Redhot Ranch double cheeseburger

Welcome to the Do-It-Yourself version of one of the best burgers you can buy in Chicago.

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Read Time: 15 minutes

One of my favorite cheeseburgers in Chicago is from a small 2-location chain known as Redhot Ranch (shortened to RHR). The Redhot Ranch family has a third location on the South side of Chicago known as 35th Street Red Hots. All three of these locations have very similar if not identical menus focusing on hot dogs, burgers, french fries, and fried shrimp.

Redhot Ranch got its start as a hot dog stand with fries and fried shrimp, and it wasn’t until 11 years ago in 2013 that they added a second RHR location and started making cheeseburgers. Turns out they also know how to make a fantastic smash-style burger.

Maybe I have a whole album in my Google Photos dedicated to Redhot Ranch. That’s a totally normal thing for a guy who enjoys cheeseburgers to do.
A poster in my office depicts the original Redhot Ranch location on Western Ave in Chicago. This location has closed and reopened a few blocks away, closer to my house.

What is a Redhot Ranch double cheeseburger?

The burger I’m writing about today is made from two 3-ounce beef patties that have been seared on a griddle and topped with melty American cheese. When you order the RHR double cheeseburger and fries, they will still ask you if you want it all the way which will mean the addition of lettuce, tomato, raw, diced onion, and special sauce on a toasty white bread bun.

The Redhot Ranch menu at the Armitage location.

An RHR double cheeseburger with fries is currently $7.23 plus tax and it can keep that very reasonable price because of the ingredients that the restaurant uses. The burger is simple, using simple ingredients and it’s even cheaper if you want to make it at home. Even if you’re a single patty burger fan, I do suggest you try the double cheeseburger because I think the meat-to-bun ratio is much better than the single patty burger in my experience.

I stole this photo from Redhot Ranch’s website, but since they stole one of my burger photos for their website About Page I consider the score even. This is the header on their Menu Page and it’s one of those photos that you can almost taste.

The Redhot Ranch burger process

A travel-and-food-focused YouTube channel named Travel Thirsty went to Redhot Ranch last year and filmed a bit of the cooking process there. They released a great video of 20+ minutes of behind-the-counter cooking of burgers, hot dogs, and shrimp.

You can learn a lot about how to make a Redhot Ranch burger from this video. Check it out if you want to make your own.

Just over 20 minutes of Redhot Ranch kitchen ASMR.

In this burger blog post, my goal is to present you with all the knowledge you need to recreate a Redhot Ranch double cheeseburger adventure in your kitchen. But first…

If you live in Chicago, please go order a Redhot Ranch burger before you try to make your own.

Also don’t forget the fries

I did not make fries specifically for this blog post but if your goal is to recreate the full RHR double cheeseburger experience at home, you need the “and fries.” Below is a similar french fry recipe that I have shared in the past.

I have not studied Redhot Ranch’s fry-making technique, but I do know they are at least double frying them like I do in my recipe. RHR fries are a bit thicker than I typically cut mine, but the final product is similar. RHR fries are also fried fairly dark. Darker than I typically go with my fries, but this makes them soft on the inside and crispy and crunchy on the outside. A touch of salt or seasoned salt and they’re some of my favorite hand-cut fries in the city.

This is a batch of fries I made in the past when working on my fry recipe.
1 hour and 15 minutes
Crispy, hand cut french fries

Crispy french fries. There. I said it. That's all. Enjoy this recipe.

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Which burgers did I make?

Before we get into all the details on how to make a Redhot Ranch double cheeseburger, here’s a little quiz for you. Which of the burgers in the photo below do you think I made at home? Scroll or read to the bottom of this blog post (or click here) for the answer.

Here’s a tricky little quiz for all of you who are sitting in the front row of my classroom.

I’m breaking this blog post into three main sections.

Smash burger tools

There are five tools that I consider to be important to my smash burger process. One of them I consider optional, but these are the tools that I would feel comfortable having on the counter when it’s time to make some RHR double cheeseburger clones. I list prices and links to products when I can and at the very bottom of this section, I tally up the price for all five tools.

