You know that 1 lb block of ground beef in the freezer?? Yeah, you know which one I’m talking about. That pound of ground beef that you look at and think…burgers…? meatloaf…? maybe hamburger helper…?? But how often do you think “pizza”?? In our part of the midwest it’s not too difficult to find hamburger pizza that is on the “bland side”. For most pizza places we encounter, it’s literally as simple as replacing pepperoni with basic browned hamburger.
My “ride or die”, Jaysie, and I set out on a journey to make the ultimate Cheeseburger pizza, and we believe we may have done it.
Like all great journeys, it is wise to seek help along the way. We consulted the great cooking oracle of the internet, YouTube, and it led us to a dude named Brian. Brian has a YouTube channel and website called Weeds & Sardines, and it is simply RAD. You should check it out if you like to cook. Brian has phenomenal instructional videos that are very well produced and narrated. He covers everything from steaks and burgers to pasta and breads. We leaned hard on his NY Style Pizza dough as the foundation for our cheeseburger pizza…and we were not disappointed. If you love to cook, and learn, spending a few hours on “Weeds & Sardines” videos is time well invested.
Cheeseburger pizza breakdown – what we learned.
One of the biggest gripes that I have with “hamburger pizza” at the local joints here in Nebraska is that its “regular pizza” with unseasoned hamburger crumbles instead of pepperoni or whatever else…it tastes nothing like a “hamburger”. We down-shifted and took a slow, discriminating look at everything from the crust up.
CRUST – The crust that Brian over at Weeds & Sardines makes is so good, that we aren’t even going to try and take credit. All credit goes to him. Best crust ever, and it works pretty well with any toppings you prefer, or just as a cheese pizza as he presents it. Here’s a link.
SAUCE – Would you put pizza sauce on a cheeseburger? Probably not. So, why would you put pizza sauce on a cheeseburger pizza? We went bold and tried ketchup and mustard. It really worked out too. We stuck to the tried and true basics with good old Heinz ketchup and yellow mustard. Keep it simple on this step really changed the dish and delivered a lot of the familiar “cheeseburger flavor” we were chasing. Another idea that we discussed later would be to use a burger dressing sauce for the pizza sauce. We didn’t try it on this batch of pizzas, but we will definitely be giving it a try at some point in the future.
CHEESE – We ended up doing some “inadvertent learning” on this topping with our last pizza, off camera. On our initial attempts, we put the American cheese (because what else would you put on a cheeseburger??) on the top. That works okay, but American cheese doesn’t taste that great when it caramelizes (burns). Mozzarella does. So…what we found is that putting the American cheese, ripped into 1/2”-3/4” wide strips right on top of the ketchup and mustard…as much or as little as you like…works A LOT better. We went pretty heavy on the American cheese and it worked out nice. We did add a “covering” of mozzarella to the top of the pizza, more as a protective layer for the other more delicate toppings, it really worked out. It’s visible in the lead image, it all comes together to taste great. There is lots of great American cheese flavor from the base layer of cheese, but the mozzarella on top makes it feel like pizza should when you look at it.
GROUND BEEF – We used our “Prestige® Ground Beef” it’s an 80/20 blend, fresh ground (not aged) and we seasoned it lightly with our Nebraska Star Beef® Signature® Seasoning. We cooked it all the way through, without over cooking, then drained the water and fat as throughly as possible. The NY Style crust isn’t super thick or heavy, so a bunch of extra grease would be a bummer. We used approx. one 1 lb package of beef per pizza. Each 1 lb package cooks down to a little over half a pound when all the water and grease is drained off. In other words, we didn’t skimp on the ground beef.
FIXIN’S – We went with a really traditional blend of toppings for our cheeseburger pizza. We used tomatoes, onions and pickles. I was able to find some small/medium sized tomatoes that worked a treat!! They were the perfect size to slice thin and layout on top of the burger crumbles. Onions are one of my favorite burger toppings, but not everyone in the crew is as big of a fan of onions as I. We didn’t go crazy with the onions, but having them there was definitely a “value add” from my perspective. For the pickles, we went with “Claussen Hot & Spicy” for a little extra zing. They stayed crispy even when cooked and really rounded out the “cheeseburger experience”.
SALT – Yet another trick we picked up binging on Weeds & Sardines is to “Salt the Pizza” before it goes in to the oven. Again, we didn’t go crazy, but we did hit the top of the pizza with enough salt that it mattered. And matter it does. Trust us.
COOKING – When it came to cooking, it’s best to reference the Weeds & Sardines NY Style pizza technique. HOT oven, with a preheated pizza stone and a pizza peel, or other device to transfer the pizza to the stone. We went with a clean piece of cardboard with a good dusting of flour to allow the pizza to slide easily. Once the edge of the crust touches the stone, the stone grabs it and it slides right off. The blazing hot oven – 525F here at the office and 550F on my home oven – works well, but if I had 575F as an option, I’d personally try it. Having the oven and stone very well preheated really seems to help get the most action out of the dough.
COOK TIME – If you’ve been hanging around Nebraska Star Beef® for a while, you know my theory on cook time. “Internal Temperature Never Lies.” But in the case of this pizza, there’s no cook time necessary. It is very simply done when it looks amazing, but typically, times seem to vary between 7 and 12 minutes depending on the size of pizza, amount of toppings and oven. Cook time will vary, but it goes quick, so pay attention.
The next time you’re looking at that pound (or 10) of ground beef thinking…”meh, there’s nothing to eat” whip up some cheeseburger pizza for a real treat. After you try the dough recipe, we suspect you’ll always have some poolish and/or some dough balls hanging out in the fridge and ready for a quick gourmet dinner or weekend stress relief.