Juicy Lucy Hamburger

With a hidden center of melted American cheese encased by grilled beef patties, it's the cheeseburger that lives up to its name: The Juicy Lucy.

Side view of a Jucy lucy burger cut in half to show the cheese in the middle and on a wooden cutting board.
Mike Lang

I'm a huge fan of cheeseburgers. If I'm going to grill hamburgers, there is definitely going to be cheese. I typically put cheese on the burger toward the end of the cook time, but that’s not the only way to do it.

If you’re a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, you might know the cheeseburger by another name the: Juicy Lucy or the Jucy Lucy depending upon which origin story you side with.

The traditional cheeseburger was upended sometime in the 1950s when a Minneapolis bar placed cheese INSIDE the burger and called it a Jucy Lucy. By all appearances it's a normal hamburger on the outside, but a single bite gives way to a stream of gooey melted American cheese. Mind you this is not a modest amount of cheese. This is a molten cheese center.

Two bars, Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club, both claim to have created the world famous burger, even President Barack Obama has tried it and while the origins of the cheese laden burger are hotly debated its mouthwatering burger appeal is not.

How to Make a Juicy Lucy Burger

Constructing a Juicy Lucy is a little more work than your run-of-the-mill cheeseburger. For starters, we need two beef patties per Juicy Lucy. To "stuff" the burger, the cheese is placed on the top of one patty with the other patty then laid on top of the cheese and then it is sealed, encasing the cheese.

For the beef, use ground beef chuck with an 80/20 lean meat to fat ratio. The extra fat only adds to the "juiciness" of the burger. For the cheese, American cheese is a must. These squares of rectangular goodness are the perfect cheese bombs when nestled inside the patties.

Side view of a Jucy lucy burger cut in half to show the cheese in the middle and on a wooden cutting board.
Mike Lang

Tips and Tricks for Making the Perfect Juicy Lucy Hamburger

A perfect Juicy Lucy requires some perfected tips. Let me help you out.

  • We need 12 equal-sized beef patties, about 2.6 ounces apiece, to start the assembly process for 6 burgers.
  • The best way to hide the cheese inside of the burger is to make the cheese slice as small as possible, folding it over on itself three times. This creates a tall stack but requires less surface area in the middle of the patty to stay hidden.
  • To help secure the cheese, use the tips of two fingers to make an indentation in the bottom half of the patties. Place the cheese in the indentation, and then place the other patty on top. Begin by pressing the two patties together in the palm of your hand since the cheese will make the patty slightly thicker in the middle. Then, use your fingers to crimp the edges of the circumference of the burger.
  • Place the burgers back in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow them to set up.
  • When ready to grill, season the patties generously with Kosher salt, black pepper, and granulated garlic. This rub helps form an incredibly flavorful crust.

How to Grill the Juicy Lucy Burgers

Grilling is the most important part of the process, so here are my tips to come out on top.

  • Grill the burgers over medium-high heat, 400°F to 500°F. This promotes the aforementioned crust formation and helps keep the two patties intact.
  • Be sure to keep the grill lid down. Doing so helps the burger cook faster by using radiant heat versus just the direct conductive heat under the burger.
  • Use a timer to keep your grilling on track.
  • Use an instant-read thermometer to ensure the burgers cook to an internal temperature of 155°F or medium well.
  • Some cheese may leak out during the grilling process. Don't let this discourage you, as there is still plenty of cheese left hiding in the burger.
Jucy Lucy hamburger cut in half and held on top of each other in a hand.
Mike Lang

Juicy Lucy Burger Toppings, and Variations

The burger itself is important, but so is the bun. A formal cheeseburger might call for brioche, but there is no better choice than the butter bun when it comes to mopping up cheese and meat. They are typically a little larger than a basic hamburger bun and have split down the center of the top bun.

The Juicy Lucy is a messy affair, which is why I like to use a soft buttery hamburger bun strengthened by toasting. Only needing seconds on the grill to mark up these buns, with their jagged top crust crevices, these are the perfect pairing to a cheese-filled burger. However, don’t let butter bun availability dictate your burger making. Any burger bun will do. Butter buns are just my favorite.

