How to make a Shake Shack cheeseburger

Shake Shack's signature ShackBurger.
Shake Shack's signature ShackBurger. Photo: Supplied

Now you can get your Shake Shack fix without the international airfare.

Shake Shack, the popular, fast-growing American burger chain, has just released a cookbook, and, yes, it includes directions for preparing its signature burger.

Well, sort of.

Shake Shack's cookbook: 'Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories'.
Shake Shack's cookbook: 'Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories'. Photo: Penguin Random House

In Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories, authors Randy Garutti and Mark Rosati (the company's CEO and culinary director, respectively), in collaboration with award-winning editor Dorothy Kalins, offer a reasonable home-cook facsimile of the famous ShackBurger.

"My favourite burger is a plain cheeseburger," writes Rosati. "I wish it were more complicated, but it's not. If the meat is fresh (say 'No' to that convenient packaged pre-ground meat, and just once, have whole muscles ground for you; I promise, you'll taste the difference), well seasoned (simply, with salt and freshly ground pepper), properly cooked with a nice salty crust (a quick sear on a hot, flat surface to lock in the juices, but not cooked so long those juices dry up), the cheese is melted and creamy, and it's cradled by a bun that's nicely toasted yet still soft and pillowy on the outside, I don't ask for anything more.

"That is the most perfect burger bite of my life: when the interior juices of the burger meet the creaminess of the cheese, co-mingle, and create a natural sauce. If you understand the basics, you can have that experience, too. It's the most primal, simple, and pleasurable expression of what a great burger is all about."

When it comes to preparing the burger, here are a few notes: Shake Shack prefers potato rolls from Martin's in Pennsylvania.

Shake Shack's exact beef formula isn't revealed, but the book does outline that the formula follows a mix of brisket, chuck and short rib (the percentages aren't mentioned). The beef is fresh, not frozen, and it's all-natural Angus, raised without hormones or antibiotics.

For home cooks with a meat grinder (or a friendly butcher), here's the recommendation: cut the meat into small pieces, and chill the beef; do not bring it to room temperature. On the first grind, use the coarse plate, and on the second grind, rely upon a finer plate.


When it comes to toasting the buns, "We say a well toasted bun should look like perfectly cooked French toast," write the authors. They prefer Roma tomatoes because "they are firm enough to hold their shape and colour and add a sweet note to balance the salty crust of the burger".

And why American cheese? "It is quite simply the creamiest, meltingest cheese there is, bringing its special tang to a cheeseburger," writes the authors. "Buy it sliced; it's easier to drape on a hot burger."

Here's the recipe for you to try at home.

The ShackBurger

"Like most deceptively simple things, it took us years to get it right, but now you can master burger perfection in five minutes," write authors Randy Garutti and Mark Rosati.

4 hamburger buns

3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

3 tbsp ShackSauce (recipe below)

4 pieces green leaf lettuce

1 ripe plum tomato, sliced into eight 1cm-thick slices

450g very cold ground beef, divided into 4 pucks

½ teaspoon salt & pepper mix (recipe below)

4 slices American cheese


Heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-low heat until warm. Meanwhile, open the hamburger buns and brush the insides with melted butter (a soft brush is helpful here). Place the buns, buttered-side down, on the pan and toast until golden brown, about two to three minutes. Transfer buns to a plate. Spoon the ShackSauce (see recipe, below) onto the top bun. Add a piece of the lettuce and two slices of the tomato.

Increase the heat to medium and heat the grill pan until hot, two to three minutes.

Evenly sprinkle a pinch of salt & pepper mix (recipe below) on top of each puck of meat.

Place the pucks on the grill pan, seasoned-side down. Using a large, sturdy metal spatula, firmly smash each puck into a 1cm thick round patty. (Pressing down on the spatula with another stiff spatula helps flatten the burger quickly). Evenly sprinkle another big pinch of salt & pepper mix.

Cook the burgers, resisting the urge to move them, until the edges beneath are brown and crisp, and juices on the surface are bubbling hot, about 2½ minutes. Slide one of the spatulas beneath the burger to release it from the pan and scrape up the caramelised brown crust. Use the other spatula to steady the burger and keep it from sliding. Flip the burgers. Put the cheese on top and cook the burgers for one minute longer for medium. Cook more or less, depending upon your preference.

Transfer cheeseburgers to prepared buns and enjoy.

Serves 4


Note: "We're surely not going to publish THE formula for our secret sauce," write the authors. "But this recipe comes pretty darn close with home ingredients. It's our homage to everything sweet, salty, sour and smoky that's ever been put on top of a burger."

½ cup Hellmann's mayonnaise

3 tsp Dijon mustard

¾ teaspoon Heinz ketchup

¼ teaspoon kosher dill pickling brine

Pinch of cayenne pepper


In a small mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, pickling brine and cayenne pepper and stir until well combined. Sauce will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Makes about ½ cup

Salt & pepper mix

½ cup kosher salt

½ tsp freshly ground pepper


In a small bowl, combine salt and pepper. "Use the mixture to season our burgers as they cook," write authors Randy Garutti and Mark Rosati (see recipe above).

Makes about ½ cup

Recipes from Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories, by Randy Garutti, Mark Rosati and Dorothy Kalins, published by Penguin Random House, RRP $US26 ($35).

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