A Juicy Lucy is a simple but ingenious twist on a cheeseburger (with a super-cute name). Instead of cheese melting on top of a hamburger patty, it’s stuffed inside of it, creating an oozy, cheesy center.
The first time I heard of this concept, I was instantly intrigued (which isn’t surprising, given how much I loved Oscar Mayer cheese-stuffed hot dogs growing up). I’m happy to report that several homemade Juicy Lucys later, I can now make a pretty mean one that’s a hit at the dinner table. It doesn’t take much more time than making a regular cheeseburger, and it’s great for those who like their burgers cooked to medium. Here’s how to do it.
Where Was the Juicy Lucy Burger Invented?
The Juicy Lucy (sometimes spelled Jucy Lucy) burger hails from the Midwest. Two bars in Minneapolis claim to have invented the concept in the ‘50s, with Matt’s Bar spelling it Jucy Lucy and the 5-8 Club spelling it the traditional way. Matt’s Bar only uses American cheese, while the 5-8 Club gives you multiple cheese options. Purists will tell you the stuffed patty should be topped only with sliced pickles, but nowadays more topping options, like onions, are commonly offered.
Another signature trait of a Juicy Lucy is ground beef that’s seasoned before being formed into patties. I like a small amount of salt, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper mixed into the meat, which results in a more flavorful patty. It’s not as highly seasoned as meatballs or meatloaf, but there’s definitely more oomph to it than a patty that’s seasoned on the outside with salt and pepper.
Why American Cheese?
I love stuffing Juicy Lucys with American cheese because it melts like a dream and has the flavor I associate with hamburgers eaten outside on a hot summer day. You can substitute with cheddar if you’d like, but don’t go too sharp or it’ll compete with the meat.
How to Construct Juicy Lucys
Juicy Lucys are all about the technique. You want to encase the cheese with the meat so the center doesn’t leak, but you also don’t want a big lump of cheese in the middle. Follow these steps for a Juicy Lucy that will hold up when cooked and also give you the right ratio of beef to cheese.
- Start with cold meat. Start with ground beef that’s refrigerator cold. It’s easier to shape and you don’t want any of the fat melting while you form the patties.
- Form two patties, not one. For each Juicy Lucy, form two very thin patties with the seasoned ground beef.
- Overlap the cheese. You can’t just put a slice of cheese between the patties and call it a day, because the cheese slice is usually too wide. Cut each slice of cheese into quarters, then arrange the pieces in an overlapping circle on the patty, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. This will ensure that the cheese is evenly distributed but won’t leak out the sides.
- Seal the patties together. Stack the second patty on top of the first and pinch the sides closed. After pinching, round out the edges by cupping the sides to form a nice, even patty.
How to Cook Juicy Lucys
Juicy Lucys can be formed a few hours ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to cook. When it’s dinnertime, you have two options.
- The stovetop: This is the traditional method, because the outside gets really browned and flavorful. Although it’s contrary to a lot of conventional burger cooking, I cook Juicy Lucys over medium instead of medium-high. The slightly lower temperature cooks the patty a little slower to a medium doneness and gives the cheese a chance to melt while the meat browns. Let the burgers rest while you toast the buns in the oven. This lets the cheese melt further (no one wants a half-melted Juicy Lucy) and allows the juices in the meat to redistribute.
- The grill: You can also grill Juicy Lucys covered over direct, medium-high heat. You need the higher heat here since the patties are only in contact with the grill grates and need the extra heat to get nice, dark grill marks. The advantage of the grill is that you can throw the buns on the hot grates while the patties are resting. It’s also a great option in the summer, when you want to cook outside and minimize cleanup (and leave the oven off).
How to Serve Juicy Lucys
Layer a few sliced pickles onto the Juicy Lucys before serving, and add on other traditional burger toppings if you’re in the mood. I like to swipe a little ketchup on each bite, but otherwise I leave it unadorned to let the flavors of the seasoned meat and cheese shine.
Serve with a handful of potato chips or a side dish that you can eat with your hands: these burgers are messy in a good way, so you might as well skip the fork altogether at this meal!
How To Make Juicy Lucy Burgers
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 16 minutes to 24 minutes
- 4 slices
- 1 1/2 pounds
ground beef (15 to 20 percent fat content)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons
- 1/2 teaspoon
- 1/2 teaspoon
- 1/4 teaspoon
freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon
(4-inch) hamburger buns
Sliced pickles, for serving
Heat the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400ºF.
Prepare the cheese. Stack 4 slices American cheese. Cut in half, then cut each piece in half again to form 4 stacks of squares.
Season the meat. Place 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a large bowl. Gently mix with your hands until just evenly combined.
Divide the meat. Divide the beef into 8 portions (3 ounces each) and form each into a ball.
Form and top the patties. Form 1 juicy lucy at a time: Using your fingertips, press 2 portions into 1/4-inch-thick patties that are about 1 inch wider in diameter than the hamburger buns. Top 1 patty with 4 pieces of cheese, overlapping the slices to cover the patty but leaving a 1/2-inch border.
Form the Juicy Lucys. Place the second patty over the cheese-topped patty. Pick up the Juicy Lucy and pinch the edges to form a tight seal. Cup the stuffed patty with your hands to round out the edges, and press on the top to flatten slightly into a single thick patty. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining patties and cheese to form 4 stuffed patties in total.
Cook the Juicy Lucys. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet or frying pan over medium heat until shimmering, 3 to 4 minutes. If using a 10-inch pan, place 2 patties in the pan; if using a 12-inch or larger, add all 4 patties. Cook undisturbed (do not press down on the patties) until dark golden-brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Using a spatula, flip the patties and cook until the second side is dark golden-brown and the patties are cooked through, about 4 minutes.
Toast the buns. Transfer to a clean plate. Let rest in a warm place or tent loosely with aluminum foil while you toast the buns. Split 4 hamburger buns, place cut-side up on a baking sheet, and toast until starting to brown around the edges, 4 to 5 minutes.
Assemble the Juicy Lucys. Place a patty on each bun bottom, top with a few pickle slices, and close with the bun top.
Grilling instructions: Juicy Lucys can also be cooked on an outdoor grill. Grill covered over direct, medium-high heat (about 375°F to 425°F) until dark grill marks appear, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Let the cooked patties rest in a warm place while you toast the buns on the grill.
Make ahead: The Juicy Lucys can be formed and refrigerated up to a few hours ahead before cooking.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.