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Steamed Cheeseburgers: Make-at-Home Version - from the Land of Steady Habits!

The steamed cheeseburger is a Connecticut specialty. And here in the land of steady habits, it's definitely a love or hate thing. But having grown up with them, I've got nothing but love for a steamer.

So, inspired by Mark's post, I am making my own steamed cheeseburger for dinner tonight, on buttered toast. I meant to make a side dish, but truthfully, I'm starving and my makeshift steamer box is boiling as I speak.


Will be back later to tell you how this little venture came out. I'll start by telling you I did *NOT* use cleaned out cat food cans as my steamer boxes (I washed and washed, yet they still kinda smelled like cat food!). I instead used heart-shaped ramekins I usually use for custard. 80/20 ground chuck, Sriracha on top of the meat (who says a steamer can't be sexy?!), and McAdam Sharp is steaming away in my bamboo basket.

Wish me luck!

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  1. Go get-em K.

    We have faith in ya.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, jfood. :)

      I am so excited to tell you about my little experiment! Mmmmmmmmmmmm!

      First, let me tell you that many people are put off by steamed cheeseburgers because I have always heard, even from my uncle who made them at his restaurant back in the day, that you cannot make them rare. WRONG! Perhaps you cannot make them rare if you use traditional steamer accoutrements; however, using a handy bamboo basket and a deeper ramekin, RARE bliss can be yours! My ramekins are about 2 inches deep versus traditional steamer dishes, which are much more shallow.

      Once the water boiled, I let the contents steam for approximately 15 minutes total.

      Wait till you see! Pictured below:
      - McAdam Sharp is cheddar of choice for a steamed cheeseburger. This is what we used in the restaurant (years ago) and what I've seen used locally. The bonus for me is I can get McAdam Sharp at the discount supermarket (PriceRite) for about $1.49 for an 8-oz. block. NICE!
      - Full Steam Ahead! My chuck, coated with Sriracha, and cheese await a little sauna time in the steamer.
      - After - the steamed contents are ready to be plated. Of course, the hamburger fat/juices are strained away
      - Plated - here is my delicious burger, ready to eat, atop buttered toast

      4 Replies
      1. re: kattyeyes

        Last, but not least, can you see why this was love at first bite for me? Check out my juicy, rare steamed cheeseburger! I may never eat one outside my own kitchen again!

        1. re: kattyeyes

          What do you know. These looks terrific kattyeyes! I will try this, I have a nice big bamboo steamer, and would love to get more use out of it. My dh will love these fat burgers, and we all love the med rare burger.

          1. re: kattyeyes

            Hot damn! Dems look finger lickin' good! Double up my lipitor and here I come!

          2. re: kattyeyes

            It does look delicious! Nice touch on the heart-ramekins.

            So, I hope I'm not crossing over into blasphemy since I know this is a regional specialty and, therefore, must be prepared a certain specific way in order to achieve the ideal, but is it possible to do steamed bison burgers using this technique? (Asks the gal who has 1/6th of a bison in her deep-freeze.)


          3. Oh my that looks divine!

            1. Kattyeyes, I've never had one of these (West coaster) but I've wanted to since I saw them on some food show. Does the burger and cheese readily come out of the ramekins? Since you are using a deeper ramekin do you think putting the cheese directly on the burger would work as well?

              2 Replies
              1. re: just_M

                Yes, the burger and cheese come out without issue. The burger cooks away from the edges, so that's a cinch, and since the cheese is all melted, it just slides right out. :) You need not prep the ramekins with butter or oil.

                You won't want to put the cheese directly on the burger because all the juices/fat cook off the burger and you'll need to drain them away. Having separate compartments for meat and cheese keep everything neat and orderly (no additional burger fat getting mixed up in the cheese). Hope you enjoy!

                1. re: kattyeyes

                  Thanks, can't wait to try them out.

              2. Wow, now I can make them at home, yippie! I showed Mr. Bushwick the lovely photos and tried to explain to him the subtle juicy deliciousness of a steamed cheeseburger and he was less than impressed, (he's from Brooklyn, what do they know.) Now I can prove to him that they're great. Thanks!
                Oh, no cat food cans either, I also have ramekins.


                  Looks Fantastic and that little pool of red is the perfect way to serve a burger.

                  1. You tube has some funny videos on these cheeseburgers, but your photos are sooo much more appetizing. I don't remember the last time I wanted to run out to the store ASAP and get the ingredients to make something. Thanks for the introduction to a CT favorite.

                    1. Thanks so much for this Connecticut specialty.

                      Incorporating steam into the burger process offers wonderful opportunities for experimentation as the winter cold moves us indoor from the high heat grill.

