Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 153.5! The Shake Shack Burger Experiment

On Sunday morning I picked up the New York Times Magazine and experienced a life changing event. Simple as that - an article featuring Danny Meyers, proprietor of Shake Shack, a wildly successful burger joint that originated in NYC. The photograph alone was enough to capture my attention (even at 8:30 a.m.): a simple cardboard box, stacked full with mouth-watering cheeseburgers, tucked into wax paper bags. So I read on, knowing full well that I would have to make these to test them out on the cheeseburger-lovin' crew of dudes who live in my house. Now, I'm a Boston born-and-raised girl, and around here, the best burgers come from Mr.Bartley's Burgers in Harvard Square - in fact, I had never even heard of Shake Shack, but my sweet sister-in law who lived in NYC for years, testified that Shake Shack burgers are hands down, the best. Game on - It's a Boston-New York thing!

According to all the research I did (and who doesn't love researching a burger?), this iconic patty's properties are all about the meat and technique. Forget about packaged ground beef - if you have a food processor or meat grinder attachment on your stand mixer, sirloin steak tips and boneless short ribs are the way to go. As for handling the meat, the idea is to touch the meat as little as possible, keeping the texture intact to avoid a tough, dense patty. Interestingly, these burgers are meant to be cooked on a flat griddle or in a frying pan - not grilled. Lastly, you gotta have American cheese, special sauce and a soft bun - the finial touches that give these burgers their flavorful, juicy, chewy, tangy all-American tastiness.  Many thanks to blogs, momofukufor2.com and kimanddon.com for providing the recipes that helped me make these. Addendum: * I have just been made aware, after the fact, that Shake Shack uses YELLOW American cheese (not white as I used) and Martin's Potato Buns...and, that same reader tells me that Shake Shack also makes their burgers like hockey pucks, then smashes them down*  I don't know...I think a road trip might be in order.

Burger Sauce and Condiments

Shake Shack Cheeseburgers (Recipe Courtesy of kimanddon.com)
(Makes 4 burgers - but I doubled it)

10 ounces sirloin steak tips, cut into 1-inch chunks
6 ounces boneless beef short ribs, cut into 1-inch chunks
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 soft hamburger buns (don't use bulky rolls)
1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
4 slices American cheese
Thinly sliced onion
  1. Place beef chunks on  baking sheet in a single layer, leaving 1/2 inch of space around each chunk. Freeze meat until very firm and starting to harden around the edges but still pliable, 15-25 minutes.
  2. Place 1/2 meat in food processor and pulse until meat is coarsely ground, 10-15 pulses, stopping and redistributing meat around bowl as necessary to ensure beef is evenly ground. Transfer meat to baking sheet, overturning bowl and without directly touching meat. Repeat grinding with remaining meat. Spread meat over sheet and inspect carefully, discarding any long strands of gristle or large chunks of hard meat or fat.
  3. Gently separate ground meat into 4 equal mounds. Without picking meat up, with your fingers gently shape each mound into loose patty 1/2-inch thick and 4-inches in diameter, leaving edges and surface ragged. Season top of each patty with salt and pepper. Using a spatula, flip patties and season other side. Refrigerate  while toasting buns.
  4. Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter on flat griddle (or heavy-bottomed skillet) over medium heat until foaming. Add bun tops, cut-side down, and toast until light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining butter and bun bottoms. Side buns aside and while off griddle with paper towels.
  5. Return griddle to high heat; add oil and heat until just smoking. Using spatula, transfer burgers to griddle and cook without moving for 3 minutes. Using spatula, flip burgers over and cook 1 minute. Top each patty with slice of cheese and continue to cook until cheese is melted, about 1 minute longer.
  6. Transfer patties to bun bottoms and top with onion. Spread 2 teaspoons of burger sauce on each bun top. Cover burgers and serve immediately.
Burger Sauce (Recipe Courtesy of momofukufor2.com)
(Makes 3/4 cup sauce)

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
4 slices kosher dill pickle (I used relish)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
pinch cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in blender (or bowl if using relish). Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Final Assessment: Whoa! These were insanely good. I especially loved the texture of the patty. The flavor was quite different from the usual ground chuck I use to make burgers and I really like knowing exactly what's in the ground meat I'm cooking up. The technique yielded an unusually juicy, tender patty, with lots of flavor due to the double sided (liberal) seasoning of salt and pepper. I topped mine with onion and sauce, which gave the burger a tangy, full flavor. My husband added a slice of tomato and lettuce to his, for added crunch.  Although I'm not a fan of American cheese, I can't imagine having these burgers with anything else. And yes, the squishy, soft bun is an absolute must - do not even attempt to substitute a bulky roll. While I can't say that these were definitively better than Bartley's burgers,  they're crazy-good and I'd eat one - or two - any day.

(C) 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World?/ Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved 


Lucia said...

Un post interessantissimo e foto a dir poco stupende!!! :-)

Kate said...

Even as a 20 year vegetarian, these look delicious! (I did not give up meat because I hated the taste) The sauce recipe looks to be yummy and transferable to a veggie burger. Which, I would love to find a great recipe for...just sayin.
A road trip to NY is a must for you, I would say! In fact, road trips should be part of your research!
I know a bunch of bikers that ride hours and hours to Moonshine Ohio for a lunch at Moonshine Store
I will get there some day! But will forgo the burger and enjoy the company.
Love your work Sarah!

sadie said...

Grazie, Lucia - sei sempre così gentile! xox, Sarah

sadie said...

Ms. Kate - Thanks so much for always being so positive. I'll see you later today xoxo