As a culture, our tolerance for heat is going up. I’m not talking about the weather here (though that would be a great evolutionary adjustment!), I’m talking about hot sauce. Despite what we know it does to our digestive tract, we can’t get enough it, and chain restaurants are paying attention. We’ve tried Arby’s Diablo Dare menu, Pizza Hut’s Spicy Lover’s Pizza, and Pollo Campero’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich, all of which were commendable efforts to really bring the heat. Still, there’s a persistent mildness to every mass-produced item, an indication that these brands would prefer to cater to a wide range of tastes if they can help it. Shake Shack’s new Hot Ones menu, however, wants to blow us out of the water.
“Shack fans love big, bold flavors, and we’re seeing spicy food keep becoming more and more delicious and interesting across the board,” Shake Shack culinary director Mark Rosati tells The Takeout. “We try to be thoughtful as we experiment with various flavors and strive to achieve balance amongst all the elements.”
Shake Shack and Hot Ones have teamed up to create Hot Ones™ Spicy ShackSauce, which according to Rosati is made using the Hot Ones Classic Hot Sauce and “The Last Dab: Apollo” to spice up some Shake Shack classics:
- Hot Ones™ Burger: Beef burger topped with Hot Ones™ Spicy ShackSauce, crispy, applewood smoked bacon and Monterey Jack cheese on a toasted potato bun
- Hot Ones™ Chicken: Crispy, white-meat chicken topped with Hot Ones™ Spicy ShackSauce, crispy, applewood smoked bacon and Monterey Jack cheese on a toasted potato bun
- Hot Ones™ Cheese Fries: Crispy crinkle cuts topped with cheese sauce and dusted with Aleppo Pepper, served with Hot Ones™ Spicy ShackSauce
- Hot Ones™ Bacon Cheese Fries: Crispy crinkle cuts topped with applewood-smoked bacon, cheese sauce and dusted with Aleppo pepper, served with Hot Ones™ Spicy ShackSauce
The Hot Ones Classic Hot Sauce clocks in at about 1,800 on the Scoville scale, which is the type of heat you can expect from an Anaheim or poblano pepper—Heatonist ranks it a 2/10 on the spicy scale. The Last Dab: Apollo, however, is Hot Ones’ spiciest hot sauce ever, the only one made from the Apollo pepper. According to Rosati, that bad boy clocks in at 2.5 million on the Scoville scale, beating the Carolina Reaper’s rating.
Shake Shack rates the combination of that with the Hot Ones sauce and other ShakeSauce ingredients as a 7/10 on the spicy scale, but warns that The Last Dab: Apollo will be a solid 11/10 (if not more).
Packets of the sauce on its own are available as part of the menu for the brave among us. You can try all these items now if you order through the Shake Shack app, and starting September 16 the menu will be available in all locations for a limited time. According to Rosati, this won’t be the last time Shake Shack spices things up. He says the chain will continue experimenting with heat in ways that also create intriguing flavors.
As for this current menu, the general manager of First We Feast (Hot Ones’ production company), Chris Schonberger, offers this advice: “Enjoy at your own risk.”