What is a Cheeseburger?

A cheeseburger is a delicious American classic - a juicy beef hamburger patty topped with melted cheese and other delicious ingredients sandwiched between two buns.

What is a Cheeseburger

It's a simple yet satisfying meal that has become an iconic part of American cuisine.

A Brief History of the Cheeseburger

The cheeseburger has rather humble beginnings, originating in the 1920s during a time when hamburgers were rising in popularity. Several different claims exist as to who exactly invented the cheeseburger.

One story credits a young cook named Lionel Sternberger as inventing the cheeseburger in 1924 at his father's sandwich shop in Pasadena, California. As the story goes, 16-year-old Lionel decided to experiment by topping a burger with a slice of American cheese.

Another claim states that a restaurant called Kaelin's in Louisville, Kentucky first served the cheeseburger in 1934.

Yet another story says that a trademark for the name "cheeseburger" was awarded to Louis Ballast of Denver's Humpty Dumpty Drive-In in 1935.

Regardless of its exact origin, the cheeseburger was clearly rising in prominence by the early 1930s as a new twist on the humble hamburger. Adding a slice of melted cheese elevated the burger to new heights of deliciousness.

The time period when the cheeseburger emerged coincided with major advancements in cheese manufacturing. Processed cheese products were developed in the 1910s and 1920s, making cheese much more accessible, affordable, and easy to melt compared to traditional cheeses. This innovation helped make cheeseburgers possible on a large scale.

By the mid-20th century, the cheeseburger was a common sight on diner menus and fast food restaurant boards across America. Burger chains like McDonald's popularized the cheeseburger even further in the latter 1900s, cementing its status as an enduring American classic.

Key Takeaway: The cheeseburger was likely invented sometime in the 1920s or early 1930s by topping a beef hamburger patty with a slice of melted cheese. Several diners and cooks lay claim to inventing the iconic cheeseburger.

Ingredients in a Classic Cheeseburger

A cheeseburger may seem simple, but there are nuances that separate an average cheeseburger from a great one. Here are the key ingredients that go into making a delicious cheeseburger:

The Beef Patty

The beef patty is the star of the show. Ground chuck is a popular choice for its rich beefy flavor and the right balance of fat to keep the burger moist and flavorful. Ideally the beef should be freshly ground, not pre-frozen. The exact beef blend and fat percentage comes down to personal taste. Some recipes call for sirloin, brisket, or short rib mixed with the chuck. Around an 80/20 lean-to-fat ratio is often ideal.

Pro Tip: Lightly season the patties right before cooking, and don't overwork the meat when forming patties to prevent dense hockey pucks. Gently shape them without compacting too much.


To stay traditional, American cheese is the best bet. The processed slices melt beautifully. Cheddar, Swiss, pepper jack, and provolone are other good options. Cheese should be thinly sliced, not shredded, for even melting.


A cheeseburger demands a soft bun that won't overwhelm the contents. Brioche, potato, or squishy white burger buns work well to provide a sturdy yet pillowy base. Toast the insides for a touch of crunch and to prevent sogginess.


Fresh veggie toppings lend moisture, flavor, and texture contrast. Shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, raw onion, and dill pickles are classic choices. Leafy greens like spinach or arugula also work well.


Condiments like ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise allow for customization. Special burger sauces can also kick things up a notch.


Salt and pepper should be used judiciously when seasoning the patties. Other spices like garlic and onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, or hot sauce can provide extra flavor depth.

Key Takeaway: A great cheeseburger starts with flavorful beef, melty cheese, soft buns, fresh toppings, and seasoning. Paying attention to the details of each ingredient results in the ultimate cheeseburger.

Cooking Methods for Juicy Cheeseburgers

To get a perfectly cooked burger that's juicy in the middle and nicely browned on the outside, use these methods:


Outdoor grilling is a prime choice for getting that nice char. Cook over direct high heat. Avoid pressing down on patties, which pushes out juices. Buns can toast right on the grates.

Cast Iron Skillet

A ripping hot cast iron skillet on the stovetop mimics grill char. Use a heavy pan to prevent burning. Cook burgers in batches to maintain heat. Butter or oil the pan.

Flat Top Griddle

Commercial-grade griddles are ideal for restaurants to cook burgers consistently with lots of surface area. Butter or oil is key to prevent sticking. Keep the griddle scraped clean.

Oven Broiler

For indoor cooking without a skillet, the oven broiler can provide top-down heat to brown the burger. Place patties on a broiler pan lined with foil. Watch closely to prevent burning.

No matter what cooking method you choose, resist the urge to press down on burgers as they cook. Doing so squeezes out all the delicious beef juices for a dry, tougher burger.

