As a born & raised Wisconsinite, Culver’s is pretty much my gold standard for fast casual restaurants. I vividly remember the day Culver’s opened in my tiny hometown in rural Wisconsin. A few years later, I started working my very first job there as a drive-thru cashier. (“Welcome to Culver’s, home of the ButterBurger! How may I help you?” is still seared in my memory!)
The ButterBurger is a seared beef patty made from fresh (never frozen!) beef that’s served on a buttered & toasted roll with whatever toppings you love. It’s simple but perfectly executed, & it’s really fun to recreate at home.
Like Culver’s, this butter burger recipe starts with a very simple burger patty made only with high-quality fresh beef, salt, & pepper. To recreate the “steak-like” flavor of a Culver’s ButterBurger, we smash & sear the burger in a piping hot skillet. This smash-burger style cook is the easiest way to create perfectly crispy edges & seriously rich flavor at home.
This is where the butter enters the equation. A real-deal Wisconsin butter burger is served on a butter-toasted bun, which is perfectly crispy, beautifully golden brown, & adds another layer of rich flavor to each bite. Just add on your favorite toppings & you’re good to go – dinner’s ready in 20 minutes or less!
Be sure to check out the blog post, above, to learn more about Wisconsin-style butter burgers. I hope you love this fun recipe as much as we do! ♡
- neutral, high smoke point vegetable oil of choice
- 1 ¼ pounds 85% lean ground beef, divided into 4 equal portions (approx. 5 ounces each)
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 4 brioche buns or hamburger buns of choice
- 4 slices American cheese or cheese of choice
- for serving, as desired: shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced onion, sliced dill pickles, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, etc.
Prep Note: Butter burgers cook very quickly! For best results, be sure to read through this recipe & prepare all of your burger fixings before you begin cooking the burgers.
- Prep: Preheat a cast iron griddle or large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Once the griddle/skillet is very hot, after about 2 minutes of preheating, brush the cooking surface with a light coating of oil. Meanwhile, divide the ground beef into 4 equal portions – there’s no need to roll them into a ball or form them into burger patties. Season each portion liberally with kosher salt & ground black pepper.
- Smash & cook the butter burgers: Working in batches if needed, place the portioned ground beef on the hot griddle/skillet. Position the center of the flat surface of a large spatula over each portion of ground beef & firmly press down to smash the beef into burger patties that is about 5-inches in diameter (or just barely larger than the size of your burger buns) – you may need to reposition the spatula & smash down on the burger a second time for an evenly pressed patty. Cook the burgers, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Carefully flip the burgers – doing so should reveal a beautiful dark brown crust on the cooked side. Top each butter burger with a slice of cheese & continue to cook for 90 seconds – 2 minutes longer.
- Toast the buns: Meanwhile, as the burgers cook, toast the buns. If needed, heat another skillet over medium-high heat. Spread the softened butter over both cut sides of the brioche buns – about 1 scant teaspoon per side. Place the buns, butter side facing down, on the preheated skillet. Lower the heat to medium & toast until golden brown. Remove from the skillet & set aside.
- Assemble & serve: Place the cheese butter burger patties on the toasted brioche bun bottoms & top with whatever fixings you love most. For a butter burger with “the works,” layer sliced onions & pickles into the butter burger & top with ketchup & mustard. For a “deluxe” butter burger, layer shredded lettuce & sliced onions, tomatoes & pickles into the butter burger & top with ketchup & mustard. Enjoy!
- Equipment notes: To make a proper smash burger-style burger, you’ll need a large spatula with a good, sturdy handle. If the flat surface of your spatula is slotted with cutouts, wrap it with foil to create a uniform, solid surface (you may want a second spatula for flipping the burgers). To ensure a good, firm smash, it’s helpful to use a large can (like canned soup or canned tomatoes) to weigh down the flat surface of the spatula as you press down on the beef patties.