A cheeseburger casserole is a way to have all or most of the components that make up a regular cheeseburger in a form that maybe more convenient to prepare, cook, serve and store in large amounts. There are several recipes for cheeseburger casserole, although ground beef, onions and cheese are almost always the primary ingredients; the beef can be replaced with whole grains in vegetarian versions. Some preparations coat the casserole in dough so a crisp crust forms on top, while others use pasta, potatoes or grains to lighten the dish and extend the ground beef. Like many casseroles, premade ingredients such as soup mixes, canned vegetables and frozen entrees can be incorporated to shorten the preparation time and add familiar flavors. The resulting cheeseburger casserole, considered comfort food by some, can be served as a main course alongside salad, bread or French fries.
The main ingredient in a cheeseburger casserole is usually ground beef. It needs to be cooked before being added to the casserole dish so it browns properly and does not release a large amount of fat in the pan. The beef can be accompanied by onions, garlic, peppers or other meats, including bacon, pork and veal. Spices such as thyme and cumin or powdered seasoning mixtures can be cooked in the pan with the beef so any raw taste in the spices is removed before it is baked.
There are a few ways to incorporate the cheese element of a cheeseburger casserole. Some recipes simply sprinkle cheese over the top of the casserole after all the other ingredients have been added. Recipes that cover the dish in bread or pastry sometimes incorporate cheese directly into the meat, allowing it to melt into all corner of the casserole. A more intensive method is to create a cheese sauce with cream and pour it into the pan, where it will thicken as it cooks.
Most hamburgers are traditionally served on bread or rolls. To emulate this in a cheeseburger casserole, the entire baking pan can be lined with dough, similar to the procedure for a pot pie. Dough or uncooked refrigerated biscuits can be placed on top and allowed to cook with the dish. Bread elements are sometimes left out of the casserole altogether or appear only as a thin dusting of breadcrumbs on the surface.
Typical condiments for a hamburger are often worked into a cheeseburger casserole. These include ingredients such as ketchup, mustard, pickles and tomatoes, although the tomatoes also can appear as tomato sauce in the dish. Additionally, if the ground beef seems too dense, then diced potatoes, cooked pasta, chunks of stale bread or rice can be added to lighten the meat. It also is not uncommon to add eggs to act as a binder.
The completed cheeseburger casserole can either be baked in an oven right away or covered and stored in a refrigerator or freezer until it is needed. Depending on how the casserole is made, it can sometimes be a very heavy and filling meal that couples well with light salads or vegetables. In lighter preparations, bread or French fries can make good accompaniments.