When looking up the definition of “pornography,” I wasn’t sure if I had to put my browser into incognito mode or not. If a friend were using my laptop to look for pomegranate recipes and “pornography” came up as soon as they typed “po-” into the search bar, they wouldn’t think I was actually trying to find porn that way, right? Like, does anyone even do that anymore? Also, I’ve never searched “pomegranate recipes” because pomegranates are bullshit. No one should have to work that hard for fruit.
Anyways, I pulled up my incognito search engine, typed in “pornography,” and this is what Merriam-Webster spit out: “the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.” The Jucy Lucy is pornography between buns.
Is it necessary to cram the cheese in between two paper-thin animal wafers instead of blanketing it on top? Probably not. But is it sensational? Is it arousing? Does biting into the burger and watching the molten cheese acquiesce into a depraved mixture of juices flowing down your forearm elicit a quick intense emotional reaction? Do you literally want fuck this burger? Yes, yes, yes, and…I don’t know that last one seems unsafe at best, sexually monstrous at worst. I thought you were speaking metaphorically this whole time but, damn, things got real weird real fast.
Either way, the first bite you take into a Jucy Lucy — invented and spelled as such by Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis (depending on whose story you believe) — will make the staunchest sandwich atheist believe in a Burger God. (Like, one with tomato hands and pickle eyes and stuff.) But there’s a process to be followed: you can’t just throw cheese to meat and caution to wind and hope it all works out.
Start out by selecting your cheese. No, don’t select your cheese, I’m choosing for you. You’re going to use American — and not for any patriotic reason. This is for science. American cheese has been crafted with the right amount of a milkfat, milk protein concentrate, and emulsifiers like sodium phosphate and citrate to create a ridiculously low melting point. That way, you can cook your burger to a nice pink medium and still have that gooey center. Boom — scienced.
Take about three ounces of 80 percent lean ground beef and shape it into a slightly-larger-than-bun-sized patty. You want it to be as thin as possible because you’re going to make a second equally waifish patty to be laid on top. Unwrap a slice of gloriously yellow American cheese, fold it into fourths, then place it on the center of one of the patties. Don’t worry about getting a lot of cheese surface area coverage — you don’t want to run the risk of springing a cheese leak while you’re cooking.
Lay the second patty on top of the first, then, very carefully, use your hands to seal the two together, forming one moderately large meat disc with a beautiful surprise in the middle. Season the top side of the burger with salt and pepper, then heat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat with a tiny bit of vegetable oil. When the oil shimmers and starts to smoke, gently place the not-yet-Jucy Lucy in the pan and sear for three minutes. Important: Don’t fuck with it! Don’t flip it, don’t check up on it, and for the love of god do not try and press it. Once you break the seal and the cheese oozes out, the whole operation is done. Over. Caput. Just let it be for three minutes, flip it over, and continue to cook for another three. You should be left with a medium inside and a gushing yellow vaseline-like core.
Let the burger rest for a second while you gather accouterments. And don’t bother with lettuce and tomato here, they’ll just get in the way. I piled bacon, caramelized onions, and some Russian dressing onto a squishy brioche bun, because mayonnaise-based, country-specific condiments are my jam. Slap that burger on there and go to town.
I’d tell you to let it cool for a bit, and that molten cheese can and will burn your mouth — but who am I to stand in the way of passion?
Still hungry? Check out the other installments of Bite Club here.
Photos by All photos by Josh Scherer