Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible


Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger!

Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger!

Reprinted from The Barbecue! Bible. Photo copyright © Ben Fink.

In the U.S., 175 days on the calendar have been designated as food holidays by presidential proclamation or trade/industry groups. Somehow we missed National Acorn Squash Day (September 7) and National Date-Nut Bread Day (September 8).

But National Cheeseburger Day? Now that’s a holiday we can really get behind. It would be almost un-American not to eat a cheeseburger on Friday, September 18.

The practice of topping a burger with cheese became popular in the 1920s. So who first came up with the idea? Here are some competing claims:

  • Lionel Sternberger, a 16-year-old fry cook, working at his father’s Pasadena, California, restaurant (The Rite Spot) in 1926. Legend has it a homeless man, wanting more bang for the buck, asked Sternberger to crown his burger with a slice of cheese.

  • In 1928, a Los Angeles eatery called O’Dell’s listed a chili cheeseburger on its menu.

  • A trademark for the name “cheeseburger” was awarded to Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In in Denver, Colorado.

Regardless of its origin, there’s no denying the cheeseburger’s allure. (Seventy-five percent of us eat at least one a week, reports the trade magazine Burger Business.) The biggest cheeseburger ever assembled—a Guinness world record holder at this writing—weighed 2,014 pounds. It was built by the Black Bear Casino in 2012 in Carlton, Minnesota, and contained 60 pounds of bacon, 50 pounds of sliced onions, 50 pounds of lettuce, and 40 pounds each of pickles and cheese. The patty itself was 10 feet in diameter and had to be flipped with a crane.

While a classic cheeseburger usually features a thin slice of cheese melted on top of a sizzling beef patty, there are many other ways to marry meat and cheese:

  • South Minneapolis is the birthplace of the “Juicy Lucy” (also spelled “Jucy Lucy,” depending on which bar you visit), a cheese-filled patty that’s also topped with cheese. Steven calls his version the “Inside-Out Cheeseburger.” Find the recipe here.

  • In the “Tackle the Tailgate” episode of Project Smoke™, we smoked burgers with hay, grilled them, and topped them with a generous dollop of Rauchbier Cheese Sauce. (Rauchbier is smoked beer.) Get the recipe.
    Hay-Smoked Burgers with Rauchbier Cheese Sauce

    Photo by Richard Dallett.

  • For a new take on cheeseburgers, try Beer-Can Burgers—deep cavity; mucho cheese.
    Beer-Can Cheeseburgers

    Photo by Rob Baas.

  • Mix coarsely grated cheese (about 1 cup per pound of meat) into the meat before shaping the patties. The cheese will keep the burgers moist as they cook.

  • Finally, don’t be a slave to orange processed cheese. Try real aged cheddar, blue cheese, feta, goat cheese, smoked Gouda, pepper Jack, muenster, Manchego, or any other melting cheese.

Share your creations on the Barbecue Board. Happy National Cheeseburger Day!

Join the Discussion

  • A good old cheese burger is hard to beat. I know different cheese’s are nice for a change but for some reason I come back to processed cheese (or ‘Dirty Burger Cheese’ as I like to call it) for a lot of mine. My wife likes to melt Brie over her burgers. I’ve been trying out some different burgers recently and I think the Double Rodeo Burger is my favourite at the minute. I wrote it up for my site here -http://barbechoo.com/2015/09/the-double-rodeo-burger/

    I’ve tried out the beer can burgers as well. There are so many different filling you can play about with that keep them interesting. I would definitely recommend anyone to try them.