Kitchen scale

You don’t have to weigh out your ground beef, but it makes things more consistent if you do. Redhot Ranch weighs all their beef patties out to 3 ounces or 85 grams. This means that if you order a double cheeseburger, you’re eating 6 ounces of precooked meat or a tiny bit more than a third of a pound burger.

By these metrics, if you buy a little bit more than 1 pound of ground beef (1.125 lb.) at your grocery store you should be able to make three RHR double cheeseburgers. Once the beef is weighed out, lightly roll each portion into a ball for smashing on the griddle or pan. Note: if your store sells meat in exactly 1 pound increments you can change the sizes of your patties to 2.7 ounces to get three double burgers out of 1 pound.

A Redhot Ranch burger patty is 3 ounces by weight before cooking.

I use this Escali digital food scale and enjoy it so much that I bought one for my mom a few years ago. It’s currently around 25 dollars at Amazon. A scale like this is also very helpful if you want to start baking and I suggest you also do that with my Buns 101.

Burger patty smasher

I do not own the same burger smasher that they use at Redhot Ranch. If you want the exact model of burger smasher that they use, you’ll have to pony up a little bit more than 50 bucks to buy this “steak press” from Amazon. I have not used this tool, but it appears from the videos above that it works well for their burgers.

Instead of buying the expensive tool above, I suggest simply buying what I use for burger smashing which is this 11-inch finishing trowel. This is not a kitchen tool, but it is stainless steel and is just fine for cooking if you’re not also using it in your bathroom to lay tile. For around 12 bucks you can have this dedicated tool for burger smashing or bacon pressing. I bought the trowel you see in the photo here in 2016 and have used it almost exclusively for smash burgers ever since.

My burger press is still very shiny 8 years and many many smashed burgers later.

Some tools have been invented and released to the market that are meant to be burger smashers and I’m guessing some of them are good and do the job well. The trowel that I use has suited me perfectly and I don’t see any reason why I would replace it at this time. It’s cheap, wide enough for a normal-sized patty and if you place your beef balls close enough together you can smash two patties at once!

Sharp-edged metal spatula

I have used several different metal spatulas for making smash burgers. At the moment, I like my newest spatula the most because of its size and the sharpness of the edge. This large griddle spatula cost me just under 11 dollars before tax.

I have other spatulas that do have a beveled edge and I have one metal spatula that does not. It’s not great for scraping burger patties. I would suggest that a somewhat sharp beveled edge is a requirement if you want to preserve the exterior crust on your patties. The main thing I like about the new spatula that I use now is that it is wider and longer than a 4- or 5-inch wide burger patty. So, you don’t have to worry about the meat hanging over the edge when it comes time to flip or transfer it to a bun.

This spatula is around 6 inches deep and more than 4 inches wide which means it’s great for scraping and flipping burger patties.
The semi-sharp beveled edge means you can scrape up a patty and keep the crust intact.

Griddle options

For indoor smash burgers, I use a Baking Steel Mini Griddle. It’s not cheap at around $170. It’s a super-heavy piece of stainless steel that will heat up and hold a consistent temperature for a long time. Because it’s stainless steel it’s super smooth and it griddles easily and retains any crust that you might build on your smashed burger patty.

The downside of this griddle is that you can only make 1 double patty burger at a time. Baking Steel does sell larger-size griddles though.

The cooking surface on this Baking Steel griddle is right around 10 inches square. In theory, you could cook 4 regular burger patties at once, but it’s hard to smash more than 2 patties.

You can make smash burgers on a cast iron skillet but if you want to go the cast iron route and you like double patties you would benefit from buying a cast iron griddle. The “walls” of a cast iron skillet or any pan will interfere with smashing. A griddle like the one above, or this Lodge brand cast-iron griddle (currently priced at 35 dollars) will allow you to smash multiple patties at once.

