Butter burgers are a specialty of Solly’s Grille, an old spot in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I first learned of them from Hamburger America, a documentary by a mutton-chopped man named George Motz that is among my favorite food films. I first ate a butter burger when Mark Ibold cooked one at my house—he’d seen the movie, too, and gone so far as to seek out the real deal when he was in Wisconsin.
Butter burgers migrated from weekend fare to our Christmas Eve menu the second year we had the party. One for Mark’s girl Vicki, who’s allergic to lobster, and one for me, who’s allergic to not eating hamburgers when I can be.
The following morning, we woke up and made versions of these burgers for Christmas breakfast (I slathered the patties in yellow mustard before griddling them, as In-N-Out does for Animal Style burgers), which was a tradition we maintained for a few years: burgers for breakfast, sometimes with a half-bottle of Billecart-Salmon rosé Champagne, a big Chinatown meal as soon as we could eat again, and falling asleep with the sun.
Now they’re a fixture of the party, turf to follow the surf. I’m sure the three kings would have done it the same way if they’d made it to Milwaukee before Bethlehem. —Peter Meehan
- 2 lb ground beef
- 2 T kosher salt
- + grapeseed or vegetable oil
- 8 Martin's Potato Rolls, toasted
- + Hellmann's mayonnaise
- a chiffonade iceberg lettuce
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into rings
- 16 crinkle-cut pickles, preferably Claussen
- 16 slices American cheese
- 1 stick unsalted butter, soft at room temperature
- + mustard and ketchup, for serving
Ahead of the party: mix the beef with the salt and divide the meat into 16 flattened little patties. Stack ’em between parchment paper in the fridge. (You can do this to order, too, but it’s better to get all the meat handling out of the way before party time, in my experience.)
Get your griddle good and hot (2–3 minutes over medium-high heat) then slick with a film of oil. Griddle-toast the insides of the buns. (Real talk here: we usually just toaster-oven toast the buns. But griddling the inside is the ideal.) Then condimentize them: spread mayonnaise on the bottom bun and top it with a piece of lettuce, a few onion rings, and a couple pickles.
Sear the patties in batches of 4. After 2 or 3 minutes, they’ll be nice and brown and crusty. Flip and top each patty with a slice of cheese. As soon as the cheese has gone gooey, stack 2 patties on top of one another and spatula-transfer from the griddle to their throne of condiments on the dressed buns, which you have ready and waiting. Crown each with a tablespoon of butter and the top of the bun. Serve with ketchup and mustard on hand, and eat hot.