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Patty Melt - Help!

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I can't seem to master the patty melt. The square/rectangular beef patty always seems to not only change shape and become more round but also seems to expand in thickness. I have tried to make thinner patties with a dimple pressed in the center to account for expansion with cooking but with minimal success. Any tips on the perfect patty melt burger technique?

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  1. There's no reason for a patty melt to be rectangular. I have seen them both square and round.
    Sounds like you are either not making a deep enough dimple or are overcooking the meat. I make square patties because I like my burgers on whole wheat potato bread, which does not come in buns, only slices. I press the meat into a square Rubbermaid storage container, then invert and bang it onto a platter to get the patty out.

    What's your idea of a patty melt? Around here (New England) it is on rye or sourdough bread, with Swiss melted over the meat, and sauteed/smothered onions. The patty is whatever shape best suits the shape of the bread slice.

    2 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      The Rye bread that I usually buy is a rounded rectangle and so have been trying to form the patty to that shape. What average thickness should I aim for (e.g. inches) and how long do you cook on each side?

      1. re: greygarious

        Martin's makes a whole wheat bun http://www.martinsfamouspastryshoppe....

      2. I use the Veggie Garden Burger and fry that up with the onions and then assemble with Swiss and cheddar cheese on marble rye/rye with 1,000 island dressing and grill it up like a grilled cheese.
        This is out of the park delicious and my DH, who is a meat lover likes this version better.
        So, if you want to try another alternative, this is it...you can thank me later!

        1. I like to cook burgers for patty melts on a griddle, so they get really crisp. I start with a patty that's slightly smaller than my bread and about 1/2" thick, which is slightly thicker than I want the final product to be. I salt it and throw it on the very hot griddle, then use the edge of a metal spatula to kind of "chop" the burger, which makes it spread out and flatten without squeezing out all the juices (copied that technique from the grill guy at a Fire and Ice). Give it two minutes or so, then flip, add cheese, cover and give it a minute or two on the other side (so the cheese has a chance to melt). Screaming hot griddle is key for the crispy bits! The resulting patty is around 1/4" thick and cooked medium-ish.

          1. I just made patty melts this past week. I make the thinest possible patty and then press down on it with a spatula in the skillet (I know this is a no-no, but it works OK here). I layer cheese, sauteed onions, burger, then another cheese layer on rye bread then butter the bread and cook it in a skillet like a grilled cheese sandwich, using a bacon press to weigh it down. A panini grill could probably be used here. I just let the burger hang over the edges of the bread--or you could probably just trim it to fit with a knife or kitchen shears.

            1. First of all, I'd suggest carefully forming your patties from a compressed ball of ground meat to a thickness of 1/4 inch.
              The compressed ball tightens up the ground meat so that its shrinkage occurs more evenly. Using a loosely compressed and shaped meat patty creates a number of mysterious shrinkage issues that needn't be experienced when making this sandwich. Shape the patty just slightly larger than the bread you intend to use and in the desired shape. Season with S&P and drop it into a hot pan (heavier the pan the better - e.g. cast iron) and let it brown on one side. NEVER compress the patty while cooking. It not only dries out the patty but it slows down the cooking. If you want a dried out burger try something like a veggie burger.
              Brown the burger on one side, turn it once every two minutes until done. The patty should shrink to some degree (takes practice to get it perfectly sized for the bread you choose) but it's shape should remain relatively constant. If you experience more shrinkage in one direction than another, form future patties by favoring the side that demonstrates a greater percentage of shrinkage and you'll eventually find the right formula for your style of patty melt.
              The rest of the process (adding cheese and finishing) remains essentially static and I don't have anything to add to what's already been posted in that regard.
              A patty melt that offers moisture only from the oils in the melted cheese without combining with meat juices in every bite misses the mark entirely so avoid the temptation to squish the meat patty while it cooks.

              1. Thank you for all of the advice. I have achieved Patty Melt success! I seasoned the patty with Worcestershire, Lawry's, salt and pepper and shaped the burgers into very thin (1/4 inch) patties which were about a 1/2 inch bigger on each side than the bread. I used generous amounts of butter, a cast iron pan thoroughly heated on low-medium, and put a heavy pan on top of the assembled sandwich to help the cheese ooze around the meat and bread. Hands down, the best patty melt so far...my SO gobbled it down in less than 5 minutes.

                1. Compress the patties to your desired thickness between two pieces of wax paper and then freeze them for 1 hour before cooking. This will help them to stay thin and manageable as you cook them.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: CDouglas

                    Thanks for the tip. I forgot to mention that last night I formed the patties and wrapped with saran wrap with a quick chill in the refrigerator for an hour which definitely seemed to help them to keep shape.

                  2. I took hit for smashing a hamburger patty but I'm from the Midwest and I guess according to this article we like our thin, smashed hamburgers. More on the smash technique here: http://thepauperedchef.com/2008/12/th...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: fleck

                      I managed to avoid the smash and the burger behaved itself and remained flat but perhaps will give that technique a try.

                    2. Hope this isn't considered "hijacking a thread", but I thought it might be a good place to ask if the use of cube steak is appropriate for patty melts.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Bryan Pepperseed

                        Sounds good to me. I also could see using leftover steak and ending up with something like a cheesesteak on rye, heavy on the onions. It might be that neither is a patty melt, but is a patty melt really a patty melt if you didn't get it at a bowling alley?

                        1. re: tim irvine

                          Good question. :-)

                      2. Tonight I plan to use a cast iron pan to make a turkey Patty Melt.

                        Saute some bacon and onions til almost caramelized. Grill turkey burger in same pan and top with swiss. Remove from pan and wipe out excess grease. Butter some sourdough bread and assemble sandwich and use grill press to get crusty exterior on bread.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: boltsfan

                          Cast iron is your best bet!! It makes an amazing Patty Melt.