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Bench the Super Bowl Sliders and Make These Mini Cheeseburger Skewers

The Super Bowl is the biggest appetizer day of the year, and the lineup is fierce. While there’s nothing wrong with fielding reliable favorites—shishito pepper poppers, twice-fried cauliflower wings, or a chili cheese bar—I’d like to suggest a last minute substitution. Bench the Hawaiian bun sliders for something even more bite-sized: mini cheeseburger skewers. 

These are truly one-bite cheeseburgers, with all the positives of a classic cheeseburger—the flavors, the richness, and the accessories—minus the bulk. It’s a slider to the extreme: Super small, and without the bun.

I left the bread out of the equation because that’s the part that might make you stop and take two or three bites. It’s also the component that fills you up the most, tamping down your appetite before you’ve tasted the football shaped Rice Krispies treats. On a regular-sized burger, the bun adds flavor, functions like a vehicle for the fillings, and provides a place to put your hands. This appetizer uses toothpicks or skewers for clean and easy plate-to-mouth delivery. A pound of ground beef, turkey, chicken, or Impossible meat will make 32 mini cheeseburgers bites; along with the rest of your snack spread, this is probably enough for eight to 10 guests.

How to make mini cheeseburger skewers

1. Mix the meat

Mix and season your meat of choice however you normally would to make regular-sized cheeseburgers. I keep my mix simple with a little Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper. If you’re going to add anything chunky, like onions or apples, mince or microplane them first—the burgers will be tiny, so any large chunks will interrupt the protein structure and could cause them to fall apart. Additionally, they only take a moment to cook, so large veggie chunks may not cook through. 

2. Shape the patties 

Divide your mixture in half and use a tablespoon or small disher to scoop 16 balls from each half. Roll the meat in your hands to form balls and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then flatten them by pressing your thumb into the center, creating a divot.

Small raw meat patties with an indent in the center.
Pressing a thumbprint into each patty will help maintain a flatter shape. Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

It's hard to photograph raw meat in an alluring way, but I hope the visual helps. The divot allows the meat to maintain a flatter patty shape rather than turning into a sphere when cooking. Put the tray in the fridge, and get your fixings ready.

3. Pre-load the toothpicks

The goal is to make a burger, accessories and all, fit in one big bite, so everything is going to be deceptively smaller than you expect. It’s kind of hilarious how few ingredients you need. I made 16 mini burgers (half a pound of ground beef) and I used half of a small shallot, four grape tomatoes, two slices of American cheese, a single pickle spear, and the equivalent of half a lettuce leaf. 

Slice the shallot into paper thin rounds—no need to separate the rings. Cut each grape tomato widthwise into four rounds. Split each slice of American cheese into six or nine equal pieces. If you have pickle chips, just leave them as is. (I used spears and I cut one into eighth-inch slices.) Rip or cut a piece of lettuce into small hunks.

On each toothpick, skewer the pickle, lettuce, and tomato, and push them about an inch up the toothpick. The onion is easier to stab once you've placed it on the burger, so let it wait. 

4. Fry the burgers and serve

Cook the burgers in a large, hot frying pan. (You’ll probably have to fry them in batches.) Beef burgers only take one minute per side, but poultry will need a minute longer. Cook one side of the burgers, and when you flip them to cook on the other side. immediately apply the cheese (you can pop a lid on the pan during the second side to help the cheese melt). Scoop out the burgers directly onto a serving dish. Top each with a shallot ring and poke in a pre-loaded toothpick. Serve immediately to your hungry crew.

This recipe below is for 16 mini burgers, but it can be multiplied for a larger group. Keep in mind, these burgers cool quickly, so if you’re doubling or tripling the recipe, you'll want to keep the cooked patties in a warm oven until you’re ready to skewer and serve. 

Mini Cheeseburger Skewers Recipe

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound ground beef

  • 1 tablespoon mayo

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • A few cracks of black pepper

  • 16 rounds of sliced grape tomatoes

  • 16 small pieces of lettuce (the size of baby spinach)

  • 16 pickle chips

  • 2 slices of American cheese

  • 16 thin slices of shallot

1. In a small bowl, mix the beef, mayo, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper until combined. Divide and shape the mixture into 16 balls. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Press them into patties by pushing your thumb into the center of each ball to make an imprint. Place the tray in the fridge.

2. Skewer a slice of tomato, lettuce, and pickle onto a toothpick. Do this to make 16 pre-loaded toothpicks. Cut each slice of American cheese to make nine equal rectangles. (There will be two extra pieces for a snack.)

3. Once the toothpicks are ready, fry the burgers. In a large frying pan over medium heat, fry the burgers in two batches for one minute per side. As soon as you flip the burgers to their second sides, top each with a slice of cheese. Throw a lid on the pan for this second side to help melt the cheese. 

4. Scoop the burgers out of the pan and onto a serving dish. Fry the next batch of burgers the same way. Place a slice of shallot onto each burger and poke a pre-loaded toothpick into each cheeseburger. Serve immediately.

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