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Heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. When it bubbles, add larger chopped or quartered and sliced onions and bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Cook slowly 30 to 40 minutes to caramel in color and very soft. Midway add about 1 cup water and let it cook away.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Arrange bacon on slotted pan and bake to very crisp at center oven, 13 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a saucepot or small skillet over medium heat with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and finely chopped onion. Grate in the garlic, then add apple cider vinegar, molasses, ketchup, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and tomato sauce. Let that bubble and cook together to thicken, 12 to 15 minutes at low bubble.
Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high to high heat, and spray or brush with oil.
Score the meat or plant-based product before forming patties to ensure even size and season with salt and pepper. Form 4 patties—if using meat, form patties thinner at center than edges for even cooking; plant-based burgers should be formed into thin and even patties. Cook patties 7 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally until browned. Top with cheddar cheese and melt in last 1 to 2 minutes.
To build burgers: bun bottoms, greens such as cress or leaf lettuce, pickles, cheeseburgers, 3 half-slices of crisp bacon per burger, barbecue sauce, caramelized onions, and bun tops.