You remember an amazing cheeseburger. It sticks in your memory the way other food doesn’t. And you’ll go back time and again for that amazing burger.
The amazing, cravable cheeseburger that I go back for over and over comes from The Littlebird in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. All you have to say to me is “Littlebird Cheeseburger?” and I’m there. And I know I’m not alone. Spend 5 minutes inside The Littlebird and you’ll see the cheeseburger set down at tables all around you.
The Littlebird is located blocks from where I worked pre-pandemic, which means I had the luxury of enjoying one any time I craved it. But when the pandemic required me to start working from home - and then The Littlebird opted to close for a few months - I was suddenly faced with a world without my favorite cheeseburger. So I set out to make it at home.
Breaking down the awesomeness of The Littlebird cheeseburger is easy because it’s a pretty straightforward sandwich: a soft brioche bun; 2 thin, griddled patties; 2 slices of cheese; pickles; creamy dijon mayo. That’s it. The inside of the bun is buttered and toasted. The meat is super juicy. The pickles are crunchy. No lettuce. No tomatoes. No fancy “secret” sauce.
My husband is also well versed in The Littlebird cheeseburger, so he was the perfect tastester for my make-it-at-home experiment. It took me several tries, but eventually he said “this is it.”
Here’s what I do to create my ode to The Littlebird cheeseburger at home. It’s so dang good.
What You Need to Make Amazing Cheeseburgers:
- 80/20 ground beef or ground chuck
- Brioche hamburger buns
- Cheddar cheese slices, mild (not sharp)
- Onions or pickles, thin sliced
- Butter or olive oil
- Dijon mustard
- Black pepper
What to do:
In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and dijon mustard at a ratio of 4 parts mayo to 1 part mustard (e.g. 4 tsp mayo, 1 tsp mustard). Set aside.
Split open the buns and spread the inside with a small layer of butter or brush with olive oil.
Toast the buns, buttered/oiled side down, in a skillet over medium heat until they brown.
Remove from heat and set on plates.
Cover each bun with the mayo/mustard mixture and add your onions or pickles to the top bun.
Set the plates of prepared buns aside.
Heat a skillet or griddle on the stove over medium-high heat.
Make the hamburger patties using aprox ½ cup (3-4 oz) of the ground beef for each patty.
Press each patty thin and flat using your hand or the flat bottom of a glass. (Tip: Do this on parchment paper for easy flipping into the skillet.)
Season one side with salt and pepper.
Place the patties into the hot skillet, seasoned side down.
Cook for 3-4 minutes or until you see the edges of the patties starting to brown.
(Tip: Now is a good time to quickly drain off some of the excess beef fat in your skillet, if desired.)
Season the tops with salt and pepper and flip over your burgers.
Let the burgers cook for 2 minutes before topping each patty with a slice of cheese.
Put a lid on the skillet and let the burgers continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes until the cheese is melted.
Remove the lid and grab your prepared plates/buns.
Place 1 burger patty on each bottom bun. Top with a second patty.
Add the top bun, onion/mayo side down, on top of the burger.
Dig in and enjoy!
Tips for Making Amazing Cheeseburgers
YES! The juiciness and flavor comes from the fat. Drain off the excess as you cook, but do not switch to a lower fat beef and expect an amazing cheeseburger. I tried for over a decade, and it just doesn’t work. You end up putting the fat back in via butter, cheese, or oil.
A good quality bun that’s toasted is necessary. I prefer brioche. Feel free to use whatever you prefer, just don’t grab the $1 package of white buns from the store. Those don’t make anything amazing.
Use any cheese you like, just make sure it’s one that melts nicely. American, Swiss, or Provolone cheeses would all be delicious here.
Of course, but consider substituting something else crunchy in its place. I prefer onions to pickles, so I only use onion. The point of this ingredient is to give the sandwich some texture. Iceberg or Romaine lettuce will help do the same here, if you’d rather not use raw onions or pickles.
Only if you use a griddle on your grill. These are thin patties that can fall apart easily on a standard grill. If you have a cast iron pan or skillet, you can use that on your grill and cook the burgers in the pan or skillet. Keep an eye on your grill’s heat if you go this route. These burgers will create excess grease, which burns/flames/catches on fire easily!
Enjoy your amazing cheeseburger with a side of homemade potato chips.