The Unusual History of Steamed Cheeseburgers In Connecticut

Steamed cheeseburgers have been around in one form or another since the 1890s. Originally invented in Connecticut, the city of Meriden has become the only place in America where you can find the steamed, cheese-covered burgers. Ted’s Restaurant has been steaming up burgers for locals and visitors alike since 1959. Clinging to this unique local tradition is the driving force that keeps the restaurant going, and it’s a tradition you won’t find practiced anywhere else in the country. There is a special tool utilized for steaming hamburgers that resembles something like a large, stainless steel sauna. Five ounces of seasoned meat is placed straight into rectangular tins and slid into the steamer to cook for about 10 minutes. Once the meat is removed, it's placed on a bun and slathered with gooey, steamed cheddar cheese, which covers the meat like cascading lava. The steam boxes can cook up to 12 hamburgers at a time. Too long in the steamer and you’re left with a stiff, rubbery cube of meat. Get the timing right and you’ve got yourself a moist, juicy burger with no char or grease. Where else but in the exceedingly strange and diverse place we call the United States could we find such passion and promise over how hamburgers are cooked? It's a beautiful thing.