Since the 1950s, Minneapolis has claimed birthplace rights to the Juicy Lucy, a seemingly no-frills burger with an oozing core of melted cheese. And yet, to find a restaurant dedicated to taking the ol’ JL to the next level, you have to cross state lines. At Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar in Beloit, Wisconsin, chef Emily Hopper serves stuffed burgers inspired by Philly cheesesteaks, buffalo wings, even Asian fare. This is no small feat. The hazards of stuffing burgers are many—leaks, uneven cooking or a silhouette more akin to meatball than patty. But at Lucy’s, every perfectly round burger arrives so well sealed that servers have to issue cautionary reminders about the piping-hot cheese concealed inside. Learn Emily’s tricks below.
Stuffed Burgers in Three Steps
Start by choosing a filling and toppings (see three flavor ideas at the end of this story), then follow these steps to craft a restaurant-worthy stuffed patty.
1. For four burgers, divide 1½ pounds 80-percent-lean ground beef into eight 3-ounce portions. Shape into balls. Place each ball between two sheets of waxed paper. Using a flat-bottomed plate or pan, press meat into ¼-inch-thick patties at least 4 inches across. (If they seem freakishly thin, you’ve done it right.) Leave the patties between the paper, using new paper for each. Tip: Fat makes a burger tender and juicy, so don’t use extra-lean grinds.
2. To fill a burger, peel the top sheet off a patty. Top the meat with the filling ingredients, leaving a ½-inch border. Peel the top sheet from another patty, flip it over the filling, and peel off the second paper. Press meat edges to seal. Then, using the bottom paper, fold the edge upward to create a uniformly thick patty (as our model is doing with his left hand). Give the patty a final quick shaping in your hands to be sure everything is compact and well-sealed. Season the outside generously with salt and pepper.
3. In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, melt a bit of butter over medium heat to toast four split hamburger buns. (You don’t want wimpy bread for a stuffed burger. Emily likes brioche or kaiser rolls.) Remove buns, raise heat to medium-high and heat 1 tablespoon each canola oil and butter until very hot. Cook burgers for 18 to 22 minutes or until done (160°), turning once. (Reduce heat if they are browning too quickly.) Pile with toppings. Serve with lots of napkins and a friendly warning about the hot cheese hidden inside. Tip: A well-seasoned cast-iron pan mimics a restaurant flattop; you’ll get great sear and even cooking.
Burger Flavors to Try
When you prep the ingredients for your burgers, allow 1 to 2 ounces of cheese for each patty. You can eyeball all the other ingredients.
Cheddar Bacon BBQ
Fill: Sliced cheddar cheese, torn into small pieces, and several slices of bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled. Top: Barbecue sauce and canned fried onions. (Or make your own. Find a recipe for shoestring onions as well as the Cheddar Bacon BBQ burger at midwestliving.com/onions.)
Fill: Sliced pepper Jack cheese, torn into small pieces, and pickled sliced jalapeño peppers, drained. Season filled patties with Cajun seasoning and a bit of salt and pepper. Top: Guacamole.
Fill: Crumbled blue cheese. Top: Toss together shredded cabbage and carrots (or coleslaw mix) with thinly sliced celery and a drizzle of red pepper sauce (such as Frank’s Red Hot).
Check out the kitchen video at L7burgerbar.com.