There are some folks (like me) who can't seem to find enough time in the day to talk about Shake Shack and In-N-Out Burger (or better yet, both at the same time). On the other hand, I'm sure there are some of you out there in Burgerland that glanced at this post and immediately said, oh dear lord, not another In-N-Out/Shake Shack post. I mean, we've already seen how to make our own Double Double Animal Style, how to fake a Shake Shack Burger, a list of every item on the In-N-Out secret menu, and a bi-coastal taste-off between In-N-Out, Five Guys, and Shake Shack. Heck, we even made a Shooter's Sandwich out of 16 In-N-Out burger patties.
To you, I say, that was merely an appetizer. A small sip of soda, a single french fry dipped in milkshake to whet your appetite for the deliciousness we are about to present to you today.
Think about it: What's the best part of a Shake Shack hamburger? It's the beef and bun. The high-quality, custom-blended, perfectly seared, juicy and tender beef, along with the buttery Martin's Potato Rolls, right? The best part of an In-N-Out burger, on the other hand, is the ability to Animal Style-ify it. That is, the ability to order any burger sizzled on the griddle in mustard with caramelized onions, extra pickles, and In-N-Our "Spread" (a.k.a. Thousand Island Dressing). It adds sweetness, flavor, and balance to any burger on the menu.
My mission this week: Create and consume the world's first Shake Shake Double Double Animal-Style.
I started with the simplest part. Certainly there was no way to get the folks at Shake Shack to caramelize onions for me, but that doesn't mean I can't do it myself. I cooked off a batch at home using the technique I developed for the original recipe, along with putting together a batch of In-N-Out spread (essentially a combo of mayo, ketchup, relish, sugar, and vinegar).
Spread and onions in hand, I headed off to the closest 'Shack near the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side.
I made sure to throw on one of my many Shake Shack T-shirts before I headed out the door. You see, I knew that some cajoling would be necessary once I got to the front of the lines and made my intentions utterly clear.
"Hey—looks like we got an old school brother here," announced the cashier as I approached. Good, I thought to myself. I knew it was the right move to put on my vintage 2009 "What's Shakin'" t-shirt.
"How are you, my brother in burgertude?" I started. "I've got what might seem like a weird order to you."
"I specialize in weird. What are you looking for?"
"Can you grill my burger in mustard?"
"There's mustard right over there. Or if you'd prefer, I can personally squirt it on your burger for you back here," he said with a smile and a nod. Much as I love casual offers for drive-by squirtings, I declined and quietly pressed my case.
"Oh, I know about the mustard out here. You see, I even brought you a little dish in the hopes that you'd hand it to your cook. What I want is for him to put it on the patty before he cooks it."
He looked confused: "Wait. Can you do that?"
"Exactly. That's what I'm asking here as well," I said, finally seeing the end of the tunnel.
"Well I can't take your mustard from you in case you poisoned it, but tell you what: I'll use some of my own personal squirting supply and make sure this happens."
"Many thanks, brother. May your days be filled with onions and happiness. Oh, and could I get extra pickles with that too? Thanks!"
A few minute later my order arrived prepared to a T. One side of each patty had the signature Shake Shack crust, while the bottom side had that pale yellow Animal-Style mustard-grilled sheen to it.
I carefully dismantled the sandwich and added a big scoop of caramelized onions to the center before exposing the bottom bun and...
...applying In-N-Out spread and extra pickles.
Behold: The Shake Shack Double Double, Animal-Style
It was a freaking monster of a burger. Wayyyyy too much for the well-toasted Martin's Potato Roll to stand up to. Part of the problem is that a Double Shake Shack Cheeseburger is a full half pound of beef, while an In-N-Out Double Double is half that size.
That was about the extent of the problems, however. In all other respects, it was a flavor beast. Juicy, moist, and beefy, with a great contrast of sweet and vinegary ingredients on top. I heartily recommend trying it.
It may be a while yet before the East Coast gets its In-N-Out or the West Coast gets its Shake Shack, but might I humbly suggest that they meet somewhere in the middle and present this mashup to the world.
And oh fine, they can serve properly crispy Animal Style Shake Shack Fries as well.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.