This is my cast-iron griddle with two smashed patties starting to cook on the first side.
A few minutes later a flip gets the second side cooking. The burger is almost fully cooked before you flip it.
Add slices of cheese to each patty and let the second side cook for another minute or so to melt the cheese before stacking.

A lot of people will also suggest a carbon steel griddle. I do not have any experience with those, but they seem to be becoming more popular with smash burgers. For outdoor smash burgers, things are even easier. You could buy a Blackstone Griddle (currently $330-ish) and have plenty of space for many burger smashes and it’s a heck of a lot easier to clean up when you’re cooking outdoors.

Infrared thermometer (optional)

This infrared thermometer is optional. You don’t require this tool for making smash burgers, but it is helpful.

Having the ability to quickly tell the temperature of a surface that you’re planning to cook on is extra helpful and the fact that this device easily fits in a drawer and costs around 25 bucks makes it a great purchase.

When you are making smash burgers it’s important to know how hot the surface of your griddle is before putting the meat on top. If the surface isn’t above 350 or closer to 400 F you will not get the dark brown crust that Redhot Ranch does on their burgers.

An IR thermometer will instantly read the surface temperature of anything—even a person. Avoid the eyes though.

Smash burger tool costs

Note: prices listed here are from March 2024. They may have changed depending on when you click. These are all affiliate links which means purchases using these links could benefit me.

Kitchen scale: Escali digital food scale$25
Patty smasher: 11-inch finishing trowel$12
Sharp-edged metal spatula: Skyflame Griddle Spatula$11
Cast Iron Griddle: Lodge brand cast-iron griddle$35
Infrared thermometer: Etekcity Temperature Gun$25
Total Cost$108
If you skip the optional Infrared thermometer you will only be out 83 bucks.


This section is where I will write about each ingredient in a Redhot Ranch burger. Remember, this is a very reasonably priced burger, so the ingredients aren’t going to be super expensive or difficult to find.

Soft and squishy white bread buns

The buns that Redhot Ranch uses are S. Rosen’s plain hamburger buns. My wife bought some of these from our local grocery store and they were some of the cheapest hamburger buns that you could buy there. They’re plain, soft, and squishy white buns. If you want a full replica of the Redhot Ranch burger you should buy these or order them online if you can get them. Otherwise, your option is to buy some of the cheaper plain white bread buns you can find.

The white part of each bag of bread makes the branding of these buns obvious. You can even see it in the windows when you drive past Redhot Ranch.

If you enjoy baking like I do, you can also make your buns. That’s what I did for most of the burgers I made. If you do bake your own burger buns, flattening them after shaping the dough into balls makes for a more commercial-style bun.

Flatten the buns before the final rise.
Zero minutes of rise time.
75 minutes of rise time.
17 minutes of baking time.

Right after these buns come out of the oven the recipe calls for you to paint them with melted butter to both add extra flavor to the bun and soften the exterior.

This is soon after the buns are basted with melted butter.
After a few hours, the melted butter will fully dry, and the buns won’t appear as wet.
Getting the proper shape became easy once I started flattening my buns.

The following photos are of one of my buns and one of the S. Rosen’s brand hamburger buns. They’re very obviously not the same, but close in size and softness. If you’re super excited about an exact copy of a Redhot Ranch burger, obviously you should buy the right bun. But if you’re like me and enjoy making and eating homemade bread, my recipe works great in this burger.

This is a S. Rosen’s bun on the left and one of my buns on the right.
My buns aren’t quite as dark, and I don’t think S. Rosen’s is painting their baked buns with melted butter.

Here’s my soft bun recipe that I used on a lot of these burgers. Like I’ve said multiple times, if you want the exact Redhot Ranch experience you should be able to buy the buns they use in stores and online.

2 hours and 45 minutes
Super soft potato buns v2

Here's my updated, soft and squishy bun recipe that's perfect for your next burger night. This updated version that uses potato flour and dry milk powder for a lighter bun with longer shelf life.

