Steamed Cheeseburgers (Yes, Steamed!) Deserve Their Day in the Spotlight. Here’s Why.

The steamed cheeseburger is a Connecticut delicacy that defies logic.

When people fantasize about their perfect burger, they often see dark, crispy grill marks or crunchy char from searing in a pan—which is why the popularity of the nearly colorless steamed cheeseburger is so surprising. In Connecticut, the steamed cheeseburger is a beloved indulgence revered for its tender texture and thick coat of gooey cheese. (Gooey cheese lovers will also be obsessed with these cheeseburger-inspired recipes.)

Who invented the steamed cheeseburger?

Though many eateries will claim fame to the steamed cheeseburger, it’s believed that Jack’s Lunch was the first eatery to serve the delicacy in the 1920s or ’30s. Though the diner is no longer around, Jack Fitzgerald’s idea of steaming burgers and cheese in a tall, metal cabinet has stuck around in Connecticut.

Still hungry? Find more of our favorite Connecticut foods.

Where can you get a steamed cheeseburger?

Ted’s Restaurant has been open in Meriden since the 1950s. Inside, you’ll find the steamed meat drenched in melty cheese the same way it’s been served for more than 50 years. Ted’s Restaurant also has a food truck aptly named “Ted’s Steam Machine,” so the specialty burger can be found at local events, like University of Connecticut football games and outside of local breweries.

And while Ted’s might be the most famous example of a steamed cheeseburger, don’t worry if you’re visiting elsewhere in the state. Steamed cheeseburgers are served in many restaurants and food stands across central Connecticut.

If you’re seeking out a more classic burger, check out our top spots for the best fast food burgers.

How do you make a steamed cheeseburger?

Well, you start by getting steamy! The burgers and their matching slices of cheese are steamed separately in tall metal cabinets. The water that creates the steam is heated in the bottom of the cabinet and rises to cook the burgers and liquefy the cheese. Just before serving, the patty is carefully slid onto a bun and the melted cheese is dumped on top like a molten blanket. Top with lettuce, tomatoes or onions and dig in before the burger has a chance to cool.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t crack the code to a juicy steamed burger at home. I tried to recreate the treat with a colander over water, on a cooling rack over water in the oven and in my rice cooker—but none of my attempts held together after steaming. For now, I’m leaving this one to the pros.

That’s the scoop on Connecticut’s specialty burger. Next, learn about the best burgers in the other 49 states.

Mandy Naglich
Mandy is a food and beverage writer with bylines at WNYC, Munchies, Mic and October. She's a Certified Cicerone and award-winning homebrewer living, writing and cooking in New York City.