Peter Frank Edwards
Yield
Makes 5 cheeseburgers

Something as ordinary as a cheeseburger can present a surprising number of variables to consider. Seared or grilled? Stuffed? How big should the bun be? Sesame seeds or not? Toasted? With butter or with beef fat? And when you start thinking about the cheese and other accoutrements, the list of possibilities only grows.

I prefer a burger cooked on the flattop to one cooked over charcoal. I love how the juices and fat that escape during the cooking process hang around, caramelizing and working their way back into the patty. I’ve done a lot of research into cheeseburgers, and my favorite method is the one used for the smash burger. The idea is pretty simple: You portion your meat into a ball, season the outside heavily with salt and pepper, and smash it hard with your spatula onto the hot griddle. The most important part of this technique, after the initial smash, is to leave the burger alone. Right at the beginning, the proteins in the meat make it stick to the flattop, and any attempt to move it would result in a sad mess. But as the patty cooks, the delicious beef fat within renders out, crisping up the bottom and sides of the patty until it releases from the griddle. Most of the time, I don’t add any additional fat to the griddle, but sometimes, depending on the fat content of the meat, I may add a touch of beef fat or butter to help the burger cook. After 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, you’ll just start to see the edges getting crispy and brown, and the aroma will be off the charts. The deep, almost crunchy crust you achieve by cooking a burger this way gives it an incredible flavor. Then flip the burger very carefully and cook it just long enough to soften the onions and melt the cheese that you’ve added on top, another minute or so.

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How to Make It

Step 1

For the cheeseburgers: Grind the chuck and flank steak through the large die of the meat grinder into a bowl. Mix gently to combine. Grind half the mixture through the small die. Mix the two halves together.

Step 2

Portion the meat into ten 3-ounce balls; each burger will get 2 patties. (The balls can be shaped ahead, tightly covered, and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook; it’s important that the balls are not ice-cold when they hit the hot pan.)

Step 3

Generously butter the cut sides of the buns. Toast on a griddle until golden brown. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, toasted side up, and set aside.

Step 4

Heat two 12-inch cast-iron skillets over high heat until very hot and just barely beginning to smoke, 2 to 3 minutes. Divide the balls between the two hot skillets, smashing each one down with a spatula. When the patties are charred on the bottom, with a dark brown crust, about 2 minutes, turn them over. Place the onion slices on top of 5 of the patties and place a slice of cheese on each patty. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the onions have softened and the cheese has melted; the burgers will be cooked to medium. Stack the patties without onions on top of the patties with onions. Remove from the heat.

Step 5

Smear both cut sides of the buns with the sauce. Place 5 pickles on the bottom of each bun. Add the burgers and cover with the tops of the buns.

Step 6

For the sauce: Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a large container and stir to blend well. Cover and refrigerate. (Tightly covered, the sauce will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.)

Chef's Notes

I always grind the meat for my burgers myself, using a mix of chuck and flank steak. The freshness really comes through. But if you don’t have a meat grinder, you can have the butcher do this—buy the meat the day you plan to make the burgers.