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Beef patties

Patties at Redhot Ranch start from 3-ounce balls of 80/20 ground beef. This means a RHR double with cheese is a tiny bit larger than a third-pound burger (0.375 lb.). You can order a single and I have tried this before, but in my opinion, a single RHR burger is off balance between the proportion of meat to bread.

In my first batch of burgers for this smash burger blog post, I accidentally purchased 90/10 ground beef. This was a big mistake that I fixed quickly. The two burgers I made ended up tasting nothing like a Redhot Ranch burger. The extra fat in the 80/20 beef makes a huge amount of difference in the final burger flavor and texture. The extra fat also helps in the searing of the beef, and it makes scraping and flipping the patties on the hot griddle a little bit easier.

Burger seasoning

This is an ingredient that I’m not 100% sure of. If you watch the video linked way up at the top of this post, you’ll see that Redhot Ranch uses metal shakers to deliver all the seasoning that each patty receives during the whole cooking process. Each patty is seasoned only on one side during the cooking process. This works just fine because the patty is so thin that it doesn’t require extra seasoning on the second side.

I believe that this seasoning is one of two options. It’s either just a blend of salt and pepper that is light on the pepper or more likely it’s a seasoning blend that’s available from their food delivery service and it’s something similar to Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. Either way, the seasoning is subtle but to me, the patty is certainly salted well to my palate. I used a low-sodium version of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt on my test versions of these patties and the flavor matched up very well with the real deal.

American cheese

Some of you who still don’t believe that American cheese is real cheese probably won’t be convinced by anything you’re reading here either, but Redhot Ranch is using deli-style American cheese slices for these burgers. These aren’t the same as the plastic-wrapped cheese slices you can get in the cheese aisle at almost every American-based grocery store.

You can tell from the video above that they’re not using plastic-wrapped slices, but you can also imagine how difficult those slices would be to unwrap in a busy restaurant. They’re simply not feasible. Most restaurants that use American cheese are using deli slices for this reason.

You should be able to find this type of American cheese at most grocery stores.

I typically have at least one type of American cheese in my house at all times because you never know when burger time is going to happen. The best way to get American cheese is to go to the deli counter at your grocery store and ask for slices of their best American cheese. If you have a large grocery store in the US, you will probably have access to the Deli Deluxe American slices pictured above. These work just fine, and I believe are pretty similar to what a Kraft American slice would be like if your grocery store deli slices that brand.


Now we’re in the vegetable section.

I am a realist and I am aware that a lot of the decisions made behind the scenes at Redhot Ranch are to keep costs in check. This means that they are not buying the most expensive ingredients to make their burger.

The three vegetables that are used in these burgers are probably some of the cheaper options that you can find at the store. They are fresh but inexpensive. If you are looking for RHR authenticity here, just buy what looks fresh at the store but don’t buy fancy ingredients.

Here are all the ingredients needed for a Redhot Ranch burger (minus the bun).

Iceberg lettuce

The Redhot Ranch burger uses 2 to 4 rough pieces of iceberg lettuce. Sometimes your burger will be graced with green pieces and sometimes you’ll have the crunchier off-green core slices. Both work well and both add just a bit of crunch and visual appeal. The lettuce here isn’t that exciting, but it does add texture. It’s also cheap and easy to acquire, so I suggest you don’t neglect it.


There are no heirlooms or even vine-ripened tomatoes at Redhot Ranch. They buy your typical variety of red tomatoes that you can easily find at practically any grocery store. Don’t try to double up with two slices either. Just one slice of a normal tomato is all that’s needed for this burger.

Diced white onion

Finely diced and chopped raw white onion is the final vegetable addition to the RHR burger. I’m not always a huge fan of raw onion but I think the amount and the finely diced proportion in this situation works great for this burger. These are small pieces that do not create too much of a flavor impediment if you’re not an onion fan.

Redhot Ranch sauce

Redhot Ranch sauce is not quite the same as Thousand Island dressing or at least none of the popular Thousand Island dressing brands that I have tried. It has a bit of a mustardy twang as well and it isn’t quite as sweet as the Thousand Island I had in my fridge.