Now on to the burger toppings. I prefer to keep it simple, which is why I went with only dill pickles. With that said, the Juicy Lucy can be dressed up or down to your whims. Lettuce, tomato, and a bevy of traditional condiments are well suited. Perhaps my favorite addition is pickled jalapenos. A spicy Juicy Lucy is a magical delight.

While American Cheese is the traditional Juicy Lucy fit, any number of melty cheeses, like mozzarella, cheddar, or even fontina, will work here. Not only should you make the Juicy Lucy, but you should make it yours.

Hands spreading apart a Jucy Lucy burger on a wooden cutting board.
Mike Lang

Need More Burger Recipes?

Juicy Lucy Hamburger

Prep Time 45 mins
Grill Time 12 mins
Total Time 57 mins
Servings 6 servings
Yield 6 burgers

Ingredients

  • 6 slices American cheese
  • 2 pounds 80/20 ground chuck
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 6 hamburger butter buns
  • 24 dill pickle slices

Method

  1. Prepare the cheese:

    Fold each slice of American Cheese on to itself three times.

    When done, you should have eight layers of cheese. Making a tall stack helps keep the cheese contained in the patty when grilling. Set cheese stacks aside until you are ready to stuff the patties.

    Slices of cheese on a baking sheet for a Juicy Lucy burger.
    Mike Lang
    Folding sliced cheese in half to make a Juicy Lucy burger.
    Mike Lang
    Folding sliced cheese into a square to show how to make a Jucy Lucy burger
    Mike Lang
    Folding sliced cheese to show how to make a Jucy Lucy burger
    Mike Lang
  2. Divide ground chuck and form patties:

    Evenly divide the ground chuck into 12 equal size balls. Each ball should be approximately 2.6 ounces. If you don’t have a scale to weigh the meat, eyeballing 12 equal patties is fine.

    Place each ball between your outstretched fingers and flatten. Place each patty on a baking sheet and use your fingers to help flatten the patties more. When done, each patty should be approximately 3 1/2 inches in diameter.

    Weighing ground beef to make a Juicy Lucy burger recipe.
    Mike Lang
    Pressing ground beef into patties for a copy cat Juicy Lucy burger
    Mike Lang
  3. Stuff the patties with cheese:

    Using two fingers, place a dimple in the center of the patty. Place the folded-up pieces of cheese in each of the dimples.

    Add the top patty and seal by pressing the patties together in the palm of your hand.

    With the patties together, use your fingers to crimp the circumference of the patty to ensure they stay sealed on the grill. No cheese should be showing when done.

    Making imprints with fingers on beef patties for a Copy cat Juicy Lucy burger.
    Mike Lang
    Folded sliced cheese on top of burger patties to show how to make a Jucy Lucy burger
    Mike Lang
    Placing second patty on top of a cheese topped patty to show how to make a Jucy Lucy burger
    Mike Lang
    Pressing a patty to make a Juicy Lucy burger recipe
    Mike Lang
  4. Place burgers in fridge to set up:

    Place the patties in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow them to set up.

  5. Prepare the grill:

    Prepare a grill for 2-zone heat. You want one side of the grill to be cooler than the other.

    If using a gas grill leave one burner off or on low while the other side is on medium high heat, 400°F to 500° F.  If using charcoal, have one side without lit coals.

    This gives you more flexibility when grilling. If you get flare ups or feel like the burgers are cooking too quickly you can move them the to the cool side.

    Pre-heat for 10 to 15 minutes before placing the burgers over direct heat.

  6. Season the burgers:

    Remove the patties from the refrigerator and season both sides of the patties with the granulated garlic, salt, and pepper.

  7. Grill the burgers:

    Grill the patties over direct heat, flipping once halfway through, until the internal temperature reaches 155°F with an instant-read thermometer, approximately 9 to 11 minutes total for a medium well burger. Remove from the grill.

    Grilling Juicy Lucy burgers.
    Mike Lang
  8. Grill the burger buns:

    Grill the buns cut side down over direct heat until marked, approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute.

  9. Assemble the burgers:

    Add 4 pickles to each bottom bun, add the burger, and then the top bun. Serve.

    Side view of a Juicy Lucy burger on a wooden cutting board outside.
    Mike Lang