I didn’t expect to write about two fast food copycat recipes/sandwiches in a row, but because of timing and what some real writers would call an “editorial calendar,” here we are. Let’s Curderburger and enjoy it.
If you don’t know what a fried cheese curd is, congratulations; you’ve never been hungry in a bar in the Midwest of the United States. Cheese curds themselves are young unaged cheese — typically cheddar — that is separated from the whey. Instead of packing that cheese up and molding it into huge wheels, it’s chunked up into small pieces and sold immediately as cheese curds.
The Midwest delicacy known as fried cheese curds, takes these fresh curds and batters or coats them in breadcrumbs and they are fried to order. Much like the more well-known mozzarella stick, you end up with a crispy exterior and a tender, slightly melty interior.
The feedback from the comments on the April Fools’ joke convinced Culver’s to follow through and create a Curderburger. They’ve announced that it’s coming October 15th, at a Culver’s near you!
The original joke concept was just a big ole fried cheese curd in between a top and bottom bun. But Culver’s concept brought to life is their Deluxe butter burger with a fried cheese curd disk placed on top of the burger patty. Witness the following promo photos and action shots for the Curderburger coming out on October 15th.
It appears that Daniel Higgins/Green Bay Press Gazette gets credit for the real world Curderburger above.
If you want to know more about how Culver’s makes their burgers, this video should be instructive.
Culver’s is pretty good for a fast-food burger, but this is NOT what most Wisconsin butter burgers are actually like.
[side discussion/rant on butter burgers]
A Wisconsin butter burger often has scoops of butter on top of the burger patties before the patty is sealed up and then everything below gets all buttery. The only butter in a Culver’s “butter burger” is a spread of butter on the top bun before it gets toasted. That’s just fine, but it’s not what you’ll find at other burger joints in Wisconsin. I must stand up for my northern Wisconsin neighbors. Many burgers around the world are served on butter toasted buns. That doesn’t make them a butter burger.
Maybe one day I’ll attempt a Wisconsin butter burger for a blog post. I’ll make sure my doctors are all alerted before I start down that path, though.
[/side discussion/rant on butter burgers]
I’m going to use the techniques in that video plus all the promo photos and make a Curderburger.
A disk of cheese curds
First, we need a big ole fried cheese curd patty.
My goal was to make disks out of cheese curds and then coat them in breadcrumbs and fry them just like normal people do.
At first, I thought that I would just coat some curds in an egg wash and then freeze them all together in a disk. The more I thought about it, it seemed that this would never really make a solid disk.
My second plan was to melt the curds and then shape them into disks. I had never melted cheese curds before, but about 30 seconds in the microwave does the trick. Turns out, lightly melting the curds and pouring the slightly melted cheese into a ring mold in the freezer for an hour will give you perfect disks of cheese curd ready for frying.
Here’s a two-photo slideshow of that process.
Then I lightly coated my curd disks in breadcrumbs and fried them. Culver’s uses breadcrumbs and not a batter so that’s what I did.
I made two different colors of curd disks because I spare no expense bringing you sandwich content.
Once you have your frozen disks of formed cheese curds, you coat them in all purpose flour, then run them through an egg wash and then coat with seasoned breadcrumbs.
Fry all your cheese curd pucks for 2-ish minutes at around 375 degrees F and you’re left with nice crunchy, soft in the middle cheese curds to turn into Curderburgers.
Once the cheese curds are fried, you’ll want to drain them on a wire rack, or a tray lined with paper towels. You can place your fried cheese curd disks in a 200-degree F oven to keep warm while you make the rest of your burger (don’t put paper towels in a hot oven though, watch out).
The smash burger
Frying curd disks and cooking cheeseburgers at the same time does take a bit of timing. But your burgers will be smash burgers which means they will cook only two or three minutes for a super thin patty.
I’ve covered smash burgers in a post before, and they’re easy as long as you have a hot surface and some way to smash the patty. I attempt to detail the process again in the full recipe down below.
Curderburger assembly time
Here’s the layering process if you’re writing these things down (and you should be):
- Top bun
- Butter (toasted on bun)
- Fried cheese curd patty
- Smashed burger patty (4 ounces)
- Tomato slice
- Shredded lettuce
- Two slices of red onion
- Three pickles
- Bottom bun (toasted)
The toppings going in as bottomings here really gives me a bit of pause, but this is how Culver’s does it, so I did my best to do it as well.
