Adding a slice of cheese to the top of a grilled burger always elevates the flavor. To many, it’s seen as a classic American cookout experience. It’s probably not a coincidence that American Cheese is the most common slice to grace the top of a freshly grilled meat patty. With cheddar coming in a close second.
While there’s nothing “Wrong” with using American cheese to top a burger, it’s certainly not the only option. If you’re tired of the same-old thing, or you just want to find a way to take your cheeseburgers to the next level, you might want to consider some of the following alternatives for making elevated cheeseburgers.
Swiss cheese is a great alternative cheese for melting on top of a hamburger patty. It has a reasonable melting point that allows it to melt onto the top of the burger while it’s still on the grill. There are different types of Swiss to choose from. Though classic Swiss, Emmentaler and the popular Swiss derivative gruyere, have a rich flavor that tends to pair the best with beef cheeseburgers.
So-called “Baby Swiss” has a milder flavor as it isn’t aged as long as traditional Swiss. While it’s still fair game for beef burgers, it’s even more appealing for alternative burger meats like chicken and turkey.
Swiss cheese also plays well with other burger toppings like sauteed mushrooms, onions, and peppers. It’s also readily available, so you don’t have to scour boutique grocery stores to find some great Swiss for an elevated cheeseburger.
Admittedly, blue cheese isn’t for everyone, and some varieties of blue cheese can be tricky to melt properly on top of a burger. Gorgonzola tends to be the easiest to work with and its strong flavor plays well with the richness of beef.
While there is always the worry that this powerful flavor will outshine the burger. Still, it’s a risk worth taking. Especially if you’re looking for an elevated cheeseburger that you can have with a glass of red wine.
Getting blue cheese to melt on top of a burger patty can be a little challenging. The trick is to chop it into small pieces that are no bigger than a quarter cubic inch. This maximizes the surface area of the cheese to help it melt. Putting it on top of the burger patty right after the first flip, and adding a melting dome to concentrate the heat also helps.
Blue cheese is also easy to find in most grocery stores. It pairs well with other toppings like sauteed onions and mushrooms. You can even chop it up and mix it into the burger to really boost the blue cheese flavor.
Gouda has a very friendly melting point and is even used in different types of fondu. It has a sweet, creamy flavor, and is made from yellow cow’s milk. While it’s originally from the Netherlands it has grown to become one of the most popular cheeses in the world.
Of course, this means gouda is relatively easy to find in grocery stores and delis. It also plays well with a lot of other topics. Especially things like caramelized onions where the two accentuate themselves to create elevated cheeseburgers with a hint of natural sweetness.
Provolone is originally from Italy, but it has since escaped the boot to become one of the most popular deli cheeses in the world. Sliced and grated provolone melts very easily. Though aged provolone, which has a lower water content tends to take a little longer to melt on top of a gourmet cheeseburger, so you’ll want to put it down right after the patty’s first flip.
Smoked provolone is a great option for elevated cheeseburgers on the grill. It brings a light smoky flavor that accentuates the taste of the grilled meat. It also plays nice with onions mushrooms and other elevated burger toppings.
Monterey Jack & Pepper Jack
Pepperjack takes the popularity of Monterey Jack and elevates it by adding bits and pieces of peppers to it. It has a relatively low melting point, which makes it great for elevated cheeseburgers. Though some low-grade versions aren’t really “Elevated” for cheeseburger purposes, though if you spring for the good stuff you’ll be impressed by how flavorful a grilled burger can be.
Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack cheese play nicely with a lot of other burger toppings. Pepper Jack is better suited for Italian and Tex-Mex toppings like Jalapeno peppers, giardiniera, and chili cheeseburgers. Whereas standard Monterey Jack is better for things like raw onions, caramelized onions, and sauteed mushrooms.
Colby is an American spin on classic English cheddar. It originated in Wisconsin but has spread like wildfire. It tends to be milder and sweeter than cheddar, but it melts just as well. It also adds a degree of richness to cheeseburgers. If you have someone in your family who loves the classic yellow slice of cheese, but you want to break them out of their cheddar and American cheese comfort zone, then Colby might be a great “Gateway Cheese.”
Colby is also relatively easy to find. You can get standard versions of it at the grocery store. Though you’ll find the best Colby for melting on cheeseburgers from a high-end deli.
Mozzarella is sort of typecast as being just a pizza cheese. Though when you take a look at its characteristics and flavor, with its low melting point, it’s great for covering a burger patty on the grill. It also works and plays well with other topics like onions, tomatoes, and lettuce as you get with a classic California burger. It also works with peppers and pickled flavors as a great all-around melting cheese.
Mozzarella is also relatively easy to find. Though it’s often sold as shredded cheese, which is lightly processed. So, if you want to use it to top a burger, go the extra mile to source sliced mozzarella. A local deli is more likely to have high-end mozzarella with saltier flavors and more complexity.
Cheeses That Don’t Work on Burgers
Hard cheeses generally aren’t ideal for melting on a burger. This includes things like parmesan, aged cheddar, hard feta, ricotta, and paneer. These cheeses don’t melt well or not at all. However, you could grate them finely and add them to another melting cheese as a flavor enhancer. Yet you risk the final cheeseburger having a grainy texture.