How to Make the Patty Melt, as Told By Society
Cheesy, gooey and absurdly delicious, the patty melt has become a staple of Americana over the past century thanks to consumer tastebuds a presence in diners all over the country. But what the heck is it anyway? Isn’t it just a cheeseburger? The simple answer would be “absolutely not.” With a burger patty, bread, cheese, and onions this iconic menu item goes far deeper than “just a cheeseburger.”
The patty melt itself has become an American staple, though it’s a fairly recent creation. Let’s take a look into this delicious… sandwich?
The Origin of the “Melt”
Where did this country-wide, dinner-dominating, melted-meal get its start? Right here in sunny Los Angeles! William “Tiny” Naylor (ironically, he stood 6’4” at 300lbs) is widely credited with the creation of the patty melt and served it at his self-named restaurant at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and La Brea Ave. sometime in the 1940s. This iconic LA spot served all kinds of foods, from burgers to ribs and even baked potatoes (unusual for a diner at the time). It was during this time that the Patty Melt emerged as an easy food to take to-go and its popularity spread across the state and, over time, the country.
Eventually, Naylor’s restaurant did close down, but his recipe lived on through the restaurants headed by his children, and diners all across America who put their own spin on the beefy sandwich.
How Do You Make Patty Melt?
The ingredients in this delicious diner favorite can vary based on where you order it. While the original ingredients are lost to time, we do a sense of what goes into a pure patty melt by Jennifer Naylor, the granddaughter of Tiny Naylor and former Executive Chef for Wolfgang Puck. She recreated the patty melt recipe as she remembers it from her grandfather’s kitchen, which includes:
- 2 tablespoons of butter, softened
- 4 slices of rye bread
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 ½ pound of fresh ground round
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 small red onion, sliced into rings (to be caramelized)
- 2 to 3 slices of swiss cheese
Pretty neat, right? With all these added together, the original Patty Melt in all its gooey goodness can be emulated. Although variations exist, do they do the original creation justice? Do they disrupt the true Patty Melt’s essence? Let’s look at some of those changes from over the years.
One of the ingredients to the original version that changed almost immediately is one of its most precious ones: the cheese. American cheese and cheddar cheese have been spotted in various restaurants; sometimes even a mix of cheese is introduced over the classic Swiss cheese. The important thing to note when changing the cheese is the gooey melt factor. Other cheeses may be good melters, but Swiss is still the preferred choice.
The bread is another important ingredient but also an easy one to mess up. Rye is preferred, but the worst thing you could do is use plain bread for this sandwich. Texas toast or Sourdough will do just fine. Bread size is variable, but grill on a flat top or pan is not!
There is also a distinction between a pure melt and one that society will deem acceptable (as well as unacceptable). The two most important things to realize are to get the one you think tastes the best (like the one on the menu at George’s Burgers) and DO NOT call it a burger!