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 Juicy Lucy – Ultimate 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.
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 restaurants do upscale versions, and now the word is out!
About The Juicy Lucy – Ultimate Cheese Stuffed Burger:
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 of the restaurants 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!
The cost to make your Juicy Lucy, too, is a pittance of what you pay for one when eating out, although these are big burgers and not the cheapest burger to make. But can I just say that it’s pretty likely no one will want seconds!
Serve up with an inexpensive side; maybe my crispy Stupid Simple Sweet Potato Fries or Bomb Baked Potato Wedges would be great here. If you’re going wild, maybe make my Vidalia Onion Rings with a Chili Lime Dipping Sauce. They’re restaurant quality, and by that, I mean a good restaurant! And if you don’t have Vidalia Onions, make them with Spanish onions, the common onion variety you’ll find in the store.
Making The Juicy Lucy – Ultimate Cheese Stuffed Burger:
Now, if you think I’m being picky and persnickety in these directions, you’ve probably never had your stuffed burger leak. That’s a huge bummer. I’ve actually had it happen twice in two of the restaurants named above and got a dry tasteless burger with no cheese in it at all. Rolling your burger into a ball, stuffing a chunk of cheese in, and flattening it out is a recipe – for disaster! Take a little care and do them right the first time; after forming the first one, you’ll see how easy it is and speed along much faster!
At home, you’re likely to make just enough burgers (coz no one really wants a leftover burger) so if someone gets that one Juicy Lucy that the cheese leaked out of; at the point it is discovered, you’re probably eating. And once that happens, it’s too late to remedy the situation. A Juicy Lucy is nothing w/o the ooey, gooey oozing cheese.
The Beef & Cheese:
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? And don’t use a compressed tube of beef. It’s hard to work with, prone to leaking, and just isn’t the quality you’ll want for these premium burgers.
Handling The Beef:
First of all, be gentle. Coax the beef and don’t overwork. Don’t put any seasonings in the beef itself, you’ll be risking, dare I say it? Premature ejaculation of the cheese if you’ve handled your beef to that level.
Use plastic wrap (or parchment, or consider recycling and use a plastic bag) to facilitate forming and moving the burger to avoid any cracking. See the photos, below. Don’t smash down the middle or dent it after it’s formed, and don’t whatever you do, smash it in the skillet as it cooks.
Forming the Burger for your Juicy Lucy:
Grab an eight-ounce ball of beef for each burger, divide it into two balls on a layer of plastic wrap, leaving a bit of space between each. Gently flatten with your fingertips, working from the center out, pressing the center with a bit of pressure until each patty is about 5 1/2″ round. Just leave the edges pretty much alone for now. In the photos, you’ll even see dents from my fingers & see I didn’t absolutely “smash” it. I worked it just enough to make sure there were no holes or cracks. Really, I almost “nudged” it into the round shape.
Season with salt & pepper or whatever you want, add the cheese on top of one patty, breaking as necessary to leave an edge free of cheese all around. There should be a bit more cheese in the center than toward the edge. Put the two patties together by using the plastic as an aid to place the non-cheese patty on top of the cheese patty and press, almost crimp, the edges together. There will be a hump in the middle; leave it alone. Instead, smoosh the crimped edges up to the level of the top of the mound by gently pushing all around the sides of the burger with the curved palm of your hand.
Inspect for any holes or cracks, top, bottom, and sides! Smooth them over with a fingertip if there are any. You should have a burger about five inches across and an inch tall (and yes, I measure, at least the first one) and it will shrink about another half an inch as it cooks. At this point, the burger has straight sides, gently round them off if you wish; I leave mine alone. The less you handle your Juicy Lucy, the less risk of leaks.
Cooking Your Juicy Lucy:
Now heat your cast iron pan (or another type of skillet if you must) over medium-high heat until it’s nearly smoking. Toss in a ridiculous amount of salt, about 3/4 of a teaspoon (don’t worry, most of it won’t be on your burger; it acts as a barrier between the beef and the skillet, draws out some of the moisture from the beef so the crust forms nicely and helps prevent sticking) and add your burgers. Use the plastic the burgers are sitting on to gently turn your burgers into the pan. If you’re making several, you may need to use more than one pan.
Turn the heat down to medium and let it sit for about six minutes – the burgers should be brown halfway up when looking at the side. 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 around on the burner! When ready to turn, add a little salt to the still raw top and preferably, using a metal spatula, not a thick plastic one, 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. The more well done the burger is the more risk there is of leakage.
Resting your Juicy Lucy:
Now the most important part – let your Juicy Lucy rest for about two minutes. I lightly 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.
Resting is important for all the usual reasons, but it’s also important because the center of the burger is full of molten hot cheese. Trust me, you’ll want to let it sit for a couple of minutes before biting into it. Also, as you hold the burger for that first bite, don’t press down on it firmly. You don’t want to create a lot of pressure and inadvertently cause the burger to blow out, spurting hot, hot cheese everywhere.
Fillings, Add-Ins & Toppings:
The sky, or your imagination, is the limit. 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, although those that get melty and oozy are best! A good (not a grocery store package of crumbles) Bleu Cheese or Feta are good, but even meltier cheeses like Provolone, Swiss, Muenster, Gouda, Jack, Cheddar or Colby are better. Goat cheese is great with the right add-ins. And you might not want to forget good ol’ American.
Some fun add-ins are Green Chiles, Roasted Red Peppers, Olives, Jalapenos, Carmelized Onions, Shallots, Bacon, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Mushrooms, just to name a few!
Saving Money on The Juicy Lucy – Ultimate Cheese Stuffed Burger:
Check out Aldi when they often 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.
The Method in Photos:
Since it’s Memorial Day weekend and we’re facing rain, I’m going to be making Juicy Lucy – Ultimate Cheese Stuffed Burger indoors. No one is going to miss the cookout when I serve this regional specialty! I’ll be sharing this post at 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!