Theirs vs mine
Overall, I think I did a pretty good job, but I won’t really know until I try a real life Curderburger. I will probably update the post at the very bottom after October 15th, 2021, with updates if I get the opportunity to try one.
Based on the Culver's Curderburger, this is a fully loaded smash burger with a fried cheese curd patty on top.
- 1 lb ground beef (80/20) - you can use more beef if you want bigger patties
- 4 Fried cheese curd disks (link to recipe)
- 1 red onion
- 1 tomato
- 1⁄4 head of lettuce
- dill pickles
- 4 burger buns
- mayonnaise or other burger condiments
Weigh out your meat into 4 ounce portions. If you have exactly 1 pound, you don't necessarily need to weigh it, just divide into 4 portions. Culver's uses a quarter pound patty, but feel free to go bigger if you want.
After weighing or dividing your meat, make each portion into balls. Do not over work the meat or mix it up too much.
Get your skillet or surface hot. If you're using a skillet, don't use a non-stick one or this process might lead you to get it scratched and ruined. If it's a black non-stick skillet, it's possibly covered with a teflon surface and you can scratch it with metal spatulas. Don't ruin your pan. I typically use a cheap infrared thermometer to monitor the surface area of my skillets and flattop surfaces and 400 degrees is usually the lower end of where I start cooking.
Place two balls of meat on your skillet or flat top with four or five inches between each ball. If you're using a skillet, you will probably only be able to cook two patties at a time. If you're using a larger griddle, you might be able to smash all of your patties at the same time.
Once the balls hit the hot surface give them 10 or 15 seconds and smash. You're going to want to use a lot of pressure and smash them really hard. The goal here is to get as much surface area of the meat to touch the hot surface as possible. If you have a flat top or a griddle, you might want to use some sort of very heavy spatula or even a clean finishing trowel from your local hardware store.
As soon as you've finished smashing, this is when we season. Hit the (hopefully) very thin patties with some salt and pepper. You can season again when you flip, but this is when you should do most of the seasoning.
Cook for 1.5 to 2 minutes on this first side.
Use a sharp spatula and scrape under the patty in order to flip. The goal here is to make sure you don't lose any of the crispies you worked hard to build up with the smashing process.
Once flipped to the second side, you will want to season and cook for another minute.
Remove the cooked patties to a plate and cook the rest of your burgers (if needed).
To assemble a Fried cheese curd smash burger, add mayo or any condiments to the bottom bun. On top of the condiments, add pickles, red onion, lettuce and a tomato slice.
Add a burger patty on top of the veggies, top the beef with your fried cheese curd disk and add the top bun.
Serve and enjoy.
I’m going to attempt to try the Culver’s Curderburger on Friday. I’m not sure what the interest level will be or whether things will sell out, but if I get the opportunity I will try one, take a photo and give my review via @beerinator on twitter and @beerinator on instagram. I will also post more details on the new Bounded by Buns facebook page. Check out one of those and follow or like the page for this and future updates.
Updated: October 15th, 2021
I got the chance to try an official Curderburger today and it was pretty good. The curd disk was about a quarter of an inch think, where some of mine were closer to a half inch. If I were to make mine again and adjust the recipe I think that’s about the only thing I would change. My homemade bun was lighter and fresher than theirs, but everything else was pretty similar.
The thickness of the curd disk made a pretty big difference in texture. In some bites of the official Curderburger you couldn’t even tell that it was there other than the cheese flavor. The edge bites of the Curderburger were definitely the best parts because you not only got the texture from the smashburger patty, you also got the crunchy fried breadcrumb exterior from the fried cheese curd disk.
Overall, I enjoyed this burger. I would order it again, but I don’t think I’d order it every visit to Culver’s. If the Curderburger was a once a year or seasonal menu item then I would definitely use that opportunity to come back and try one.
If you didn’t get a chance to try this, I’m hoping that Culver’s brings it back from time to time. Maybe it’ll be a once a year thing they do for #NationalCheeseCurdDay.