In Wisconsin, Poached Burgers Have Been A Staple For Over 100 Years

From the steamed burgers of Connecticut to the olive burgers of Michigan, the United States has no shortage of interesting takes on this beloved sandwich. But over in America's Dairyland, there is another way of cooking hamburgers that you're not likely to find anywhere else in the country. For it is in the state of Wisconsin that, for over a century, they've been poaching their burgers.

In the historic town of Prairie du Chien, Pete's Hamburger Stand has been serving up poached hamburgers for over 100 years. Originally, founder Pete Gokey cooked his burgers the way everyone else did at the start of the 20th century: in large pans. In order to keep his burgers from drying out between customers, Gokey added water to the pan, allowing the burgers to slowly stew in their own fat. Customers would return exclaiming that they liked the burgers cooked in water much better than the standard pan frying. From then on, poached burgers became a staple in Wisconsin.

Joe Rouer's Bar, another poached burger institution just outside of Green Bay, has a special seasoning they put on their burgers and they add water to the pans throughout the day, creating a concentrated beef gravy that lends tremendous flavor to the patties. Though we would highly recommend the journey, you don't need to trek out to these burger joints to experience poached burgers. It's something you can very easily do at home, in the comfort of your own kitchen. 

Wisconsin-style poached burgers at home

All you need to achieve a poached burger at home is a deep-sided skillet, preferably made out of cast iron. And as you won't — at least we think you won't — be cooking up hundreds of burgers a day in the same richly flavored water bath, you will need to use some beef stock in order to get the most flavor out of your burger. Another thing to note, if you want to replicate a true Wisconsin poached burger, you'll need to add a good amount of onions to your poaching liquid. However, this is not required. Additional seasonings to suit your taste are also optional.

Over medium-high heat, add enough stock to bathe, but not completely cover the burger, and bring it to a good simmer. Add the onions, if you're using them, and cook them down until they become soft, translucent, and sweet. Next, add the burger patty (and any seasonings if you're using them) and cook on one side until the edges are no longer pink. Flip and cook a few minutes more.

It is all but impossible to end up with a dry, unappetizing burger using this method. What you should get is a tender patty that's dripping with succulent juices and a beautiful beefy flavor. Biting into one will reveal why Wisconsinites have been in love with these burgers for over 100 years ... and likely leave you wanting more.