Steamed Cheeseburgers

Okay, I can hear you right how – why, why, why would you take a perfectly innocent cheeseburger and steam the poor defenseless thing?  Well, it all started with a book that the Southern husband gave me a while back that included a description of this particular kind of burger, which is a succulent, tender concoction of juicy burger with melted cheese dripping into every crack and crevice, served up on a soft, warm bun.  All you need are the ingredients and your handy vegetable steamer, and the courage to leave the grill alone for a while.

Now, just a little bit about that book.  It’s called HAMBURGER AMERICA by George Motz, and it’s evolved into a documentary, a blog and a very entertaining website – click here for all that deliciousness.  George set out to find the very best burgers in all the land, and the book is his top 150 burger joints…everything from deep fried burgers to yes, steamed cheeseburgers to my all-time favorite burger place on the planet, the fabulous White Manna in Hackensack, New Jersey.  And while I drooled over pretty much every page in the book, there was a mesmerizing entry about the steamed cheeseburgers at Ted’s Restaurant in Meriden, Connecticut.  I couldn’t get those steamed cheeseburgers out of my head.  It had to happen.

Get your mitts on some nice ground beef – 80 or 85% lean is what you want for nice juicy burgers – and season them up the way you usually do.  I like some salt and pepper and a little Worcestershire sauce, but you be you, burger-wise.  You’ll want a nice bowl full of shredded cheddar cheese, and some soft hamburger rolls – the supermarket kind are just fine.

Now comes the steaming part!  I figured that since I was going for the whole steaming thing I would just use my trusty vegetable steamer, but if you don’t have one of those, a cooling rack with legs in a large skillet will do just fine (and if you have a toaster oven, the smallish rack for that would be perfect.  Whatever you use, fill up a skillet or Dutch oven with just enough water that it comes close but doesn’t touch the basket or rack.  Bring the water to a nice boil and then place your burgers in the steamer or on the rack.  Pop the cover on the pan and let those burgers steam away for about 7 minutes.

Once 7 minutes is up, move the pan to a cool burner and top each burger with a generous handful of cheese, cover the pan again and let it sit for about 2 minutes.  This will give the cheese a chance to melt into the surface of the burger.  While this is happening, warm up your rolls by putting them in the microwave for about 15 seconds.

Now all that’s left to do is slather the bottom of the rolls with whatever you like – ketchup, mustard, mayo, relish, lettuce – go crazy!  Place your tender, cheesy burger on the roll, pop the top on, take a bite…and realize that your grill has a little competition from your stovetop now.  Steamed cheeseburgers!  Trust me.


Steamed Cheeseburgers
Serves: 4 juicy burgers
  • 1½ pounds ground chuck (80-85% lean works best)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I love the Cabot brand!) at room temperature
  • 4 soft hamburger rolls
  • Your choice of condiments!
  1. Fill a Dutch oven (if you are using a metal vegetable steamer) or large deep skillet (if you are using a rack with legs) with water that comes close to the bottom of the steamer or rack but does not touch it. Bring water to a boil.
  2. Mix beef, Worcestershire and salt and pepper and form into 4 patties.Place the burgers on the rack or steamer, cover the pan and cook for 7 minutes.
  3. Move pan from heat, place on a cool burger and quickly divide cheese between burgers, mounding it up in the center of each burger. Cover pan for 2 minutes.
  4. Meantime, warm rolls in microwave for about 15 seconds. Place bottom buns on plates and spread with condiments while cheese is melting.
  5. After 2 minutes, use spatula to move burgers to bottom rolls. Place roll tops on burgers and serve at once.


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    • Kate says

      I wouldn’t have believed how good they were until I made them – I now have to make up for lost time, steamed burger-wise!

  1. Mike says

    I watched a program about fast food a while back and one segment was on White Castle. (think it was, there’s not any in this area of the country) Their square patties are formed with holes in them and after being put on the grill, a bit of water is dropped by the patty and then it’s covered and basically steamed to doneness. According to the program, they don’t even flip the meat and it cooks very fast.

  2. Rebecca Brown says

    I have been on a steamed burger kick for a number of months now. I’m always looking for a good burger and while on vacation I found a burger place that steamed their burgers. It was the best burger I ever had. I went 2 days in a row. When I got home I assembled steaming equipment and 10 people. Everyone loved the burgers.

  3. ruthie says

    As a retired caterer, this strikes me as a great way to pre-cook burgers for a crowd, then slap them on the grill for a few minutes for that char flavor and the grill marks. I love this idea! Thanks, Kate.

    I may have to look for that book, too.

  4. Charlene Thompson says

    That sounds great, Kate. We have a hamburger place in Tulsa, OK that cooks the pattie on a flat-top grill, then puts the cheese on top. It’s then covered with a dome and a little water sprayed on the grill and the top is put on and steamed too. It is so delicious, but I didn’t think about doing it at home. I may have to try your steamed burger. It looks very good. I don’t like a dry burger.

  5. says

    Kate, I can’t begin to thank you enough for posting this recipe!! I’m from Meriden, CT. I’ve grown up eating Ted’s Steamed Cheeseburgers and can attest to their deliciousness (did you see the Man vs. Food episode where he visits?). Admittedly, I try to get to Ted’s every time I’m home because sometimes I get more homesick for the burgers than my own family [sorry, mom!]. Thanks to you, I can make them at home. And, if you ever do make it up to Meriden, do let me know–I can recommend plenty of places to eat! [CT doesn’t have a state food, but we’re unofficially the burger state thanks to the birthplace of the burger, Louis Lunch in New Haven. And if you like funky cheese cooking methods, also check out Shady Glen in Manchester, CT!]

  6. Debby says

    The hubby and I would rather eat a burger than any other food. We make our own burgers using organic ground beef mixed with onions, jalepenos, cheese and of course… bacon and freeze them. I’m going to try this the steamed way! If you can find it, Nature’s Source ground beef is awesome! We buy it at BJ’s, 3-1lb packs for $12. Always tender no matter how you cook it.

  7. Rebecca Brown says

    I’m making these for a dinner party tonight. The last group I cooked them for really liked them.


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