Shake Shack is known for its nostalgic, crinkle-cut fries. There's nothing homemade or handcut about these crispy, zigzaggy fries. They taste just like the frozen fries you ate all through childhood, and that's why people love them. They have countless crevices that fry up to golden perfection and remain crunchy for a longer period of time, even when drenched in cheese sauce. These are all the reasons the burger joint opted for this style of fry. But the complete history behind these fries is quite intriguing, and it's all told within the company's new cookbook: Shake Shack Recipes & Stories (out May 16).
Here's the abbreviated version. In 2012, New York Times food critic Pete Wells blasted Shake Shack for its fries. "[Y]ou can get better fries just about anywhere," he said in his one-star review. This scathing review led to Shake Shack spending over $1 million researching fresh-cut french fries. It tried every possible technique yet could never discover how to make consistently crisp, golden-brown fries. The biggest problem? Potatoes, when transported, aren't in heat-controlled cars. If exposed to cold weather, the sugar levels spike, resulting in dark brown french fries. Despite lengthy efforts, the potatoes' sugar content could not be controlled. Meanwhile, customers were not happy about the fry change and didn't hold back vocalizing their opinions. The fries were OK out of the fryer but tasted awful and soggy once cold. To top it off, members of the kitchen staff sustained injuries while prepping 2,000 potatoes a day.
Even social media played a role. Change had to come when Jessica Seinfeld (Jerry's wife) Instagrammed a photo of the fries and said, "Thank you, Shake Shack, we love you, but PS, can we talk about these fries at some point?" And so in mid-2014, Shake Shack returned to its crinkle-cut fries, and the Instagram announcement became the most-"liked" post to date (at that time). Customers cared more about the taste and the nostalgia factor than the freshness. It goes to show food critics don't know everything! Shake Shack echoed these sentiments on its website announcement: "it's clear that we underestimated the love for our classic crinkle cut fry."