Patty melts are the ultimate hot sandwich, with juicy smashed burgers layered with melty cheese and caramelized onions, all grilled up in crisp sourdough bread ~ if you haven’t had a patty melt since the 90s, you’re definitely due for a meet up with this diner style grilled burger sandwich.
patty melts are the stuff dinner dreams are made of…
Heads up readers ~ the patty melt is one pretty perfect sandwich. Or is it a burger? Doesn’t really matter what you call it, this classic mid century invention is the bomb. It was invented in the 1950s by the LA restaurant chain Tiny Naylor’s. Tiny Naylor’s closed its doors in 1984, but the patty melt torch has been carried on by diners, chain restaurants, and coffee shops all over the country.
the difference between a burger and a patty melt
If you’re still confused: patty melts are basically a sleeker, grilled version of a burger, sandwiched between bread instead of a bun and grilled until crisp on the outside and all melty inside.
what makes a perfect patty melt?
Patty melts are famous because they’re the perfect combination of so many of our favorite things. What makes them perfect is showering respect and love on each and every ingredient (don’t worry, there aren’t many.)
~ it’s what puts the patty in patty melt and it’s pretty critical. Use 80/20 ground beef and season it well (onion and garlic powders go a long way.)
~ they’re lovingly caramelized, and yes, this takes time. Do it a day or two ahead if you need to.
~ technically Swiss, I used baby Swiss because it has such a cute name. Remember, it’s called a patty melt, so make sure whatever cheese you use gets nice and gooey when hot.
~ it gets no respect, even though it’s a classic French sauce made from whole ingredients. Use it proudly.
~ the butter does double duty, first teaming with the mayo to slather the outsides of the bread, and then in the pan to grill your patty.
~ make sure it’s strong enough to hold up under pressure. It’s got to soak up the juices from the burger and the onions and keep all those layers in line. Rye, and sourdough are especially good, but there’s no shame in plain white.
fry cook’s secrets to a perfect patty melt
- Caramelize those onions. It will take a good while (up to or over an hour) to truly caramelize onions, but you can do it ahead of time if you like. Tip: if you really don’t have the time, simply sauté the onions in a hot skillet until soft and browned. It’s a different flavor, but also delicious.
- Season your beef and make flat patties (think smash burgers), a little bigger than the size of your bread. This is because the meat will shrink as it cooks and you want it to fill out as much of your sandwich as possible. Tip: flatten your thin patty down with a spatula as it cooks so it doesn’t puff up.
- Schmear the outside of both slices of bread with a mixture of mayo and butter for flavor and golden crispiness.
- Layer up with cheese on top AND bottom, with patty and onions in the middle.
- Grill on medium so the inside has time to melt before the bread scorches. I like to cover my skillet with a lid to keep the heat in and get the melting action going.
- Have everybody line up around the stove with plates in hand, these melts grill up in a matter of minutes and you want to get ’em while they’re hot.
try my sheet pan method for these patty melts
- Instead of grilling your melts on the stove top, place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and slide into a 400F oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melty. No need to flip the sandwiches.
- Place under the broiler briefly if you need more browning on the top of the melts.
easy classic dinners we return to again and again
- Easy Sausage Carbonara
- Sheet Pan Tuna Melts
- No Yeast Pizza
- Mac and Cheese
- Beans and Toast
- Spaghetti with Tuna, Lemon, and Dill
Perfect Patty Melts
- 2 yellow onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp` sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- dry sherry for deglazing the pan (you can use water instead.)
- 1 lb 80/20 ground beef (you can use up to 1.25 lb)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp deydrated minced onion (optional but delicious)
- 4 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
- 4 Tbsp mayonnaise
- 8 slices of sourdough, rye, or white bread
- 8 thin slices cheese Swiss cheese (use extra to taste or to fit your bread)
- First start the onions. Add the onions, olive oil, salt and sugar to a heavy pot or skillet and cook on medium heat, stirring often. They will first lose their moisture, and then slowly start to turn a golden. If they start to brown right away, you've got your heat too high. Use a splash of dry sherry to deglaze the pan and scrape up any browning that has accumulated on the pan. Set aside.
- While the onions are cooking, mix the ground beef with the salt, pepper, onion and garlic powders, and dried onion, if using. Mix with your fingers until everything is well combined, but don't wover work the meat or it can get tough.
- Divide the meat mixture into four equal parts.
- Roll the meat into a rough ball shape, then flatten into thin smashed burgers a little bigger than the size of your bread slices. Don't worry about being perfect here, just approximate. Note: you want the patties to be a little larger than your bread because they will shrink as they cook.
- Mash together the softened butter and mayo until smooth (it's ok if it's a little lumpy.)
- Spread the mixture on one side of each piece of bread.
- Heat a skillet on medium high and add a pat of butter. Fry the burgers, working in batches if necessary, until they're browned and just done through. These will not take long to cook. Note: I like to flatten the patties as they cook with my spatula to make sure they don't puff up.
- Place 1 slice of cheese on the unbuttered side of four slices of bread.
- Place the cooked burger on top of the cheese.
- Add a layer of caramelized onions to the burger and spread them out across the whole sandwich.
- Top that with another slice of cheese.
- Add your top slices of bread, butter side up.
- Heat a dry skillet over medium heat until hot but not super hot. Grill the patty melts until golden on the outside and melty inside, flipping once. The aim is to give the cheese enough time to melt while the bread is toasting. Note: I will sometimes cover the skillet after flipping to contain the heat.
- Slice in half and serve asap.
notes and variations
to cut calories in patty melts
- use lean ground beef
- use thin sliced bread
- spread the outside of the bread with a thin layer of mayo instead of the thick layer of mayo and butter
- use low fat cheese