn the heat down to medium and let it sit for about six minutes – you’ll see the burgers are brown up to the middle of the edges. If they aren’t, leave them until they are. If they aren’t cooking evenly, don’t move the burgers and disturb the crust, move the pan! Add a little salt to the still raw top and using a thin spatula, turn the burgers and cook for two to three minutes longer, to your desired doneness. You’ll begin to see the fat from the burgers oozing out when it’s done. If you see (or smell) cheese oozing, remove the burger immediately – turn it so the oozy side faces up.

Now the most important part – let your Juicy Lucy rest for about two minutes. I cover them. Have your buns and all your toppings ready and go to town. You won’t see restaurants “resting” the burger – that’s because they usually get the resting time while waiting to be picked up and delivered to your table.

Fillings, Add Ins & Toppings

The sky’s the limit, here. Look at a restaurant menu if you run out of ideas! Here’s the Blue Door Pub Menu and here’s The Nook’s Menu.

I like about 1 1/2 ounces of cheese and/or a few add-ins! The key here is to use just a little, not a lot, of filling.

Any cheese works here, although those that get melty and oozy are best! A good (not a grocery store) Bleu Cheese, Mozzarella, Provolone, Swiss, Muenster, Jack, Cheddar, Colby, Feta, Goat Cheese are great, but that’s just to name a few. You might not want to forget good ol’ American.

Add ins – Green Chiles, Roasted Red Peppers, Olives, Jalapeno, Carmelized Onions, Shallots, Bacon, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Mushrooms just to name a few!

The Method in Photos:

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Fiesta Friday Badge Button I party @Since it’s Memorial Day weekend and we’re facing rain, I’m going to be making burgers indoors – and no-one is going to miss the cook out when I serve this regional specialty! They’s so good, I’m going to take them to Fiesta Friday number 69, a weekly blogging extravaganza put on by Angie of the Novice Gardener. The cohosts this week are Juju of Cooking with Aunt Juju and Amanda from the Chunky Chef. Make sure to stop by their blogs and visit!