These stuffed burgers with a gooey core of melted cheese are to DIE FOR!
These ultra Juicy Lucy keto burgers are super easy to make indoors, in the air fryer or on the stove top – and they taste every bit as amazing and smoky as grilled burgers, thanks to our secret ingredient!
These air fryer (or pan fried!) stuffed cheeseburgers are an easy, budget friendly, nutritious high-protein family meal that is great for a keto lunch or dinner, and make a perfect complete meal for those following ketovore and keto carnivore diets as well!
Get indoor burgers to taste like grilled
Grilled burgers – and meat in general – have a special flavor that’s really hard to get when cooking inside the kitchen. One could attribute that to the pleasure of cooking outdoors, enjoying the barbecue weather, the joy of dominating an open flame and make it work in our favor…
But that’s not it. Because grilled or barbecued meat will taste as good even if you did not participate in this deliciously primitive cooking process. What’s the reason, then, for the supreme deliciousness of fire-cooked meat?
It’s the smoke. As fat drips down onto the burning coals or wood chips, smoke comes up and fills the meat with flavor. And this is the secret ingredient to make these mouth-watering stove top keto cheese stuffed burgers as incredible as grilled ones: liquid smoke flavor!
Stuffed vs regular burger patty differences
1. How to shape
Normally, you wouldn’t want to compress the burger meat too much. Burgers get juicier and more tender if the meat is just pressed enough to keep together and hold the shape as it cooks. But, because we are filling these burgers with cheese, it’s important to put some extra pressure when shaping the patties, otherwise the cheese might escape from the burgers when it starts melting. Specially when cooking the burgers in the air fryer – best to avoid the mess!
2. When to add salt
Again, the correct time to season a stuffed burger is different that that of a classic burger. For the same reason that you need to put a little more pressure when shaping them – to keep the melted cheese from escaping – it’s better if you season the meat first, then shape.
For regular burgers, you keep them softer and juicier by just applying the salt and pepper as soon as the burger hits the grill (or the pan). That’s because the salt draws out moisture in the meat and makes the proteins bind together, which in turn makes the patty less tender. But we want the meat to stay “together” here as much as possible to avoid leaks. So, season it just before you start shaping it.
3. How long to cook
I generally like my traditional burgers medium-rare, with a brown caramelized crust on the outside and completely pink inside. But we can’t have medium-rare or rare stuffed cheese burgers… the temperature needs to be higher inside the burger to melt up the cheese, so the meat will be cooked through. Fortunately, it’s really not a bad trade off 😄
To cook a burger on medium well, that’s the minimal temperature to be sure the cheese is gonna be ultra gooey, the meat needs to reach an internal temperature of 150 to 155 °F. The burger reaches well done at 160 to 165 °F.
The FDA recommends 9 minutes to 10 minutes total cooking time for medium well to well done burgers, and that’s about the time you need to cook these babies.
The best cheese for stuffed cheeseburgers
The best choices for cheese here are the ones that melt fast but feel “solid”.
Mozzarella might be a super fast melter but some types will melt into almost a liquid stage, similar to a thick cheese sauce. That’s great for a keto lasagna, but not for a stuffed burger.
For these keto stuffed burgers, you’ll need the cheese to get soft and gooey, not to completely lose its shape. Also, it’s better to use a cheese that has a stronger flavor, which will pair well with the beef and not lose on the flavor competition.
The best cheeses I can recommend for stuffed burgers are raclette (the one I used), young cheddar (which has a higher moisture content and melts better than aged), fontina, gruyere, and provolone.
How to prepare cheese filled burger patties
Think of this as the epitome of a keto cheeseburger: the actual burger is the “bun” surrounding the cheese!
First, it’s best to leave your chosen cheese out of the fridge until it’s about room temperature, to guarantee that it will be fully melted as the burger cooks.
If using block cheese, cut into small pieces that will fit in the middle of the burger. If using sliced cheese, you can fold up the slices until they are about the same size. For shredded cheese, try to compress it hard in your hand before stuffing into the burger patties.
Season the ground beef, mixing up the spices into the meat. Shape the patties in your hand forming a large ball, and make a hole down the middle. Add some cheese inside, and close the hole around it. Make sure there’s no cheese peaking out.
While optional, it’s really helpful to use metal rings to shape the burger. These can be proper burger shaping equipment, or you can use egg rings or even cookie cutters, if you have some that are tall and wide enough to accommodate a burger. About 4″ wide is a good size.
Using a metal shaper, you can fill it halfway with meat, then add cheese, leaving at least half an inch around between the edges of the burger and the cheese. Then top with some more meat and press it down a bit to connect on the sides.
This will help seal the cheese inside nicely with the second layer of meat, forming a tidy pocket of melted cheese without leaks.
To make it even easier, you can also use a professional 😎 stuffed burger presser – yes, it’s a thing!
Let’s see now how to make these keto cheese stuffed burgers in two ways: pan fried and in the air fryer.
How to make burgers in the air fryer
Preheat the air fryer to 180 °C or 365 °F. Place the burgers in a single layer inside the air fryer basket or drawer, with some space in between – the patties shouldn’t overlap or touch. If necessary, cook the stuffed cheese burgers in batches.
Cook for 6 minutes. Then open the air fryer and flip the patties over, and cook for 3-5 minutes further, until perfectly browned. If testing internal temperature, it should reach or near 70 °C or 160 °F.
Now, cut up your air fryer burgers and appreciate the gorgeousness of the molten cheese filling sensuously oozing out 😋
How to pan fry burgers on the stove top
On the stove top, you can use a heavy cast iron skillet for the best sear. Use a small amount of olive oil, lard or bacon fat, and when the skillet is really hot (use medium-high heat) gently place the patties on it, leaving some space between them.
Cook the burgers, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes, until you see the browning coming up at above middle level on the side of the patties. Carefully flip them up, and let them cook for about the same amount of time again, until they are nicely seared. If you want to temperature test to be sure, an internal temperature of 70 °C or 160 °F or above means they are well done – and the cheese fully melted.
If you want your keto cheese stuffed burgers dressed to kill in grill marks, you can still have them cooking indoors: you just need a cast iron grill pan. It creates beautiful grill lines on the patties, that get imprinted on the burger as it fries.
Extra flavor ideas
Well yes, you can add extra stuff together with the cheese to make these keto stuffed burgers even more interesting!! Here are some ideas:
- Chopped up jalapeños
- Chopped up mushrooms fried in butter
- Just a small amount of caramelized onions may be well enough worth the carbs!
- Chopped up bits of sausage or pepperoni
- Lardons, or fried crunchy bits of bacon.
I served the bacon slices outside, but you can totally hide some inside the burgers for a bacon surprise!!
What to serve with keto stuffed burgers
I chose to serve these keto cheese stuffed burgers in a comfortable bed of bacon slices, fried to perfection: not too dry, not soggy, just browned enough and slightly crunchy! Here are other worthy keto friendly accompaniments:
Runny yolk fried eggs – on top!
A simple, fresh and colorful arugula salad
Even more simple: lettuce buns
Roasted keto friendly veggies, like these potato-like loaded radishes
Cauliflower mash for a heartier side
Keto protein bread – if you still need bread with burger 😉
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