We Tried Shake Shack's New Hot Ones Menu: Here's What You Need To Know

Shake Shack is no stranger to limited-time offerings; its ever-rotating shake menu is currently an autumn cornucopia of creativity. And in 2017, the burger chain released Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories, a book cataloging its many elevated variations on American fast food staples. But while Shake Shack has collaborated with chefs, you'd be hard-pressed to find in-kind collaborations with other brands — let alone ones known for their media more than their hard-to-find hot sauces.

Still, that's exactly what you get with Shake Shack x Hot Ones. The popular internet talk show-slash-hot sauce endurance challenge has joined forces with the burger chain that actually got New Yorkers to stop moving for a minute. It's a collaboration that has been a long time coming. According to Culinary Director Mark Rosati, five years ago, Hot Ones host Sean Evans covered the Shack's spicy chicken sandwich for Sean in the Wild and impressed the chefs with his true devotee's knowledge of their many shake flavors. He also prophetically remarked, "First We Feast is always looking out for the crossover recipes."

We visited Shake Shack's Innovation Kitchen in New York City's West Village, where Executive Chef John Karangis and his team proudly showed their newest offering. We sampled the new Hot Ones Chicken, Hot Ones Burger, and Hot Ones Bacon Cheese Fries.

What Hot Ones foods did Shake Shack make?

There are four Hot Ones collaborative dishes on Shake Shack's menu, all of them featuring the Hot Ones Spicy ShackSauce: a blending of the much-beloved ShackSauce with two kinds of Hot Ones proprietary hot sauces (the classic and the fearsome Apollo-pepper Last Dab). The Shake Shack chefs told us it was important they strike a balance that introduced the new flavors of the Hot Ones hot sauces while retaining the famous ShackSauce flavor.

The Hot Ones Burger's grind is entirely Angus beef, slathered in the aforementioned Hot Ones Spicy ShackSauce, and topped with smoked bacon and Monterey Jack cheese on the iconic Martin's potato roll bun that is a Shake Shack hallmark. The Hot Ones Chicken sandwich is very similar to the burger: applewood-smoked bacon and Monterey jack topping a piece of fried chicken under a Hot Ones Spicy ShackSauce-schmeared potato roll bun.

If you're hungry for Shake Shack's much-admired crinkle fries, you have two options, but, again: these are nearly identical except for the protein. The Hot Ones Cheese Fries, which are basically Shake Shack's Cheese Fries, are sprinkled with dried Aleppo pepper and alongside a serving of Hot Ones Spicy ShackSauce. We didn't technically try these, because they're functionally identical to the Hot Ones Bacon Cheese Fries served to us, which just added Applewood-smoked bacon bits.

Want to go all-in on capsaicin? You can also order a packet of Hot Ones Last Dab hot sauce for untampered heat.

When and where can you get Shake Shack's Hot Ones menu, and how much does it cost?

The Shake Shack x Hot Ones collaboration officially launches nationwide on Friday, September 16, but you don't have to wait! Shake Shack app users can order the Hot Ones menu items right now, before its official debut, through their phones. There's no word yet on when this collaboration ends, but you should treat it like fire and count on it to sweep through and leave a blazing trail in its wake (and your mouth).

Pricing starts at $8.29 for these Hot Ones hamburgers. The Hot Ones Chicken sandwich will run you a smidge more at $8.59 and up. The Hot Ones Cheese Fries you'll find for $5.09 or above, while the bacon-y brethren run you $6.29. Personally, we think bacon's great, but that's a hefty price hike for half a piece of bacon. You might be better off just getting the cheese fries and paying yourself $1.20 to imagine the spicy, salty, smoky flavor of bacon atop what's still a delicious bite of potatoes and cheese.

What's the nutrition info for Shake Shack x Hot Ones?

A single-patty serving of a Hot Ones Burger is 580 calories, with 38 grams of fat (including 14 grams of saturated fat), 25 grams of carbs (including five grams of sugar), and 37 grams of protein. The double-patty Hot Ones Burger is 860 calories, 56 grams of fat with 23 grams of saturated fat, the same amount of carbs (i.e. they're all found in the bun), and 61 grams of protein.

The Hot Ones Chicken sandwich is 680 calories, of which 41 grams are fat, 34 are carbs (with six grams of sugar), and 44 grams of protein.

The Hot Ones Cheese Fries are 890 calories, including 62 grams of fat but a weightier 20 grams of saturated fat, 70 grams of carbohydrates (with just two grams of sugar), and 13 grams of protein. If you upgrade to the Hot Ones Bacon Cheese Fries, you're looking at 1020 calories, 71 grams of fat, 23 grams of saturated fat, but the same stats on carbs and sugars even while the protein leaps to 25 grams. Thanks for balancing out our macros, bacon!

Are the Hot Ones foods better than regular Shake Shack?

The fries are the most recognizable order for anyone nervous about the spicier fare. They're almost identical to Shake Shack's Bacon Cheese Fries. The Aleppo pepper is so subtle, that you'll have to work to detect its presence even tasting it by itself. Once it joins fries, bacon, and cheese sauce, it's lost like a violinist accompanying AC/DC at an arena show. But they're still bacon cheese fries, and very good ones at that.

If you are here for the heat, these are served with a dippable Hot Ones Spicy ShackSauce ramekin that will fire them up. This may actually be the best use of the new sauce for all three menu items. This creamy three-in-one condiment has a lovely burn behind its flavor, starting at the back of the mouth and crawling forward, but with a short half-life. That's especially apparent compared to the full-power Last Dab, which never reaches five alarms, but grows steadily in heat on your tongue for minutes. Between the two, you can create the exact level of spiciness you seek.

The two sandwiches (sorry not sorry, a hamburger is a sandwich during this review) are more distinct from their counterparts. The Hot Ones Chicken is far from the cool lettuce, ranch, and pickles of the regular Chicken Shack. The Hot Ones Burger somewhat resembles the SmokeShack in its spiciness and bacon but remains distinct thanks to Monterey Jack, greater heat, and no peppers.

Do Shake Shack's Hot Ones foods taste good?

In a rarity for a brand that's burger grind prompts copycats, the chicken sandwich might be the actual winner here. Don't mistake us, because this is truly an excellent burger, but it might have been pushed over the top had some pickles been included. Meanwhile, the Hot Ones Chicken is doing fine without pickles, even though they're commonly found on Shake Shack's chicken sandwiches (not so most of their burgers).

Since these two sandwiches are so similar, what differentiates them may be how you intend to consume them. The fried chicken, served directly out of the fryer, is the for-here order, with a crunchy bread coating that shatters perfectly in each bite. If you're getting this one to go, you risk steaming that perfect fry job. The burger would likely travel better if you're getting it to go.

According to Rosati, the team played around with numerous ingredients to see which worked best, trading in the burgers' customary American cheese for the creamy and stringy qualities of Monterey Jack, which plays well with smoke and heat. After countless tests, the flavor profile of the other ingredients wrapped itself identically around both beef and poultry. It may be the case that the sauce is such a dominant taste, that everything else arranges around it, including the suddenly negligible protein choice.

As for the fries, it's really only the (excellent) dipping sauce that distinguishes these from their year-round counterparts, so, yeah; they're great.