What’s for dinner? How about Classic Patty Melts! Tender all-beef patties are seasoned to garlicky perfection, topped with layers of melted cheese and caramelized onions, and served on buttery grilled bread.
Diner-Style Patty Melts at Home!
When I’m in need of a super easy meal that everyone will love, there are a few options that are basically irresistible. Sloppy joes are always popular. Pizza, of course. Chicken tenders. But, Patty Melts? Now those are guaranteed to make ME smile!
There’s just something about a really tender, well-seasoned hamburger patty sandwiched into a grilled cheese that makes it feel like we are eating something super indulgent. Maybe even more indulgent than pizza! And, they are so simple to make. This is a great meal for a relaxed Saturday night, and if you follow it up with ice cream, that’s a total WIN. 🙌
What’s the Difference Between Patty Melts and Hamburgers?
The main difference is that, instead of resting the hamburger patty on a fluffy bun, the patty is actually served on a grilled cheese sandwich! Additionally, patty melts are usually topped with Swiss cheese instead of American or Cheddar cheese, and a healthy helping of caramelized onions.
Another great thing about patty melts is that, although the result is festive and feels like something special, you only need the simplest ingredients! Most of these are probably items you always have on hand.
For the Onions
- Butter: You’ll need a little bit of butter for sauteeing the onion. If you’d rather use olive oil, that’s fine, too.
- Onion: Thinly slice up one large onion. I use yellow onion, but you can use any kind you like.
For the Beef Patties
- Ground Beef: You can go with lean ground beef, but I find that ground chuck tends to have more flavor and tenderness.
- Salt and Pepper
- Worcestershire Sauce: This classic condiment adds so much flavor! It’s tangy, garlicky, and salty, with lots of umami depth.
- Garlic and Onion Powder: Powdered garlic and onion add intense flavor in a snap.
- Butter: Soften the butter before using, so it’s spreadable.
- Sandwich Bread: It’s traditional to use rye, but any sandwich bread that you like will work just fine.
- Swiss Cheese: Swiss cheese has a nutty flavor that’s almost bitter, and goes perfectly with these savory patties.
How to Make Patty Melts
Making patty melts is so simple. It does take a bit of time to make the sauteed onions, but it is worth it! To make things faster, you can cook the onions in a separate skillet so that the patties and onions cook at the same time.
Make the Onions
- Saute the Onions in Butter. Melt a small amount of butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced onions to the melted butter, and cook them slowly for about 25 minutes. The onions will become very brown and soft. (If they start to scorch, turn the heat down to medium-low, and add more butter if needed.)
Make the Hamburger Patties
- Shape the Beef Patties. To make the patties, combine ground beef, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and onion powder. Mix well. You can use a big spoon, or your hands. Shape the beef into four equal patties.
- Cook the Patties. Take the caramelized onions out of the skillet and set them aside. Wipe down the skillet, and set it back over medium-high heat. Arrange the patties in the skillet, and let them cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until they are done to your taste. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the patties.
Make the Sandwiches
- Start Toasting the Bread. Wipe down the skillet again, and set it back over medium-low heat. Spread softened butter on one side of each slice of bread. Arrange 4 of the slices in the skillet, buttered side down.
- Top with Patties, Cheese, and Onions. Layer 1 slice of Swiss cheese on each piece of bread, followed by beef patties and caramelized onions. Add one more slice of cheese on top.
- Close the Sandwich, Cook, and Flip. Finally, top each sandwich with the remaining bread slices, buttered side up this time. Let the sandwiches cook for a few more minutes before flattening them slightly with a spatula, and then carefully flipping them.
- Cook the Second Side. Cook the patty melts on the second side for three or four minutes, until the bread is golden-brown when you peek under it.
- Enjoy! Take the finished patty melts out of the skillet, cut them in half, and serve immediately.
Tips for Success
For patty melt enthusiasts, there are tons of great ways to customize and tweak your patty melt to make it just right. I definitely have a few favorite tips of my own, which I’m happy to share with you here! Bon appetite!
- Thin Patties for the Win: Ground beef tends to shrink and thicken as it cooks, so use the classic fry cook technique of pressing the patties flat as they cook with a spatula. A thinner patty sits well on the bread, and has a more tender mouthfeel.
- Add Something Tangy: Whether it’s a bit of mayo or flavorful rye bread, something tangy helps to cut the richness of the patty melt and makes it even better.
- Add Veggies: Change things up by adding in extra veggies, like sauteed mushrooms or a bell pepper trio.
- Substitution: If you need to, you can substitute ground turkey for the ground beef, and havarti or provolone for the Swiss cheese. This will make a slightly lighter-tasting patty melt, but still rich and full of flavor.
What Do I Serve with Patty Melts?
Since this dish is all about umami (meaty) flavor and the richness of cheese and butter, I like to add a contrasting note, using crunchy, cold, or tangy sides.
- Cowboy Caviar: This fresh and colorful Cowboy Caviar is part dip, part relish, part salad, and all delicious! You’ll love the medley of fresh raw veggies, tangy cumin-scented vinaigrette, and creamy avocado.
- Salad: Avocado Tomato Salad is a bright and healthy side dish that goes with anything! The acidity of the tomatoes and feta is well-balanced by chunks of fresh avocado.
- Grilled Pineapple: Throw some Tequila Grilled Pineapple skewers on a cast-iron skillet for a few minutes, and create this lusciously juicy side that makes your patty melt even more unbelievably good.
How to Make This Ahead
- To get a head start on these patty melts, I recommend making the onions and patties in advance! You can make them up to two days ahead, cool them down, and store in airtight containers.
- If you want to cook the patties fresh on the day of, then just season and shape them, and store in food storage bags or containers in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
Classic Patty Melts
For the Beef Patties:
For the Sandwiches:
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 8 slices sandwich bread
- 8 slices swiss cheese
Make the Caramelized Onions:
- Melt butter in a large skillet set over medium-heat.
- Add the onions; season with salt and cook the onions for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft and browned. If the onions start to burn, turn down the heat to a medium-low.
- Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl combine ground beef, salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and onion powder. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- Shape the beef into 4 even patties; they should weigh 4 ounces each.
- Remove caramelized onions from the pan and transfer to a plate; set aside.
Cook the Beef Patties:
- Wipe down the skillet and set it back over medium-high heat.
- Add the patties to the heated skillet and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until done. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the patties; ground beef is cooked through when internal temperature registers at 160˚F.
- Remove patties from the skillet and set aside.
Make the Sandwiches:
- Wipe down the skillet and set it back over medium-low heat.
- Butter one side of each slice of bread.
- Add 4 bread slices to the skillet, buttered side down.
- Place 1 slice of Swiss cheese on each piece of bread; top cheese with a beef patty and caramelized onions.
- Add one more slice of cheese on top.
- Top each sandwich with the remaining bread slices, buttered side UP.
- Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom and cheese begins to melt.
- Press down on top of the sandwiches and then carefully flip them over; continue to cook for 3 to 4 more minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.
- Remove from skillet.
- Cut in half.
- Serve immediately.