The Ultimate Pennsylvania Cheeseburger

There are burgers, and then there are burgers, the ones you think about for days after you’ve had them: the perfectly-sized patty, redolent with smoke, dripping with juices, smothered with cheese and – if you’re lucky – topped with thick-cut bacon and scratch-made condiments. We’ve put together what we consider the ultimate Pennsylvania-proud cheeseburger so that you don’t have to wait until your next outing to a pub or steakhouse to experience true burger joy.

It starts, as nearly every burger should, with quality PA beef. If you can find some ground beef from WindSwept Angus, Bow Creek Farm or from another local butcher or farm, stock up! The quality and flavor are more than worth the few extra dollars this might cost over supermarket beef. Martin’s Potato Rolls provide the base, and the well-seasoned burger is dressed up with havarti cheese (try slices from September Farm), bacon (can’t go wrong with Leidy’s), arugula, and not one, but two sauces that you can make yourself. Use backyard or farmers market basil to make a gorgeous green aioli, and local red peppers to make a relish that you’ll want to put on everything (try it on pork chops or potato tacos, too!). It takes a little bit of extra time to whip these sauces up, but you won’t be sorry – the flavors meld with the beef, cheese and bacon for a truly epic burger experience.

The Ultimate PA Cheeseburger

Serves 4
Prep Time Cook Time Total Time
15 min 30 min 45 min

Red Pepper Relish


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt, to taste


  1. Heat oil for pepper relish in large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Mix in red peppers and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until beginning to soften. Stir in vinegar, sugar, red pepper, and salt. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until peppers break down and liquid reduces and becomes sticky, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust spice or sweetness, as preferred, by adding more red pepper flakes or sugar. Set aside until ready to assemble burgers.

Basil Aioli


  • 1 cup fresh basil, packed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil


  1. While relish cooks, pulse basil, garlic, egg yolks, lemon juice, and salt in food processor until combined.
  2. With food processor running, slowly drizzle in oil. Continue to process until aioli forms, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of processor and pulse again until combined. Store in airtight container in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Burger & Assembly


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground Pennsylvania beef
  • 1/2 cup coarsely ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Vegetable or canola oil, for grilling
  • 8 slices havarti cheese
  • 4 Martin’s Potato Rolls
  • 4 thick slices bacon, cooked
  • 2 ounces baby arugula


  1. Preheat grill (or grill pan) to medium-high heat. Form beef into 4 round patties about 3/4” thick. Spread pepper out on a plate and roll edges of patties in pepper to coat. Press thumb into top of burger to create indent and season with salt on both sides.
  2. Brush burgers with oil and place on grill. Grill burgers until starting to char, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip. Grill 3 to 4 minutes, then place 2 pieces of cheese on each burger and close the lid. Grill 1 minute, until cheese has melted.
  3. To assemble burger, slather bottom bun with basil aioli. Top with burger and then spoon red pepper relish over burger. Layer bacon and arugula over relish and top with bun.

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