The Ultimate Cheeseburger

buzzard[1]In my sixty-two years of life, I think I’ve tasted all kinds of burgers.  Being in the Navy, for four years, certainly helped visiting different states and eateries. But at nineteen years of age then, the only one that I can never forget is in my home town of Meriden, Connecticut.  It has even been showcased on TV as one of the most popular places for cheeseburgers.  This little hole in the wall eatery is named, “Ted’s.”

The last time I was there was in early 1970.  Ted’s was only open from 6:00 pm to 6:00am back then.  Tractor trailer trucks would be lined up along Broad Street waiting to get in for an order.  There were only about six counter seats and maybe three or four booths, so it really is relatively small.

Let me explain why this “joint” was so popular.  They offered four items on their menu; French fries, a hamburger, a cheeseburger, and a cheese sandwich.  Their main item was the cheeseburger and what made this cheeseburger so popular was because it was “steamed.”

Ted’s incorporated a tall stainless steel container that sat on the burner of the stove and on the inside it was first divided vertically into two sections and then horizontally segmented into several narrow “slots” on each side.  Each “slot” was deep enough for two 4×4-inch trays.  On one side the meat was pressed into the trays and the other side the trays held hunks of white New York cheddar. After the door of the container was closed, from an area below the trays, water was put in allowing steam to rise and cook the meat and cheese.

The original way it was served was a freshly sliced poppy seeded top, Kaiser roll that was on the harder side rather than the soft ones bagged in plastic today.  This allowed the roll to crumble a little, but was made softer from the burger as you bit into it.  On the roll, the steamed meat is placed first, followed by scraping the steamed molten cheddar on top. The fat remaining in the little meat tray was poured over the cheese for taste.  To finish, a large hand sliced Bermuda onion was placed followed by the top of the roll. Most of the time no ketchup was used but you could put some on by yourself.  Nothing else was offered like lettuce or tomato.  An order of French fries was always nice as a side.

If you tasted one, you would really never want another cheeseburger anywhere else.  Recently, I was informed by watching the TV episode that the cheese was altered and the blend secreted, and they include the lettuce and tomato.  The hours have been changed as well.

I realize that many of you will never have the opportunity to visit Ted’s, even though there are also a few more places that offer it in town since then. So I will tell you how you can make it at home for you to taste this cheeseburger.

Get a large frying pan and put water into it.  Find two wide containers like a large tuna can or salmon can and make sure it is empty and cleaned.  Turn both upside down into the water. Next, make two square trays out of heavy duty aluminum foil or buy a couple of smoked oyster cans.  It is a good size to use as well.  I’ll continue with the oyster cans since it is easier.

After cleaning the oyster cans (make sure you remove all paper labels from everything) and pack teach oyster can, one with meat and other with mild white New York Cheddar.  Make sure the cheddar is about one-inch thick depending on the width of your cheese.  If you can’t find New York cheddar, use mild white cheddar of your choice.

Place both oyster containers on the cans already in the frying pan, make sure the water level doesn’t go over the bottom two cans, let the water boil and cover for anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, pending the thickness of your burger and the heat of your stovetop.  Though we all know water boils at 212°F, the size of the pan can make a slight temperature difference for the time needed.  Make sure the water doesn’t evaporate before it is done.

The rest is easy. Use any Kaiser roll you want if you can’t find the harder ones (at home we called them hard rolls) and do as I described in the early part of the article.  If you try it, let me know how you liked it.  It is a winner.  Steaming is always better than frying if you are a health conscious person.



  1. LFFL said,

    November 8, 2013 at 13:38

    Four items is it?

    • buzzard33 said,

      November 8, 2013 at 15:07

      well, soda & coffee of course, but that was it. I don’t know about today as I haven’t been there since 1970. They may have added stuff since then, but that was all they did and it was always packed and backed up all night long.

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