RHR sauce also isn’t as dark in color as some burger sauce recipes I’ve made that have a similar proportion of mayo to ketchup. So, for my recipe, I went with less ketchup and a little bit of mustard.

If you look closely at the sauce, you can see reddish flecks of what is most likely paprika and possibly even a tiny bit of chili powder (not enough to give off any real heat though).

If you ask nicely at the Redhot Ranch counter they will give you some extra sauce on the side.

There are also signs of small, diced pickles in the sauce which seems consistent with sauces like this. I used a little bit of finely chopped sweet pickle relish in my recipe to cover this base and give the sauce some pickle-y twang. The recipe here is also in the main Redhot Ranch double cheeseburger recipe below.

10 minutes
RHR special sauce

A special burger sauce that's like what they serve at Redhot Ranch in Chicago. This sauce is similar to a Thousand Island dressing but slightly different.

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RHR double cheeseburger strategy and technique

One of my first ever blog posts for this sandwich blog was titled Smashing good burgers and you can probably guess what it was about. If you have never made a smash burger and want to give it a shot, you should read that too. But for the most part, here’s the smashing process that I follow.

  • Weigh and shape your meat into balls. For a Redhot Ranch burger that means 3 ounces each.
  • Heat your griddle to temperature.
    • I shoot for 250 F (120 C) for toasting my buns and above 350 F (175 C) for searing the patties.
  • Place the balls of beef on the griddle. Leave 4 or 5 inches of room between each for smashing.
  • Using your smashing tool, smash the balls very firmly. If you think the spatula/smashing tool is sticking to the meat, you can slide it off instead of picking it straight back up. Sliding the edges of the meat when you are smashing will also help to make the crispy lacing on the edges of the meat.
  • After 1 to 2 minutes or when you start to see the edges of the patty start to turn dark brown, use your sharp metal spatula to scrape under the patty to remove it from the griddle. This is a very important step because you don’t want to leave any of the dark brown crust behind on the griddle.
  • Flip and add cheese to each patty. Do this quickly because you only want to cook the thin patty for 1 to 2 minutes on the second side.
  • If you’re using two slices of cheese, go ahead and stack your patties in whatever way you think looks best. If you’re only using one slice of cheese, keep the cheese in the middle of the two patties.
Place the 3-ounce beef balls on a hot surface.
Smash and scrape the meat so that it has full, perfect contact with the surface.
Use a sharp spatula to scrape under the patties and flip.
Now it’s time to add cheese and stack.

Here’s an Instagram reel/video of the process I use for making this burger.

A whole bunch of burger photos

Because I’m an amateur baker and sandwich blogger, I rarely share sandwich photos with bread I did not make. But I think in this case, the bun is important in the Redhot Ranch experience. These first two photos are burgers that I made with S. Rosen’s brand white bread buns. In most situations, I prefer my homemade buns, but there’s just something you can’t quite recreate at home in these factory-baked white bread buns.

Got close to the real deal in this photo. I can almost hear the sound of the L passing overhead.
Using the same bun and wrapping in paper gives this burger the appearance of being straight from the restaurant.

The rest of the burgers for this Redhot Ranch double cheeseburger blog post are all assembled with buns from my bun recipe that I shared above.

Might have gone a bit too hard on the sauce with this one.
Not a great presentation, but it still tasted really good.
A little grease and melty cheese on the paper wrapper means you made a good burger.
The cheese got to the edge of the patty on this one.
A perfect Redhot Ranch burger (with a homemade bun).

Wrapped in paper?

If you get this burger at Redhot Ranch they will wrap it up in paper. The wrapping process is mostly for sanitary reasons because a restaurant doesn’t want to just throw a loose burger in a bag. Wrapping the burger up means things stay together. But there is a secondary reason why you might want to do this at home. The residual heat will warm everything up. It helps the cheese to be very melty and it even steams the bun a bit more.

