As a native East Coaster who now lives in the land of In-N-Out, there’s no more tedious debate than the one surrounding which much-loved burger chain — the California-based In-N-Out or Danny Meyer’s New York City brand Shake Shack — reigns supreme.
The real answer is that the burgers are too different to actually compare directly. The more visceral, I’m-in-the-mood-to-argue answer, however, is that on any given day of the week, I’d rather eat at Shake Shack, whose plain ShackBurger is the paragon of simplicity, Martin’s Potato Roll and all.
In their first cookbook, Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories, Shack CEO Randy Garutti and culinary director Mark Rosati reveal how to make their classic ShackBurger at home, though some items — like the Shack Sauce and the precise beef blend, which is custom-made for the chain — remain guarded secrets. (One pro tip I’m going to file away, though: Apparently 45 seconds is the ideal cook time to get a slice of American cheese to melt just so.)
The at-home version might not have the same aesthetic appeal as the restaurant burger (encased in a white paper sleeve, with of course, the option of adding a Concrete, aka Shack’s version of frozen custard, and cheese-topped fries). But until Shake Shack comes to my corner of the West Coast, it’s the closest I’ll get without having to book a flight.
The ShackBurger | MAKES 4
Most likely the reason you have this book in your hands—our version of the great American cheeseburger. Like all deceptively simple things, it took us years to get it right, but now you can master burger perfection in five minutes.
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.
ShackSauce | 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.