Key Takeaway: Optimal cooking methods like grilling, cast iron skillets, griddles, and broilers provide the quick, high heat needed for a perfect crust on cheeseburgers while keeping the inside juicy.

Putting It All Together: How to Make Cheeseburgers

Follow these simple steps for assembling standout cheeseburgers:

  1. Form the patties by dividing the beef into balls, then gently shaping into rounds slightly wider than the bun to account for shrinkage during cooking. Make an indentation in the center to prevent puffing up.
  2. Season the patties with just a pinch of salt and pepper. Sprinkle seasoning right before cooking so it sticks to the outside of the patty rather than getting distributed throughout.
  3. Toast the buns to crisp them up. Bonus points for adding butter or garlic butter on the insides while toasting.
  4. Cook the patties quickly over high heat until lightly charred on the outside and done to your desired doneness inside. Avoid pressing down on patties while cooking.
  5. Top with cheese during the last minute so it melts.
  6. Assemble the toppings & condiments on the toasted bottom bun - lettuce, tomato, raw onion, pickles, and any sauces.
  7. Add the patty & cheese, then finish up with the toasted top bun.
  8. Dig in right away while everything is hot and melty!

Key Takeaway: Forming, seasoning, and cooking the patties correctly results in juicy beef with a nice crust. Layering on quality toppings and condiments between toasted buns completes the ultimate cheeseburger.

Fun Cheeseburger Variations to Mix It Up

While traditional cheeseburgers are always a crowd pleaser, considering mixing things up with these tasty renditions:

  • Patty melts - Burgers cooked between sliced bread or rye and slathered with melted cheese.
  • Fried egg cheeseburgers - A runny fried egg takes these burgers over the top.
  • Pizza burgers - Mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce, and pepperoni give these a pizza vibe.
  • Mac and cheese stuffed burgers - Take juicy lucies up a notch by filling patties with creamy mac and cheese.
  • Jalapeño popper burgers - Stuffed with spicy jalapeños and cream cheese for a kick.
  • Breakfast burgers - Think bacon, eggs, hash browns, and cheese!
  • Black and blue burgers - Blue cheese crumbles and charred onions are a match made in heaven.
  • Surf and turf burgers - Fancy them up by topping with lobster meat or crispy shrimp.

So while the classic cheeseburger certainly holds its own, don't be afraid to get creative with exciting new toppings and flavors! The burger possibilities are endless.


What is the best cheese for cheeseburgers?

For authentic diner-style cheeseburgers, American cheese can't be beat for its perfect meltability. Cheddar, Swiss, pepper jack, and provolone are also excellent options that melt nicely. The key is using thinly sliced cheeses rather than shredded.

What is the best meat grind for burgers?

Chuck beef is considered the best option for juicy, beefy-flavored burgers that hold their shape well on the grill. Many experts recommend using a blend with around 80% lean chuck balanced by about 20% brisket or short rib trimmings for added moisture and fat.

Should you season burger patties ahead of time?

It's best to season right before cooking. Salt draws moisture out of meat, so seasoning too far ahead can lead to drier burgers. A last minute seasoning also allows the salt and pepper to stick tightly to the patty surface rather than dispersing throughout.

What is the perfect doneness for cheeseburgers?

Personal preference rules when it comes to doneness, but most restaurants serve burgers medium well to well done for food safety reasons. At home though, medium offers an excellent balance of juicy pink centers while eliminating any raw red meat. Just don't go below medium doneness.

Should you put anything on the burger patties while cooking?

Avoid pressing down on patties with spatulas while cooking, which causes vital juices to squeeze out. Also skip weighing patties down with bacon strips or smash burgers style pressing. This ruins the light, loose texture of an ideal patty.

How do you melt cheese perfectly on burgers?

Wait until the last minute once burgers are nearly done cooking to top with cheese. Tent them with a loose foil cover to help cheese melt evenly without overcooking the patties as they finish up. The residual heat will continue cooking the patties and melting cheese.

What makes some burgers dry or soggy?

Using lean beef lacking moisture, overworking the meat, seasoning too early, pressing patties while cooking, and moving burgers around too much can all lead to dry burgers. Going too heavy on condiments and using low quality buns that fall apart easily makes for soggy burgers.

What are the best accompaniments for cheeseburgers?

Beyond the usual lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and condiments, consider serving crispy fries, onion rings, deviled eggs, coleslaw, baked beans, cornbread, or pickles on the side. Grating fresh vegetables like cabbage, carrots and beets onto the plate also makes a colorful garnish.


The cheeseburger has secured its place as an American classic that can be endlessly customized and enjoyed in new ways.

Its invention marks a turning point when the humble hamburger ascended into previously uncharted delicious territory thanks to the brilliant combination of beef, cheese, veggies, and condiments sandwiched between a bun.

AGAH Productions
AGAH Productions