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Shake Shack’s Hot Ones collab – is this the hottest fast food yet?

Shake Shack - Hot Ones burger and fries

Today (September 16th) sees the release of the much anticipated partnership between Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack, and YouTube capsaicin lovers, Hot Ones. The link up between the two sees four new menu items now available for a limited time only; all with one thing in common – a promise of flame and fury.

The quartet of spicy new additions are as follows:

  • Hot Ones Burger – 100% angus beef burger, Hot Ones Spicy ShackSauce, applewood smoked bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, toasted potato bun, $8.39
  • Hot Ones Chicken – crispy white-meat chicken, Hot Ones Spicy ShackSauce, applewood smoked bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, toasted potato bun, $8.89
  • Hot Ones Cheese Fries – crinkle cuts topped, cheese sauce and Aleppo Pepper, served with Hot Ones Spicy ShackSauce, $5.19
  • Hot Ones Bacon Cheese Fries -crinkle cuts, applewood-smoked bacon, cheese sauce, Aleppo pepper, served with Hot Ones™ Spicy ShackSauce, $6.39

I decided to grab a simple burger and fries – the fast food staple – and ask, is this the hottest fast food money can buy? The answer? First the pictures…

Shake Shack - Hot Ones burger inside
Shake Shack – Hot Ones burger inside
Shake Shack - Hot Ones burger side view
Shake Shack – Hot Ones burger side view
Shake Shack - Hot Ones burger close up
Shake Shack – Hot Ones burger close up
Shake Shack - Hot Ones cheese fries
Shake Shack – Hot Ones cheese fries

As ever, the packaging is on point at Shake Shack. Everything comes packed in smart, well designed cardboard cartons. Inside everything is neat, well packaged and put together. Unlike some throw together in a hurricane preparations from some fast food outlets, Shake Shack is always tidy and presentable. Always.

Let’s begin with the burger. It’s the Shake Shack creation you know and love. There’s the thick potato bun (which makes a mockery of so many too sweet brioche buns). There’s the Pat LaFrieda patty, nicely crisped and with a strong beefy flavor; and there’s the bacon, it’s decent crisp with a notable smokiness. And on this creation – there’s the Hot Ones Spicy ShackSauce. Its plonked onto the patty in good measure too.

The Spicy ShackSauce is an orange neon affair, you won’t miss it. My first instinct was to stick my tongue in and give it a quick taste. The result was an instant sizzle – promising stuff.

The Spicy ShackSauce is really on a different level to anything other major fast food competitors have put out in recent years. It’s orders of magnitude hotter than Smashburger’s Scorchin’ Hot Crispy Chicken, either of McDonald’s or Wendy’s attempts at a spicy nugget, as well as Arby’s recent Spicy Fish. It’s genuinely hot for fast food world, and those who love their capsaicin will smile.

The heat starts on the back of the throat, a familiar cayenne warmth and builds slightly on the side of the palette. If you eat a ton you might get some tingle on the front too. It’s probably up there with sriracha heat. It maintains the warmth and tingle, but it dissipates after a minute or two. True spice lovers won’t find this a challenge at all; but those with friends that wince at tabasco, this will definitely have them mopping their brow.

This might well be the spiciest fast food I’ve ever eaten, and frankly, it was a ton of fun just for the novelty of that fact alone. There’s one big caveat to all of this though. With that heat, the flavor of the Shake Shack burger is almost completely obliterated. The sauce overtakes almost everything else. The bacon just about manages to reach above the flame with a little applewood smoke and sweetness, but not hugely. The central tale of this one is that Spicy ShackSauce. Regardless, it’s still fun to see a fast food chain dare to go beyond the merest dalliances when it comes to heat.

The fries are good too. In the pictures above, you can see I also asked for the fries to be made with the various items served on the side, so I could mix and match the flavors. As well as the Spicy ShakeSauce the fries also come with one of my all time favorite spices – Aleppo pepper. This chili pepper from Syria is one use in my home cooking all the time. It offers a wonderful blend of smokey heat, but also an appreciable fruitiness that makes for a unique extra note. I use it all the time to bring dishes like homemade hummus and kabobs to life.

Here I found myself quickly loading it up on the cheese fries. The creamy cheese sauce works so well with the ShackSauce tang, and the Aleppo pepper takes things up a notch; again the pepper’s fruity notes add that little extra nuance. I even found myself sneaking some of the Aleppo onto the burger as well.

Sadly I couldn’t get any of the extra special “The Last Dab: Apollo” the brand are also advertising as part of this limited time offer. Apparently it’s rated at 2.5 million Scoville’s (see: really really hot) but my local Shake Shack didn’t make this available to me. If you’ve tried it, please do let me know in the comments below.

At any rate, if you’re in the market for some genuinely spicy fast food, ShakeShack have cracked it with this one; definitely give it a whirl if you’re in the market for the hottest fast food you’re likely to try for some time.

Prices listed above are from the Shake Shack closest to us in Salt Lake City.

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