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» There’s No “I” in “Juicy”
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There’s No “I” in “Juicy”

By • May 31st, 2009 • Category: Burger Blog

I first heard of the Jucy Lucy on the Travel Channel series Man v. Food.  It’s a specialty burger in Minneapolis that has a slab of cheese stuffed into the burger itself.  According to the story, one day back in the 1950s, a customer ordered a cheeseburger and asked to have the cheese encased inside the patty.  Why or how this notion came to him has been lost to history.  Whatever the inspiration, the burger was created as ordered.  When the customer bit into it, hot melted cheese oozed everywhere, and he is said to have exclaimed, “Wow, that’s one juicy Lucy!“  And a legend was born.

So was a good bit of controversy, it seems.  Today, two different Twin Cities eateries claim to be the birthplace of this local delicacy.  At Matt’s Bar, the word “juicy” is misspelled on the menu, a mistake that has hung around for over half a century.  And they offer their Jucy Lucy only one way: with good ol’ American cheese.  At the 5-8 Club, though, they have their spelling correct and offer 4 different cheese fillings.

I was immediately fascinated by the Jucy Lucy, and found a recipe for it in a grilling cookbook I recently received.  The concept is utterly simple: use some salt & pepper to season the beef, add a basic milk-and-bread paste as a binding agent, then wrap it around a hunk of cheese.

I feared that the cheese would simply melt and leak right out of the burger once it hit the grill and started to cook.  But when I pulled them off, there was visible cheese escaping from just 2 of 5 burgers.  No real loss, just a little seepage up top.

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I found that patience is a virtue with Lucy.  Besides allowing the meat’s juices to recirculate (as you should do with any grilled cut of meat), a brief wait also helps keep the cheese intact.  Cutting one open for its photo op 5 minutes after coming off the grill, all of the cheese made a break for it in one big, gooey blob.  I should have waited another minute or two.

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But biting into a whole Jucy Lucy presented a different problem.  The back of the burger blew out and sent the cheese gushing out the back end!  In hindsight, I’d probably wait 5-10 minutes, cut the whole thing in half (usually a telltale sign of a wussy burger eater, in my book… but I’ll make an exception if it means saving the cheese!), and then eat each half.

Either way you slice it, the Jucy Lucy is a messy burger.  And truth be told, I found the cheese to be too concentrated in the middle, leaving the edge bites tasting like straight hamburger.  Maybe it was in how I had shaped the patties, or the size of the cheese chunks I had used.  All in all, though, the Jucy Lucy is a neat trick to pull at a cookout or a special occasion.

And now I’ve seen different recipes for variations of the cheese-stuffed burger in two other publications within the past month.  So maybe it’s a growing trend in America’s rekindled love affair with the cheeseburger.

Even so, I’ll find an excuse to get up to Minneapolis to try the original.  Or originals, I should say.  I’d hate to exclude either Matt’s or the 5-8 from my Jucy Lucy taste test.  As long as I’m going, I might as well try ‘em both, don’t you think?

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