Harlem Shake's Classic Cheeseburger Recipe

Though named after a popular Internet meme from 2013, the Harlem Shake is anything but a fad. That is, if you ask Jelena Pasic, the owner of Harlem Shake, a restaurant that embraces the Harlem of old, bringing high-quality, affordable fare to local residents and visitors alike. "Our burgers are great because we pay special attention to the quality of meat and the mix of cuts that we use," she says. We asked Pasic for her unique recipe that includes a blend of sirloin, chuck and brisket (though, you're fine to use one or the other). Pasic insists on using Martin's Potato Rolls, which we agree is one of the best moves for backyard burger grilling. And when it comes to cooking the burger, she suggests using a cast iron skillet and employing a "smashing" technique that achieves a nice crust. And, of course there is special sauce, which is revealed here.

Harlem Shake's Classic Cheeseburger Recipe
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  • mayonnaise
  • ketchup
  • Yellow mustard
  • sweet relish
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 7.5 ounces beef sirloin
  • 4 ounces well-marbled beef chuck
  • 3 ounces well-marbled beef brisket
  • 1.5 ounces rib meat
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 Martin's potato rolls
  • 4 tablespoons special sauce (recipe follows)
  • 12 slices homemade pickles
  • 1 sweet Vidalia onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 slices yellow American cheese (substitute with Swiss or sharp cheddar to taste)
  • 8 center-cut slices Campari tomatoes (or substitute for another medium sized
  • 1/4 head Iceberg lettuce
  1. Combine all ingredients in blender until smooth, scraping down sides of blender with rubber spatula as necessary.
  2. Combine meat in large bowl and toss to combine.
  3. Place on rimmed baking sheet and place in a freezer for 10 minutes or so, until firm, paying great attention not to freeze the meat. You can also chill the meat grinder blade at the same time.
  4. When ready, remove from freezer and pass meat through grinder twice.
  5. Form into eight pucks of 2 ounces each. 
  6. Refrigerate until ready for use. As an alternative, use pre-ground meat.
  7. Open buns, but do not split hinge.
  8. Spread lightly with butter, then place under broiler or in toaster oven until golden brown, about 1 minute.
  9. Place onions to taste on the bottom part of the bun and follow with 3 pickle slices.
  10. Spread 1 tablespoon special sauce on top of the pickles.
  11. If desired, follow with lettuce and 2 tomato slices. You may improvise with the above ingredients for variety.
  12. Using a paper towel, rub inside of heavy-bottomed 12-inch cast iron skillet with a small amount of vegetable oil, then place over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke.
  13. Season beef spheres on top side with salt and pepper, then place seasoned side down in skillet.
  14. Using the back of a heavy, flat spatula, press down on beef firmly to form 4-inch round patties, being careful not to let it stick to bottom of spatula. (For each Harlem Classic you will need 2 patties).
  15. Season top side with salt and pepper. Cook without moving until crisp, about 2 minutes.
  16. Now scrape the patties and flip, for each Harlem Classic top one of the patties with one slice of cheese, and place the other patty on top of the cheese.
  17. Cook until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute longer, paying attention not to over cook and dry out the meat.
  18. Transfer the meat to top of the sandwiches, close sandwiches and serve.
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