When Danny Meyer opened the first Shake Shack in 2004, the line for the made-to-order burgers, shakes, and fries was infamous. My coworkers and I tracked it via webcam, and on our precious summer Fridays, made our way from Midtown to Madison Square Park, all geared up to brave the hourlong wait.
A second location opened on the Upper West Side in 2008, and, today, there are 132 outposts globally—from Citi Field to Dubai International Airport. Now, with Shake Shack’s first ever cookbook, Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories (Clarkson Potter), hitting shelves, eaters can skip the line (or the transatlantic flight) and recreate the burger joint’s recipes at home.
I opted to try my hand at Shake Shack’s “sacred cow,” the classic Shack Burger. Or, an approximation of the Shack Burger. The cookbook doesn’t reveal its meat supplier’s secret formula, or the exact recipe of its Shack Sauce, but goes into great detail about the technique Shake Shack employs to get that sought-after sear on its burgers—cold pucks of meat, seasoned with just salt and pepper, smashed (with force!) into a round patty after hitting a hot cast iron griddle. Then, of course, topped with American cheese.
The book is also specific about brands—Heinz ketchup, Hellman’s mayo, and Martin’s potato rolls (brushed with butter and toasted on the griddle, which definitely lends a bit of Shack-authenticity).
While we certainly achieved what my husband deemed a “solid product,” there was something missing—perhaps the right technique, the omitted secrets from the sauce and meat blend, or their crinkle cut fries (the recipe for which is included in the book). Or, maybe, the delayed gratification after sweating out the line makes them taste just that much better.
4 hamburger potato buns
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons Not Quite Our Shack-Sauce
4 pieces green leaf lettuce
8 ¼-inch slices ripe plum tomato
1 pound very cold ground beef, divided into 4 pucks
½ teaspoon Our Salt & Pepper Mix
4 slices American cheese
1. Heat a cast-iron griddle over medium-low heat until warm. Meanwhile, open the hamburger buns and brush the insides with the melted butter. A soft brush is helpful here. Place the buns buttered side down on the griddle and toast until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer buns to a plate. Spoon the sauce onto the top bun. Add a piece of the lettuce and two slices of tomato.
2. Increase the heat to medium and heat the griddle until hot, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Evenly sprinkle a pinch of Our Salt & Pepper Mix on top of each puck of meat.
4. Place the pucks on the griddle, seasoned side down. Using a large, sturdy metal spatula, firmly smash each puck into a 1/3-inch-thick round patty. Pressing down on the spatula with another stiff spatula helps flatten the burger quickly. Evenly sprinkle another big pinch of Our Salt & Pepper Mix.
5. 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 griddle and scrape up the caramelized browned 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 1 minute longer for medium. Cook more or less depending on your preference.
6. Transfer the cheeseburgers to the prepared buns and enjoy.
OUR SALT & PEPPER MIX
We mix ½ cup kosher salt with ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper and use that mixture to season our burgers as they cook. You’ll see we call for a pinch or two of the mixture in every recipe.
MAKES ABOUT 1/2 CUP
Long ago we threw away the key to the secret recipe for ShackSauce; but we promise to get you really close with ingredients easily found in your kitchen.
½ cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon Heinz ketchup
¼ teaspoon kosher dill pickling brine
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Reprinted from Shake Shack. Copyright © 2017 by Shake Shack Enterprises, LLC. Principal photographs copyright © 2017 by Christopher Hirsheimer. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.