In spite of what the good people down at the local T.G.I. Cantinagan’s might be trying to sell you (hint: it’s deep-fried Jack Daniels mayonnaise balls and bottomless blue cheese margaritas), a “slider” isn’t a miniature hamburger on a tiny hamburger bun (read Adam Kuban’s excellent essay on the subject here). And for goodness’ sake, the word “slider” shouldn’t be used to describe miniaturized versions of Maryland crab cake sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches, Buffalo chicken sandwiches, or any other tiny bar snacks. No, a real slider is something different, and something very specific.
By definition, diameter has nothing to do with a real slider. A real slider, as served in the diners of New Jersey, is made from a scant two ounces of beef, pressed thin, cooked on a griddle on a bed of onions, with the buns steamed on top of the meat so that the vapor from the cooking onions passes from the grill, through the beef, and steams into both sides of the warming buns. It’s the steam action of the cooking onions, not the size of the burger, that defines a slider. Optionally served with a slice of cheese and a slice of pickle, they’re simple burger perfection; steamy pillows of onion vapor, griddled beef, and soft bun, that you can eat by the half dozen.
Depending on where you live geographically, you probably picture the offerings from either slider inventors White Castle, or Krystal, when you think of sliders. If you’re from New Jersey, however, you can’t beat the slider served at the famous White Manna Hamburgers in Hackensack. For nearly 70 years, the tiny diner has been serving hungry customers classic, real-deal sliders, with sides of pickles piled high on top of paper plates and dipped a bite at a time into ketchup. Cook up a few late at night with a cup of coffee, and you can enjoy the best of diner culture, served in sandwich form.
Diner-Style Cheeseburger Sliders
Makes 6 cheeseburgers
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 3 slices processed pasteurized American cheese
- 6 small white hamburger buns
- 6 slices pickle
- Ketchup, to taste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Divide ground beef into six balls (you are shooting for around 1.5 ounces per meatball; precision is not important here), and cut each slice of cheese in half.
In a large skillet over low heat, combine oil and onion. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until onions sweeten and caramelize. This should take about 20 minutes.
When onions are ready, add meatballs to pan, on top of onions, and press with a spatula to flatten each into a hamburger patty. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and cook approximately 1-2 minutes.
Using a spatula, flip burger patties (with onions underneath) so that the onions are on top. Add a half-slice of cheese to each hamburger patty, followed by the top half of the bun, followed by the bottom half of the bun.
Cover pan with a kitchen towel, being careful not to let towel catch fire. Let cook 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is melted and buns are steamed through.
To serve, remove kitchen towel. Arrange bottom sections of bun on a platter, and add ketchup and pickle slices to each. Using a spatula, remove each hamburger/onion/cheese/bun stack from pan, and place on each bottom bun. Serve immediately.