                      The steamed cheese is also fascinating in its (French accent, please:) dripp'age.

                      You show buttered toast, but are the buns also traditionally steamed in CT?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: FoodFuser

                        At O'Rourke's in Middletown, CT (my hometown), they steam the burger and cheese and grill the bun (explanation at 6:49). See them featured here on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives--that's a real steamer box at 5:07!


                      2. Hey, k-e. I've never heard of this (Left Coast). What's supposed to be the advantage?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: c oliver

                          I'd say the advantage is moisture, but for me, personally, the advantage goes beyond that. I'm psyched to be able to make a steamer at home and do it MY WAY (rare)!

                          Here's an interesting link to more info:

                          P.S. Hey, Uncle Al--you catchin' any of this?!

                        2. Take two! Made these last night for my mom and me. My mom's brother was my Uncle Al--the one with the steamer box--and my mom was NEVER a steamed cheeseburger fan...until yesterday!

                          I made them with a slight variation last night. Used Cabot's Seriously Sharp, pretty much a permanent fixture in my fridge, applied a layer of Sriracha blended with ketchup and S&P on top, then to put it all the way over the top, carmelized some Vidalia onion and baby bellas with a touch of cognac. Completely not traditional, but hey, "My roof, my rules!" as our parents used to say. :)

                          I did notice the SIZE of a burger made in a two-inch deep ramekin...they come close to 1/2-pounders before you cook them. So, I didn't fill the meat quite to the tippy-top this time. It was damn close, but still. That said, I kept my boiling time at 15 minutes and should have knocked off a minute or two for the slight meat decrease. Though last night's burgers were not AS rare as round 1, they were still pink in the center, and as always, juicy as all get out, so no complaints here. My mom is as fussy about a rare burger as I am (genetics?!) and the burger did not suffer. But note that not filling your ramekin to the brim should shave a minute or so off your cooking time. Regardless, if you do this, you'll enjoy one of the juiciest burgers ever. I promise!

                          Oh, and Cabot SS is a fine addition to the burger. It seems to melt creamier than the McAdam. Both are great. Have you tried your own steamer yet? It'll put you off buying one out (if you live in CT) ever again, guaranteed.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: kattyeyes

                            You can get Vidalias in January? Do they come with the little "authenticity" sticker on them? It's usually April before they arrive.

                            Have you started grinding your own beef yet? Then you REALLY won't order a burger out - in CT or anywhere else :) Although I still can't imagine a steamed burger, you're such a good cook (and eater) I know it MUST be good. Ditto for Mom.

                          2. All right, folks. I've got it all down to a science now and have step-by-step pictures:

                            Summary: 80/20, 14 minutes, 5 oz. You can't go wrong.

                            Changes since round 1:
                            Ketchup-spiked sriracha works better for me than straight Sriracha on top; best cheese I've used so far is Cabot's Seriously Sharp, but McAdam is among the traditional cheese choices; 5 oz. is plenty of burger--my first one looks more like a filet mignon in size...it had to be a 1/2 pounder. Yipes!

                            I have converted my own mother. Have I converted you?

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: kattyeyes

                              I miss those Ted's steamed cheeseburgers. I need to go there for one the next time I'm back in CT.

                              Another special CT cheeseburger: the ones from Shady Glen in Manchester with the crispy cheese edges.

                              *sigh* Pure heaven. :)

                              1. re: BabsW

                                "the ones from Shady Glen in Manchester"
                                Oh, yes!

                                1. re: BabsW

                                  For those reading along who have no idea what we're talking about, here is the Shady Glen cheeseburger:

                                  Shady Glen has great cole slaw and ice cream, too. The cheese forms little crisps you can snap off and eat. But this I've never tried to replicate at home! :)

                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                    Yes, they do have great ice cream. Reading the link and looking at the map suddenly made me very homesick for CT.

                                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                                      "Reading the link and looking at the map suddenly made me very homesick for CT."

                                      Me too!

                                      I also miss Abbott's in Noank.

                                      1. re: BabsW

                                        OMG, I had some wonderful lobster dinners at Abbott's, on that outside seating area by the docks at sunset. So nice.

                                        It's been a long time...

                                        1. re: bushwickgirl

                                          I recall fighting off the seagulls, too. They are brazen!

                                          1. re: BabsW

                                            Yes, they are brazen. They know where the good stuff is.

                                            I see a few posts in this thread here have been removed.

                                            Anyway, I'm making steamed cheeseburgers tonight for dinner, a la kattyeyes. Can't wait. Her great photos really got to me.

                                            1. re: bushwickgirl

                                              How did they turn out?

