national sandwich month: classic summer cheeseburgers


If someone asked me my favorite foods, a good burger would be really high up on the list. I consider them in a culinary class all their own, and tend to forget that at their most basic form, burgers are indeed sandwiches. Since I had yet to include a good cheeseburger recipe on oven+apron, I figured I should remedy that! No better time than National Sandwich Month, eh?

These are super simple, requiring only a few minutes in a piping hot skillet (by all means, use a grill if you have one at your disposal!), and can include any toppings you see fit. My perfect burger has melty American cheese, lettuce, good ripe tomatoes, red onion, dill pickles like whoa, and some thousand island dressing to top it all off. Mmm, mmm good! Go ahead and use whichever hamburger buns you prefer, but my ideal burger comes with some homemade, soft burger buns. Served along side some salty crinkle cut fries and a cold drink, and there’s nothing more I’d want for lunch or dinner. Scale up the recipes to make however many or few burgers you want!

classic summer cheeseburgers

homemade burger buns
(makes 5 – 5 oz buns)

1 3/4 tsp (7 g) active dry yeast
2 Tbs + 2 tsp (38 g) sugar
1 tsp (7 g) salt
2 1/2 c (361 g) bread flour
4 Tbs + 1 1/2 tsp (51 g) potato starch
1/4 c (69 g) warm tap water
3/4 c (176 g) warm milk
2 oz (1/2 stick / 4 Tbs) unsalted butter, softened

burger fixins’
(makes 4 – 4 oz patties)

16 oz 85% lean ground beef
6 – 8 tsp vegetable oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

romaine lettuce, chopped into small shreds
red onion, sliced
dill pickle chips
ripe tomato, sliced
American cheese, sliced
thousand island dressing
any other toppings of your choice! (cooked bacon,
ketchup, mustard, jalapenos, green bell peppers,
mayonnaise, sauteed onions or mushrooms,
chili and cheddar cheese, etc!)

For burger buns: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar, salt, bread flour, and potato starch until well mixed. Add the warm tap water and warm milk (to warm the milk, heat in the microwave for 20-30 seconds) and mix with the dough hook on speed 1 for 1 1/2 minutes. Increase the speed to 3-4, and mix for another 2 1/2 minutes. Add the soft butter and mix for 5 minutes on speed 4-5. You should have a smooth, soft ball of dough.

Remove the dough and wrap it tightly in two layers of plastic wrap. Chill several hours, or overnight for easier handling.

When you’re ready to shape and bake the buns, remove the dough from the fridge and weigh the dough out into five 5 ounce portions. You will have just a bit of dough left over, so make a tiny bun for tasting purposes! Ball up each portion of dough into a smooth ball, and place on a lightly greased, parchment lined baking sheet, several inches apart from each other. Firmly press the tops of each ball of dough to flatten just a bit. Mix up some egg wash (2 egg yolks mixed with about 1 tablespoon of milk) and brush generously on the buns, covering all exposed areas.

Place the sheet pan of buns in a warm place for about 40-45 minutes, until they’re puffed and risen well. Once you let the buns rise, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. After the egg washed buns have risen fully, pop them into the preheated oven and bake for 11 minutes. Rotate the pan for even browning, and bake for another 8 minutes until dark golden brown. Remove the pan and allow the buns to cool on a cooling rack until room temperature. If not using them right away, store them in a zip-top bag for up to 2 days at room temperature; freeze if you plan on storing them longer than 2 days. To use after freezing, let the frozen buns sit in their bag at room temperature for a few hours to thaw before slicing.

For the burgers: Divide your 1 pound of ground beef into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a patty about the same size as your hamburger bun, and about 1/2 inch thick. Each portion will be 4 ounces each before cooking. Set the patties aside on a plate, and season one side liberally with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Place a skillet over medium-high/high heat and add about 2 teaspoons oil  at a time, to cook one patty at a time. Once the oil is shimmering and the pan is very hot (remove the batteries from your smoke detector and open some doors and windows, cause these are gonna throw off some smoke!), place one patty at a time, seasoned side down, and cook 2 minutes on the first side.

Season the bare side with more salt and pepper, and flip once the first two minutes is up. Cook the second side for 2 minutes as well. Place a slice of cheese on top of the burger patty after flipping, 30 seconds before the time is up on the second side. At 2 minutes per side, these patties are roughly medium-well, but feel free to decrease cooking time to 1 1/2 minutes on the second side for a more pink burger. Place cooked patties on a clean plate and cover loosely with a piece of foil to keep warm while you cook the remaining patties. Add more oil to the skillet as necessary in between burger patties.

Once the desired number of patties have been cooked, turn the heat down on the skillet to medium/low, and slice your burger buns with a sharp knife. Place them cut-side down in the still-oiled skillet and cook briefly until they are golden brown and toasty.

To assemble the burgers: On the bottom bun, spread a tablespoon or so of thousand island dressing. Top with a pile of shredded lettuce, some red onion, and dill pickle chips. Top the pickles with some slices of tomato, followed by the burger patty topped with cheese. On the top side of the bun, spread some more thousand island dressing, and place on top of the cheese-topped patty. Eat immediately!

Serve these burgers with some crispy fries, potato chips, or cool potato salad on the side, throw in a soda or an ice cold beer, and it’s the perfect summertime lunch or dinner. To quote Pulp Fiction, “This is a tasty burger!”



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