FoodThe 5 Best Cheeses for Upgrading a Cheeseburger
In honor of the last long weekend of summer we're here to tell you the right cheese to put on your cheeseburger. Matt Rubiner, owner and fromager at the legendary Rubiner's Cheesemongers in Great Barrington, MA, tells us how to do it.
A burger, like everything else in the world, is better with cheese. But not all cheese is burger-able. The right cheeseburger cheese has three requirements:
- It has to taste good on a burger.
- It has to melt. This is key. Meltability (the preferred technical
term among engineers, I'm sure) is not a given. Some cheeses just
won't melt, at least not at burger temperature. A chunk of
Parmigiano (translation: Parmesan) is going to stay a chunk of
Parmigiano no matter how long you cook your patty. Same with really
aged cheddars and provolones.
- It has to melt correctly. Not too oily, not too liquid. It
should flow, not run (think lava). Gooey is the goal.
So how do you know if your cheese is melty? Basic rule: If it's bendy it will melt (that's not really the science, but it's close enough). If it's moist looking (brie, some blues, chevres) it will also melt —or least soften
Still, better not to leave cheese selection to chance. Here are my five picks for the best cheeses to grace your summer sendoff burgers:
Specifically: Kraft Singles
A cheeseburger is one of two acceptable applications for American "cheese"slices (diner grilled cheese is the other). They're convenient, individually wrapped, come in festive colors, and are literally engineered to melt. Stick with Kraft. The Original. Fresh out of the lab. Otherwise it's like using Hunt's Ketchup instead of Heinz. You just shouldn't do it.
"Swiss", the one with holes, is adequate, if uninspired for a burger. Use Swiss Emmentaler, the real version of the deli classic, if you can find it. I use comté (French but Swiss-y), or young Swiss Gruyere. Melts great, stays melted, is nutty (though which nut is hard to say) and even tastes a bit like caramelize onions. Saves time caramelizing onions.
Cheddar tastes great on a burger but be careful: it melts oily, if it melts at all. Young, moist, pliable cheddars are the most meltable. Use a cheddar that's too aged and it will just soften into a greasy, texturally unsatisfying blob. You don't even have to come to a shop like mine for it – there are lots of decent young cheddars in your grocer's dairy case: Tillamook, Cabot, Grafton Village.
Specifically: Colston-Bassett Stilton or Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen Blue
I would never put blue cheese on a burger. I had a traumatic blue cheeseburger experience in Hico, West Virginia, Easter Sunday, 1982. But if you insist, stick to the firmer, fudgy textured ones, like Stilton, or Jasper Hill's great Bayley Hazen Blue from Vermont. Anything moist and really crumbly just melt into a greenish milky film.
Specifically: Westfield Farm
It's not the manliest of burgers, but if you want goat cheese stick with the young, fresh ones. They won't melt melt, but they'll get very soft. Personally I think the goaty tang of chevre goes better with a lamb burger than a beef burger. Give it a try.