This cheeseburger pizza might not be on the menu at Back Bay Social Club here in Boston anymore, but that doesn't mean you can't replicate it in the comfort of your own home.
I've actually never eaten Back Bay Social Club's version of this pizza. I moved to Boston mid-pandemic. Restaurants weren't an option. "So how do you know it's a perfect cheeseburger pizza copycat recipe, Rebecca?" I can hear you asking. I know because my sister has been a regular there for years, ordered that pizza all the time, and asked me to replicate it for her. She gave it her seal of approval and said it absolutely hit the spot. So there you have it. Nailed it!
A cheeseburger pizza is really fun to make because most of the toppings don't actually bake on the pizza. So there's a little prep work in advance to make the ground beef mixture, which is basically ground beef and American cheese. The ground beef bakes on top of your hand stretched pizza dough with a bit of shredded mozzarella and a garlic-y, shallot-y oil mixture.
Once the pizza base comes off the baking steel, you basically just top it with classic cheeseburger fixins. Things like crunchy shredded iceberg lettuce, chopped or sliced tomato, diced onion and crinkle-cut pickles (I like Boston-based Grillo's Pickles dill pickle chips) for some sharpness, and a generous drizzle of secret sauce.
What is secret sauce? It's a secret! Just kidding — it's made by Hidden Valley, it's literally called "Secret Sauce," you can buy it at Target or on Amazon, and it's so so so good. I use it for dipping chicken fingers and french fries, but it's the perfect finishing touch on this cheeseburger pizza.
a few quick tips
- You want a thicker pizza crust for this, so that it can support the weight of all the toppings. I usually do a 250-280 gram ball of pizza dough and hand stretch it (check out my step-by step visual guide to hand stretching pizza dough here) to about 10" — no more than 12" across.
- I recommend using an 80/20 (that's 80% lean, 20% fat) ground beef blend. The pizza bakes at such a high temperature that I didn't want to risk the beef drying out. The 20% fat content of the beef plus the American cheese means the ground beef stays super moist and flavorful even after being cooked twice.
- If you really love American cheese, you can put some on top of the pizza before baking it. I think it looks kind of funny because it's not a cheese that melts beautifully in the oven (it kind of just becomes yellow goo) so I prefer mixing it in with the ground beef and letting it melt that way.
- I baked this on my baking steel (more on why I prefer a baking steel to a pizza stone here) which I preheat in the oven at 500F for an hour before use. Depending on how hot your oven gets and how thick or thin you stretch your pizza dough, you may need to adjust the cooking time to get it to the right level of doneness. I've included estimated cook times in the recipe, but you'll have to make your own call as to when it's done based on your own oven.
- Be generous with the amount of semolina and all purpose flour you put down on your pizza peel before sliding it into the oven. Make sure you give it a good shake back and forth before you slide it off, too, that way you can dust any extra flour under the stuck spots before you're sliding it onto the baking steel. There's a lot of weight on this pizza, you want to make sure it'll slide off without sticking.
- To get nice browning on top, broil the pizza for 1-3 minutes (checking every minute) until it looks how you want it to.
- 1 250-280 gram pizza dough ball
For the beef
- ¾ lb ground beef (80% lean preferred)
- 2 slices american cheese
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- salt and pepper
- ⅔ cup low-moisture mozzarella cheese (shredded)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic (minced or microplaned)
- 2 tablespoon shallots (minced)
- ½ cup iceberg lettuce (thinly sliced or shredded)
- ⅓ cup red onion (thinly sliced)
- ¼ cup dill pickle chips
- 3 tablespoon Hidden Valley Secret Sauce
For the pizza peel
- 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon semolina flour
- An hour before you plan to eat, preheat oven to 500°F with baking steel on a rack about 7" below broiler unit.
- Fifteen minutes before you plan to eat, heat 1 tablespoon neutral oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook ground beef with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder, until browned, using a wooden spoon or spatula to break it up.
- When there are just a few pink spots left, tear a piece of American cheese into pieces and add to the skillet. Continue cooking until cheese has completely melted into the beef mixture. Remove from skillet to a paper towel to drain. Set aside.
- Hand stretch pizza dough into a 10-12" circle and transfer to a pizza peel sprinkled generously with a 50/50 blend of all purpose and semolina flour.
- Mix olive oil with garlic and shallots in a small bowl and brush onto the surface of the pizza.
- Top pizza with crumbled ground beef and shredded mozzarella. Slide onto pre-heated baking steel and bake 4-7 minutes until the edges of the pizza are brown and bubbled on top, rotating halfway through and under the broiler for the final minute.
- Remove pizza from the oven. Top with shredded lettuce, red onion, and a generous drizzle of Hidden Valley Secret Sauce. Finish with dill pickle chips.