Classic Cheese Burger with Secret Sauce

Story by Natalie
Classic Cheese Burger with Secret Sauce
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Earlier this month I had the privilege, nay, the luxury of vacationing on the stunning island of Maui (cue the softHawaiian music with sounds of waves crashing). In my head, I’m still choosing to live in what we began to refer to as “Maui-Magic,” where everything is good, everything is beautiful and everything is warm. Someday, I hope to return to that lovely place with Holly to give a full rundown of what to eat, drink and do while visiting the island. We haven't quite ventured into the world of travel blogging (yet), so that will have to wait, but in the mean time I’ll tell you a little tale from my recent visit there about the best burger, from the most unexpected source, and how you can (and should!) make your own at home.

...the BEST cheese, caramelized onions and a really, really good secret sauce...

Classic Cheese Burger with Secret Sauce

There are easily over 100 different beaches to choose from when on Maui, each with their own unique characteristics and beauty. Naturally, while there our family was out to visit as many of them as we could! One of our favorite beaches was D.T. Flemming Beach. (Soft sand, small crowds and epic boogie boarding waves were pretty easy selling points.) Upon our arrival on our first time there we saw a small chalkboard sign in the parking lot that said “Burger and Shake Shake” with an arrow pointing through the bush. Score! After wearing ourselves out in the big waves all day, the decision to visit the shack was unanimous. We were starving in a way only all day in the water and sun can produce!

We tromped through the bush sandy, wet, shoeless and starving. Following the lead of that chalkboard sign and the smell of burgers, we finally reached a clearing. I looked at my husband and said “this ain't no shack, this is the Ritz Carlton!” Yeah, I wasn't being sarcastic. It was the actual Ritz. Whoever wrote that sign had a sense of humor. And so, with starving kids in tow we made a call to not look at the prices on the menu (or our scrappy, sand ridden selves) and just roll with it.

Two adult burgers, two kid burgers and one milkshake later, we had racked up an $85.00 “burger and shake shack” bill. And you know what...I'm not even sorry about it, because it was the best burger I have ever had.

When I retold this story to a friend I realized how ridiculous the size of that bill actually was, but I still don't regret it. What makes a $30 burger that good? Well I’ll tell you: a perfectly soft bun, quality, juicy meat that is seasoned well, the BEST cheese, caramelized onions and a really, really good secret sauce (being absolutely starving doesn't hurt either).

Classic Cheese Burger with Secret Sauce

Chances are I won’t be spending that kind of change at a “shack” any time soon, so I decided putting some work into a classic burger done right was in order. There is nothing overly fancy about this recipe. It’s just a good burger, every element made with care and attention, not too fussy, but full of flavor. I figure, if it's good enough for the Ritz to charge $85 dollars for it, it's good enough for my family any night of the week. I'll be dreaming about the beautiful island of Maui for some time, I'm sure, but fortunately I don't have to long for those burgers when I can make my own simply perfect version at home...for about 1/10th the price.

Classic Cheese Burger with Secret Sauce

Classic Cheese Burger with Secret Sauce

Serves 4

Secret Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp ketchup
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp spicy pickle juice
1 tsp dried dill
2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground mustard


2 medium sized yellow onions, thinly sliced in rings
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs 80% lean grass fed ground beef
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated yellow onion
3 tsp garlic granules
2 tbsp worcestershire
2 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp sea salt + more for seasoning patties
1 tsp freshly ground pepper + more for seasoning patties
1 large slicing tomato, evenly sliced thick
4 slices of good quality cheddar cheese
4 large torn pieces, romaine lettuce
4 brioche hamburger buns, or sweet Hawaiian buns


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all secret sauce ingredients until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until use. Can be stored for up to a week.
  2. Heat oil in medium sized, heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion the two thinly sliced onions and saute over medium-low heat until caramelized. About 25-35 min. If they start browning too quickly lower the heat. Once finished, set aside.
  3. In a large bowl place ground beef, eggs, grated onion, garlic, mustard, sea salt and pepper. Using your hands mix the meat together until completely combined. (You can use a wooden spoon if this grosses you out.) Using your hands (you have to for this part), divide the meat into four equal parts and make for uniform patties about ⅓ inch thick. Set aside on parchment paper.
  4. Heat grill on high for 10 min.
  5. Season each patty with a little salt and pepper and place on the grill. Reduce heat to medium and close the lid. Cook for 5 min. Flip the burger patties and cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until center is just barely pink. Turn off the grill, add the cheese and allow to melt. While the cheese is melting, use your hot grill to toast your buns!
  6. To prepare the burgers, add a generous amount of secret sauce to both top and bottom of the bun. Add the meat then layer on the lettuce, onions and tomato. Serve with pickles and enjoy!