                                              I am so going to get a bamboo steamer and try these out at home. :)

                                              1. re: BabsW

                                                They are GREAT, juicy and tender! I cooked them for 15 minutes, as I like medium rare. Also weight out your burger, I used 5 oz 80/20 ground chuck in 4 oz ramekins, and I seasoned the meat well before packing it into the dishes. The chedar melts very well in the steamer.

                                                I have a 10 inch steamer, I used one basket and it held two burgers and the cheese ramekin perfectly.

                                                1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                  Excellent. I can not WAIT to make these at home!

                                                  1. re: BabsW

                                                    That would be "weigh" and "cheddar," jeez, I hate typos and my proofreading skills are nil these days. Maybe the old eyes are going...

                                                  2. re: bushwickgirl

                                                    I am so excited to read/hear this!!! :) Really, truly!

                                2. Years ago, at least over 25, The Hartford Courant had an article in its food section of how to make these in a microwave. I tried it and we loved it, but somehow I lost that article. Does anyone know what I'm talking about and have the info?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Riatta

                                    Hi there! That's my local paper, but that long ago I could just eat them at my uncle's place and probably wouldn't have paid attention to a microwave recipe. I wonder if you called The Courant if they'd have it on file and share it with you? That would be great, if so. Worth a shot, no doubt.

                                  2. I use a boiler pan that has a slotted cover I fill the pan with water put on cover then burgers................. BAKED / STEAMED at 475 then broil and cheese.......... juicy with fat dripped into water below.GOOOOOOOOOD!!.I have a bamboo steamer will try that method for a small batch

                                    1. Oh my god. This thread (with its luscious photos) is killing me. It's been months and months since I've had a good (not from frozen, handmade) burger---and even then it was only cooked in (my own) grill pan.

                                      I am dying for an American cookout. Berliners really don't "get" good burgers. Maybe I'll try a steamer at home next week! But it's the charcoal that I really carry a torch for. Sigh.

                                      1. In Albany NY they serve "steamed hams". That's what they call hamburgers.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: rochfood

                                          That's cute. God bless 'em in upstate NY.

                                          1. re: bushwickgirl

                                            Well, Albany for sure, but they actually don't use the term in Utica.

                                            Oh- and make sure you wash them down with Partially Gelatinated, Non-Dairy, Gum-Based Beverages!


                                            (In all honesty, those burgers look really good and juicy, and the melted cheese aspect intrigues me.)

                                            1. re: TongoRad

                                              Oh, ok, well then, God bless 'em in Albany, except for the NY state senate. May they be forced to drink the gum-based beverages.

                                        2. Okay, I give up! I'm gonna make the ding-dang things :) Are y'all happy? I'm just glad I don't have to use a catfood or sardine can. I'll report back after I make them---if I don't die. Just joking, ya know, k-e.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            A sardine can would make an interestingly shaped burger though...

                                            1. re: BabsW

                                              I actually did some research on this subject and the pans they're cooked in in restaurants are rectangular. See link below:


                                            2. re: c oliver

                                              I think I just heard an epiphany and it sounded soooooooooooo good to me. :)

                                              I'm very glad you're not using cat food cans...I swear the smell of cat food never leaves the can. NEVER.

                                              This calls for some Kirk Franklin: "Put your hands together, can I get a witness up in heah?! Makes me wanna dance and stomp! GP, are ya with me?!"

                                              God, now I want to rewrite this song about food on an appropriate thread...

                                              P.S. Yes, CO, you're correct re your link below with the little rectangular trays. That's what we had in the restaurant.

                                            3. I finally tried it and really loved it. I used 90/10 ground beef seasoned w/ Cajun seasoning and sharp Tillamook cheddar. For steaming, I had 2 small pineapple cans which fit perfectly into my basket steamer. They're deeper than kattyeye's ramekins in the picture so I steamed the burgers for about 17 minutes altogether. I decided to add the cheese filled can to the steamer 1/2 way through the cooking time. I topped the cheese burgers with carmellized onions and served it on a regular soft sesame seed topped bun. Next time I'll steam the burgers for less time as I like it with more pink. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                                I woke up this morning with a steamed cheeseburger craving, and then this thread popped up again...I like the repurposing the pineapple can idea. Guess I know what I need to make today!

                                                1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                                  So psyched to read this--and so glad you enjoyed! GREAT idea on the pineapple cans and LOVE Tillamook! I find myself readjusting the steam time, too, based on how thick the burger and whether it's on the top or bottom of the bamboo baskets. Thanks for sharing!

                                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                                    Just needs some green chile for perfection!

                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                        that crossed my mind too. I think the green chilies could be put in with the cheese. I might try this tonight.