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Cheeseburger in Paradise: an Ode to Jimmy Buffett

It's not just his cheeseburger in paradise that gets me.

"Smell those shrimp, they're beginning' to boil".

His "Boat Drinks" that the band wanted in the dead of winter.

"Grapefruit, chew a little juicy fruit, it's good for the soul"

Don't forget his diet food-- sunflower seeds, carrot juice and soaking up rays. Nor the zucchini fettuccine or bulgar wheat.

"I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and French fried potatoes, big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer well good golly Molly which way do I steer? "

If there's one artist who's synonymous with tropical escapism and laid-back vibes, it's Jimmy Buffett. And while his music can transport you to a sunny beach with just a few chords and lyrics, there's one culinary creation of his that can do the same - the famous "Cheeseburger in Paradise." Join me as we take a culinary journey to Margaritaville and explore the story behind this iconic dish.

On this past Labor Day we celebrated the worker. And the unofficial end to summer. Ironicaly or poetically, depending how you approach it, Jimmy Buffett dying at the end of summer was probably the most fitting time of year. Given his songs were the epitome of summer, only seems fitting that his earthly existence ended in Labor Day Weekend. Enjoy your cheeseburger, smash style, a little more somberly today.

Well played Mr Buffett. Well played. 🦜

The Birth of a Classic:

Jimmy Buffett's "Cheeseburger in Paradise" isn't just a song; it's a gastronomic legend. The story goes that Jimmy was sailing through the Caribbean when he stopped at a little bar and ordered a cheeseburger. The first bite was so heavenly that it inspired him to write the now-famous song. This simple yet scrumptious meal became a staple in his concerts and restaurants, creating a true culinary legacy.

The Perfect Patty:

At the heart of any great cheeseburger is the patty. Jimmy Buffett's version is no exception. It starts with a high-quality ground beef patty, seasoned to perfection with a blend of spices. The secret lies in the simplicity; it's all about letting the beef shine. Whether you prefer it cooked medium-rare or well-done, the goal is to achieve that juicy, meaty goodness.

Now a days, the rage is SMASH burgers. This is what was made for this blog. If there's one thing that can make your taste buds do a happy dance, it's the glorious simplicity of a perfectly crafted smash burger. These mouthwatering creations are a testament to the fact that sometimes, less truly is more. In this food blog, we'll dive deep into the world of smash burgers, uncovering the secrets to creating burger perfection at home.

Cooking Class with Carol

Things to Consider

The Anatomy of a Smash Burger

1. The Patty:

The heart and soul of any smash burger is, of course, the patty. Unlike traditional burger patties, smash burgers are thin, allowing for maximum surface area to achieve that coveted crispy crust. Here's how to make the perfect patty:

  • Meat Selection: Start with high-quality ground beef, preferably an 80/20 blend (80% lean meat, 20% fat). The fat content is essential for flavor and juiciness. I used a whole chuck and ground it on my own using my KitchenAid mixer with grinder attachment.

  • Divide and Conquer: Portion out your meat into equally sized balls, about 2-3 ounces each.

  • Seasoning: Keep it simple with just salt and pepper. The beef's natural flavor should shine through.

Patty Shape: Shape each ball into a loose, round patty, about 4-5 inches in diameter.

2. The Smash:

The magic happens when you press down on the patty with a spatula, creating an irresistible crust. Here's how to nail the smash:

  • Refrigeration: is key to achieving a perfect smash burger. It will not overcook and will maintain its shape.

  • Hot Surface: Heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle over high heat until it's smoking hot.

  • Press and Hold: Place the patty on the hot surface and press down firmly with a spatula. Don't be afraid to put some muscle into it.

  • Wait and Flip: Allow the patty to cook for about 1-2 minutes, then carefully flip it. You should see a beautiful sear forming.

  • Add Cheese: If you're making a cheeseburger, add a slice of your favorite cheese after flipping.

3. The Bun:

A great bun is the unsung hero of a smash burger. Choose a soft, slightly sweet bun that can hold up to the juiciness of the patty. Toast it lightly to add a bit of crunch and extra flavor.

4. The Toppings/Fixins:

Now comes the fun part – topping your smash burger! Here are some classic options:

  • Lettuce, Tomato, and Onion: The classic combo for a refreshing crunch.

  • Pickles: Add a tangy kick to cut through the richness of the patty.

  • Mustard and Ketchup: These are staples for a reason – they're delicious! Heinz 57, I know that's what the song says... well ok, add that. It, most definitely, is your paradise cheeseburger.

  • Special Sauce: Create your secret sauce or use a favorite condiment for an extra layer of flavor.

  • The Cheese: Now, let's talk cheese. A cheeseburger wouldn't be a cheeseburger without it! Choice of cheese varies, but it's often American or cheddar. The cheese is gently melted over the patty, creating a gooey, creamy layer of deliciousness. American cheese tends to be creamier and does not break, therefore the go to for American cheeseburgers.

Pairing and Sides:

What's a burger without the perfect side? Here are some ideas:

  • Crispy Fries: A classic choice. Go for shoestring fries for that nostalgic feel.

  • Onion Rings: A crunchy, savory side that complements the burger beautifully.

  • Milkshake: The ultimate indulgence. A creamy milkshake pairs wonderfully with the simplicity of a smash burger.

Smash burgers are all about keeping it simple while maximizing flavor and texture. The beauty of these burgers lies in their versatility – you can customize them to your heart's content. Whether you're a fan of classic cheeseburgers or enjoy experimenting with unique toppings, the world of smash burgers is your oyster.

Fire up that skillet, gather your favorite toppings, and get ready to savor the delicious simplicity of a perfectly crafted smash burger. Your taste buds will thank you. In the world of food, some dishes become more than just meals; they become symbols of a lifestyle. Jimmy Buffett's "Cheeseburger in Paradise" is one such icon. With its delicious simplicity and the laid-back spirit of Margaritaville, it's a dish that reminds us to take life easy, enjoy good music, and savor the simple pleasures.

So, next time you're looking for an escape, whip up your own "sensuous treat", put on some Jimmy Buffett tunes, and let the flavors and music transport you to some "particular harbor" or sunny beach where you're "knee deep". After all, as Jimmy himself once sang, "I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise!" 🍔🏝️🎶


  • Ground beef (80% lean, 20% fat is ideal)

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • American cheese slices

  • Burger buns

  • Condiments and toppings of your choice (lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, etc.)

What To Do

  • Preheat a griddle or a large, flat skillet over high heat. It should be smoking hot.

  • While the griddle is heating up, divide the ground beef into small portions, usually around 2 to 3 ounces each. Shape them into balls.

  • Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes

  • Remove from refrigerator and place a ball of ground beef onto the hot griddle. Season the top side with salt and pepper.

  • Immediately, using a sturdy spatula or burger press, press down on the meatball with force to smash it flat. This forms a thin patty. The thin patty and the high heat will create a delicious sear.

  • Cook the patty for about 1-2 minutes until the edges start to brown and crisp up. Flip the patty and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

  • While the patty is cooking on the second side, add a slice of American cheese on top to melt.

  • Toast the burger buns on the griddle until they're slightly crispy and golden brown.

  • Assemble your burger by placing the patty with melted cheese on the bottom bun. Add your preferred condiments and toppings.

  • Top with the other half of the bun, and your smash burger is ready to enjoy!

  • Serve immediately while it's hot and the cheese is gooey.


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