Rather than adding any seasoning, including salt and pepper, to their classic Steakburgers, Steak ’n Shake solely relies on the Maillard reaction for flavor. This is the browning that occurs when amino acids and sugars combine with high heat. I was able to peek into the grilling station at the restaurant to see cooks squashing ground beef “pucks” flat onto the hot grill to trigger the fast browning process. This was good information, but no amount of spying into the kitchen provided me with any information about which cuts of beef are used to make those burgers.

The term “Steakburger” doesn’t tell us much since practically any cut of beef can be a steak until it’s ground up, and there are conflicting reports about which cuts of beef are used. One article I found states that the burgers are made with chuck, rib eye, and brisket, while another claims it’s a combination of ground round, sirloin, and T-bone steaks. A waiter at the restaurant told me it’s all from porterhouse steak, which is both strip and tenderloin. Completely confused by my research, I decided to bust out the meat grinder and taste test all three combinations, plus several others. In the end I determined that the best clone of these burgers is made with the most flavorful, least costly cuts: top sirloin, New York strip, and chuck. So, grab a 9-ounce steak of each and have your butcher grind them up for you, or do it yourself if you have a meat grinder. Form the blend into a dozen 2¼ ounce pucks that are then smashed flat in a hot pan and cooked until caramelized to a dark brown. Build the burger just as shown here and you’ll have a perfect match to the famous eighty-year-old Midwest original.

9 ounces ground top sirloin steak
9 ounces ground New York strip steak
9 ounces ground chuck steak
6 plain hamburger buns
6 slices of American cheese
6 leaves green leaf lettuce, trimmed to fit
6 tomato slices from 2 large tomatoes
6 thin slices of white onion
12 dill pickle sandwich slices, trimmed to fit


Cooking method

1-Gently combine the ground meats in a large bowl and use your hands to form twelve 2¼-ounce balls, then shape the balls into pucks that are 2½ inches across.

2-When you are ready to make the burgers, preheat a large nonstick skillet or lightly oiled pan to medium heat. Brown the face of the buns in the hot pan. Remove the buns, then drop 2 beef pucks onto the hot pan. Cook for about 30 seconds, then flip the pucks over and press down on the meat, using a spatula, so that the patties squish down to about twice the diameter of the original puck—around 5 inches across. Cook the beef patties for another 3 to 4 minutes or until the meat has browned. Flip the patties over and cook for another couple of minutes or until browned. Place a slice of American cheese on top of one patty, then place the other patty on top of the cheese.

3-Build each burger by placing a leaf of lettuce on the bottom bun, followed by a slice of tomato. Stack the two beef patties on the tomato. Place a thin slice of onion on the beef, then lay 2 pickles on the onion. If you want ketchup and/or mayo on your burger, those go on the bottom bun before you build the burger. If you want mustard and/or relish on the burger, those go on the face of the top bun before you top off your sandwich.

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