Homemade Shake Shack Burgers
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Making authentic Shake Shack-style Shackburgers at home is super easy and fun. Shake Shack burgers are all about the smash (which creates crisp outsides) and the sauce. Here’s how to make them in about 20 minutes. Psst…would you like fries with that?
Everyone loves Shake Shack
We’ve been Shake Shack fans since the early days of New York’s original Madison Square Park location. Over the years, we’ve been pretty jazzed as each new location opens in our orbit. Downtown NYC a little too close to Cope’s former offices. JFK Terminal 4. And now, delightfully, a newly revamped Garden State Parkway rest stop just south of where we live.
But then, you guys. Leave it to me to have started making my own Shake Shack burgers at home a year or so before they came to my backyard.
Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories
To be honest, I’d thought for years about trying to reverse-engineer the simple, perfect, crispy goodness of the Shackburger in my own kitchen. But then Shake Shack published a charming, beautifully photographed cookbook full of origin stories, producer profiles, and self-deprecating tales of crinkle-cut fries.
The recipe here is my own gentle adaptation of the Shackburger recipe in the book. I’ve hewed to the original method but made some tweaks based on my own experience cooking these burgers over time, and I’ve amped up the flavors in the sauce, because I wasn’t thrilled with the book’s version (which they don’t promise is the original).
What’s in Shake Shack sauce?
The exact formula for Shake Shack’s burger sauce is a closely held secret. By their own admission, even the recipe in their cookbook isn’t the exact one they use in the restaurants. I found the published version a little lackluster, so the recipe you’ll see below hews to all their specific suggestions but with slightly amped up flavor.
The ingredients for shake shack sauce are:
- Hellman’s mayonnaise
- Dijon mustard
- Heinz ketchup
- Brine from dill pickles
- Ground cayenne
Here’s what you’ll need to make homemade shackburgers:
- Great-quality ground beef. We use grass-fed ground beef from ButcherBox.
- Butter (for toasting the buns)
- Martin’s potato rolls
- American cheese (we use Horizon organic)
- Plum tomatoes
- Green leaf lettuce
- Salt and pepper
- (We always add slices of full-sour pickles, but that’s just us.)
How to make homemade shackburgers
Cooking authentic shake shack burgers at home is quicker and easier than you’d think. Here’s all you need to do. You can see all the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post.
- Make the sauce. Stir together mayo, mustard, ketchup, pickle brine, ground cayenne, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
- Slice the tomatoes and choose four nice pieces of lettuce.
- Keep the ground beef in the fridge until you’re ready to use it, and then pull it out to shape the burger patties. Divide beef into four equal pieces. Use your hands to shape each piece into a hockey puck shape. Generously salt and pepper both sides of each puck.
- Preheat a cast iron skillet for a few minutes.
- Melt some butter and brush it onto the inside faces of the buns.
- Toast the buns cut-sides down for a couple of minutes, until the insides start to get golden brown. Place buns on serving plates.
- Place beef pucks onto skillet and use a sturdy metal spatula to smash them. This step turns them into the thin patties we expect from Shake Shack and maximizes the surface area that will get brown and crispy.
- The next step is perhaps the most critical, and it goes like this: DO NOTHING. Do not touch those burgers. Let them cook totally undisturbed for about three minutes (depending on the style and power of your burner), until they’re gorgeously brown and crusty on the bottom. Leaving those patties alone is harder than you’d think. It’s funny ’cause it’s true.
- Flip the burgers once and cook for another two minutes or so, to your desired doneness.
- In the last minute of cooking, place a slice of American cheese on top of each burger. (Or you can do this as soon as cooking is finished. The residual heat should be enough to melt the cheese.)
- Slide a burger onto each bun. Top with two tomato slices, a piece of lettuce, and pickle slices if you’re using them.
- Spread some of the sauce onto the top half of the bun.
- Press the top bun onto the sandwich and serve right away.
Homemade Shake Shack burger protips
The genius of these burgers lies in their restrained simplicity, and in a few basic methods that make all the difference.
Some of the choices in the recipe below (grass-fed beef, organic American cheese) are mine, and some (Martin’s potato rolls, Hellman’s mayo) are Shake Shack’s. I’d encourage you to buy the cookbook to read about the company’s own choices for ground beef if you like. We love our grass-fed ground beef from Butcher Box.
CAST IRON SKILLET
Use a seasoned cast iron skillet to set yourself up for success getting that crisp, browned patty that’s signature Shake Shack.
Keep your ground beef in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook it. This helps the meat behave well while you smash it from puck shapes into thin patties on the skillet.
Sprinkling the meat generously with salt and pepper just before searing makes it flavorful throughout.
Using a metal spatula to quickly smash the burgers from hockey puck shapes to thin patties on the skillet gives them the surface area they need to get browned to perfection while cooking through quickly and easily.
RESTRAINT WHILE COOKING
It won’t be easy, but it’s critical to totally ignore your burger patties for a few minutes after smashing them on the skillet. This is a critical step in getting that gorgeous brown crust.
- 4 Martin's sandwich potato rolls
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 pound cold grass-fed ground beef (straight from the fridge)
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 slices Horizon Organic American cheese
- 8 slices ripe plum tomato
- 4 pieces green leaf lettuce
- One recipe sauce, below
For the sauce
- 1/4 cup Hellman's mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon Heinz ketchup
- 1 teaspoon brine from dill pickles
- Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
- Fine sea salt to taste
- Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat for two minutes. Open the hamburger buns and brush each inside face with some of the melted butter. Place buns buttered side down (probably in two batches, depending on your skillet) and toast for a couple of minutes, until light golden brown on the underside. Place buns on serving plates.
- Raise heat to medium-high. Divide beef into four hockey pucks and sprinkle both sides generously with salt and pepper.
- Place pucks onto skillet and use a sturdy metal spatula to firmly smash each puck into a patty that's about 1/3-inch thick. After this, absolutely ignore the burgers for about three minutes, until the undersides are brown and crisp at the edges and the juices on the surface are hot and bubbly. Scrape up each patty and any brown bits with the spatula and flip it. Cook one to two minutes more. Place a slice of cheese on top of each burger at the very end of cooking to melt just enough.
- To make the sauce, stir together all sauce ingredients in a small bowl until well combined.
- Transfer patties to buns. Layer each burger with two tomato slices and a piece of lettuce. Spoon 1/4 of the sauce onto each top bun half. Serve immediately.
Adapted from the Shake Shack cookbook.
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