It’s like when you want a hamburger, but you don’t have any buns.

Leonardo DaVinci on patty melts

Onions caramelizing 1

Lenny got it right thousands of years ago when he said the famous quote above. Most people I know don’t hang around their house with a stockpile of hamburger buns in the pantry, so why do we make cheeseburgers so often when we can just make patty melts? PMs are like the cheeseburger’s exotic cousin who’s not as round, accessorizes less, and is way more melty. A guy living a fast-paced, never-stop, full-throttle lifestyle like me can’t always make time for devouring cheeseburger’s that are too tall with condiments and toppings, so I turn to patty melts,  which brings me to our next quote of the day:

It’s like a panini, but with a hamburger.

-Levi Strauss

onions caramelizing 2

If you know me, then you know I don’t own a pair of Levi’s jeans, but damn do I subscribe to his similes.  He couldn’t have been more right! Inspiring quotes aside, I decided to make patty melts the other day and fortune followed closely behind me. The endeavor began with a pound of frozen ground beef that I had been meaning to eat for a while. I finally thawed it, added some simple seasonings and began sizzling those warlocks while I caramelized some onions. Caramelized onions are a tradish on patty melts and I’m so happy they are. I admit I was a bit neglectful of the onions while they cooked, but I did something to them that was borderline magicianry. While rye is a more traditional patty melt bread, I prefer sour dough so I went with that for the bread. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any, so I requisitioned the lovely Ellen to bring some over in exchange for a cut of the finished product. When the patties were done cooking and the onions were caramelized, I slapped some baby swiss onto the patties, followed by the onions. The sandwich was then placed in a pan and pressed while it got the cheese melty and the slices of bread toasty. One of the patties was falling apart a bit and Ellen volunteered to eat the ugly-but-beautiful-on-the-inside PM.  She has courage beyond her years and can see the true potential of any hot, pressed sandwich. I opted for ketchup as the sauce of choice in lieu of Thousand Island Dressing because I had neither relish nor mayonnaise. Perhaps as time goes on I will pursue fancier sauces like TID, but for now I will remain a simple man.  We enjoyed the PMs with a light salad and the sounds of joy that come from eating beef and cheese at the end of a long day.

Patty Melt

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Servings: 4


1 lb lean ground beef

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 large yellow onion

4 slices Swiss cheese

8 slices sourdough bread

Olive oil for cooking


1. Place ground beef in a large mixing bowl and add salt, pepper, and onion powder.

2. Mix ingredients with hands or a wooden spoon until combined.

3. Form 4 patties by making balls of ground beef and flattening them. For perfectly round-ass patties, stretch some plastic wrap over the lid of a wide-mouthed container and use the lid as a mold for the patties (more directions here).

4. Slice the onion into long strands. I like to keep them about 3/8″-1/4″ in thickness.

5. Begin cooking the onion before the beef (they’ll take longer) by drizzling olive oil in a thick bottomed pan and heating the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the onions and stir to coat with the oil.

6. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions should be translucent and browned when finished.

7. For max flavocity, you can use the onion pan to cook the patties. Drizzle a little more olive oil into the pan and cook patties over high heat, flipping once. About 3-4 minutes per side.

8. When the onions and patties are cooked, place the patties on a slice of sourdough bread, top with a slice of Swiss cheese, and follow with the onions.

9.  On a panini press or thick bottomed pan, press the sandwiches and heat them, turning the bread golden brown. If using a pan, drizzle some olive oil in the pan and heat at medium high heat and reduce to medium when you place the sandwiches. If using a panini press or griddle, use a kitchen brush to apply olive oil to the bread directly and proceed.

10. Heat until bread is golden brown and cheese is melty. Serve with a salad or a pickle and enjoy!

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