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How to Celebrate National Cheeseburger Day

National Cheeseburger Day? Now that's a holiday we can really get behind. It would be almost un-American not to eat a cheeseburger today.
09/18/2015 03:58pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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Photo by Rob Baas.

National Cheeseburger Day? Now that's a holiday we can really get behind. It would be almost un-American not to eat a cheeseburger today.

The practice of topping a burger with cheese became popular in the 1920s. So who first came up with the idea? Here are some competing claims:

  • Lionel Sternberger, a 16-year-old fry cook, working at his father's Pasadena, California, restaurant (The Rite Spot) in 1926. Legend has it a homeless man, wanting more bang for the buck, asked Sternberger to crown his burger with a slice of cheese.

  • In 1928, a Los Angeles eatery called O'Dell's listed a chili cheeseburger on its menu.
  • A trademark for the name "cheeseburger" was awarded to Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In in Denver, Colorado.
  • Regardless of its origin, there's no denying the cheeseburger's allure. (Seventy-five percent of us eat at least one a week, reports the trade magazine Burger Business.) The biggest cheeseburger ever assembled--a Guinness world record holder at this writing--weighed 2,014 pounds. It was built by the Black Bear Casino in 2012 in Carlton, Minnesota, and contained 60 pounds of bacon, 50 pounds of sliced onions, 50 pounds of lettuce, and 40 pounds each of pickles and cheese. The patty itself was 10 feet in diameter and had to be flipped with a crane.

    While a classic cheeseburger usually features a thin slice of cheese melted on top of a sizzling beef patty, there are many other ways to marry meat and cheese:

    • South Minneapolis is the birthplace of the "Juicy Lucy" (also spelled "Jucy Lucy," depending on which bar you visit), a cheese-filled patty that's also topped with cheese. I call my version the "Inside-Out Cheeseburger."

  • For a new take on cheeseburgers, try Beer-Can Burgers--deep cavity; mucho cheese.
  • Mix coarsely grated cheese (about 1 cup per pound of meat) into the meat before shaping the patties. The cheese will keep the burgers moist as they cook.
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    Steven Raichlen is the author of the Barbecue! Bible cookbook series and the host of Project Smoke on public television. His web site is BarbecueBible.com.