I can tell you from experience if you are eating smash burgers right off the griddle, they will retain their heat for a bit and they will even be on the edge of “too hot” for 4 or 5 minutes. So, wrapping and letting the burger sit while you make a drink or get some side dishes going will not make your burger too cold when it’s time to unwrap and eat.

For the full experience, wrap your finished burger in paper to steam the ingredients.
Wrapping this burger steams all in the ingredients and gets the sauce introduced into all the other parts.
RedHot Ranch-style double cheeseburger view printable page for this recipe

Redhot Ranch, a hot dog and hamburger joint in Chicago, makes a simple but exciting double cheeseburger with smashed patties, melty cheese, fresh vegetables, and a sweet and tangy special sauce and this is how you can make your own version at home.


RHR special sauce
  • 14 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
  • 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  • 12 teaspoon white sugar
  • 12 teaspoon onion powder
  • 12 teaspoon paprika
Cheeseburger patties
  • 2 three ounce balls of 80/20 ground beef
  • 2 pinches of seasoned salt
  • 2 deli-style American cheese slices
Burger construction
  • 1 soft burger bun (RHR uses S. Rosen's plain burger buns)
  • double beef patty and cheese (from above)
  • 2 to 4 pieces of iceberg lettuce
  • 1 slice tomato
  • 2 teaspoons white onion, finely diced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons RHR special sauce (from above)

Suggested Equipment

Kitchen scale: Escali digital food scale  
Patty smasher: 11-inch finishing trowel  
Sharp-edged metal spatula: Skyflame Griddle Spatula  
Cast Iron Griddle: Lodge brand cast-iron griddle  
Infrared thermometer: Etekcity Temperature Gun


RHR special sauce: in a medium-sized bowl, combine all ingredients. Whisk to mix thoroughly. 

Place in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week. The flavors will be best after the sauce has a few hours to incorporate. 

Cheeseburger patties: weigh your ground beef into portions and then shape those portions into balls. If you do not own a scale, you should be able to get 6 three-ounce-ish balls out of one pound of ground beef. 

Preheat a griddle or pan to at least 400 F (205 C) for around 5 to 10 minutes. While the surface is preheating you can lightly toast your bun. Redhot Ranch just gets a very light tan toasting on the bun. 

Add the beef balls to the hot surface, give them 10 or 15 seconds, and smash. You're going to want to use a lot of pressure and smash them hard. The goal here is to get as much surface area of the meat to touch the hot surface as possible. If you have a flat top or a griddle, you might want to use some sort of very heavy spatula or even a clean finishing trowel from your local hardware store.

As soon as you've finished smashing, this is when we season. Hit the thin patty with some seasoned salt. You can season again when you flip, but this is when you should do most of the seasoning. 

Cook for 1.5 to 2 minutes on this first side or until the very edges of the patty start to turn brown.

Use a sharp spatula and scrape under each patty to flip. The goal here is to make sure you don't lose any of the crispy brown bits you worked hard to build up with the smashing process. 

Once flipped to the second side, you should add one slice of American cheese on top of each patty. 

Burger construction: add the double cheeseburger patties to the bottom bun and then top with lettuce and one slice of tomato. Sprinkle finely diced white onion on top of the tomato.

Spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of sauce on the top bun and then add it to the burger to complete.

The sauce and fresh vegetables are a huge part of this simple burger.
Redhot Ranch burgers get a great sear on the patty.
While this burger might look good, it was one of the first I made in this series, and it was made from 90/10 beef and it simply wasn’t as flavorful as the Redhot Ranch burgers.

Pop Quiz answer

This was a trick question. I made all these burgers at home. But I did not make the buns in photos 2 and 3. Those were made using the same buns that Redhot Ranch uses. Scroll up to the ingredient section above to read more about that.

Post in the comments below if you passed my sneaky quiz.

Check back next week

I spent so much time recreating the Redhot Ranch experience that next week’s sandwich is unknown to me at this point so it’ll be a surprise for all of us! Come back and find out with me.

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