Crumble Burger: The Key is Steam

What I remember about crumble burgers from my childhood is peeking at the buns in the steamer. I do not recall my mother or paternal grandmother fixing the meat, just the buns. I loved the warm, soft buns.

Although I never had crumble burgers anywhere else other than our home or my grandmother’s, I never really considered whether or not anyone else ate them. In fact, I may have thought we were the only ones at some point. I assumed that it was something that my grandmother or her mother had come up with to use stale hot dog buns.

In recent years, I have learned of “loose meat” sandwiches that are served in parts of the Mid-Western United States, notably Iowa and Kansas.  Hmm…my grandmother had relatives that she would visit who lived in both of those states…perhaps she was actually inspired to make crumble burgers because of other relatives.   The sad truth is that I will never know how they came into my life, but I am glad they did.

I have been somewhat unsure as to whether to write a post about something once again so simple and basic.  However, I have done it before and will probably do it again.

To make the best crumble burgers, you need stale or very cheap hot dog buns.  The partially dry buns steam the best without falling apart.

Unlike hamburger patties, the best crumble burgers are not made with an 80/20 blend of meat/fat.  Instead, I recommend using a less fatty meat like ground round or even ground sirloin.   You do not want the meat to stick together; you want it to crumble.

By the way, crumbling up a cooked hamburger does not taste the same.  The meat and the bun both need the steam to achieve a true crumble burger.

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  1. Split burger buns in half and grill on each side until lightly browned. Charlotte Cookbooks

  2. As I read this post and the ingredient list, I was expecting to see brown sugar, ketchup, green pepper–a sloppy joe. I’ve never heard of Crumble Burgers! Nora used to have this 1950’s stove top steamer for hamburger/hot dog buns–very cool. I’ll have to try crumble burgers sometime!

  3. I’ve never heard of these before. They sound really good!

  4. I love these burgers!! I used to live in Lake Mills Iowa and would eat them at the Grand Cafe. Now I live in Texas but can’t find them anywhere. Today I am planning on making them and thanfully I found your recipe online. Thanks so much

  5. Super article and great looking recipe! I make crumble burgers (loose meats) by cooking lean ground chuck with some real beef stock and favorite spices in a slow cooker on low for about 3 or 4 hours (no skillet necessary). The beef comes out really moist and tender. I haven’t thought of the hot dog buns, but will definitely try it.

  6. Paula, if you’re cooking for a crowd, you may have to adjust the cooking time, but the slow cooker works beautifully for me.

  7. Dotty Moore says:

    I grew up in West Virginia and my mother use to make crumble burgers. I just thought about them today and looked for a receipe. Thanks.

    • Dotty,

      I also grew up in West Virgina. My grandmother used to work at the lunch counter in a G.C. Murphy Co. where, I recently learned, they used to serve crumble burgers. I remember eating at the lunch counter and dinner frequently, but I don’t remember ever eating crumble burgers there…just club sandwiches and the bananas from banana splits 🙂

      I hope you enjoyed the crumble burgers.

  8. Jim Ryan says:

    Dog N Shake in wichita ks sold these when i was a kid not sure if they still do or not…

  9. judy smith says:

    Its also a Michigan thing at red rosters back in the 60s.

  10. Beverly Line says:

    I remember these from school. It was one of the only things I liked about school lunches, the other being the pizza! I have been searching the internet looking for a recipe for them. At my school, they were called steamers, but when I searched for steamer recipes, all I could find were sloppy joe recipes that people were calling steamers. I was so frustrated! Then I found this recipe….finally a REAL steamer…no brown sugar or ketchup needed! Thank you so much for this recipe that reminds me of my childhood. I might try them in the crock pot as Laney suggested. Can’t wait to try these!!

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