The Burger Lab's Toppings Week 2013: Hot and Smoky Cheeseburgers with Bacon and Pickled Cherry Pepper Relish

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

It took the Shake Shack years before it introduced a second burger on its menu aside from its signature Shackburger. When it hit the boards, the Smoke Shack was a near instant hit (we sure loved it). It took the signature well-seared Shake Shack patty and paired it with crisp bacon and a sweet-hot pickled pepper relish.

It's a flavor combination worth repeating as often as possible, so I decided to take my own spin on it to the backyard burger.

The basic flavors are the same—burger, relish, bacon—but I found that a plain old cherry pepper relish with sliced bacon on top didn't quite match up to the more robust flavors of a thicker, grilled burger the way it did for the smaller griddled Shack burgers. To up the flavor, I instead used a bacon and cherry pepper relish I initially developed as a pizza topping. The smoky bacon flavor is built right into the relish, so it coats the burger more evenly.

Other than that, things are fairly standard here—crisp bacon slices (which I pre-cook in the oven—you can also use fatter slab bacon and slow-cook it on the grill before you start grilling your burgers), sliced American cheese (cheddar would also work here), and a fat slice of grilled onion, just to make the whole thing healthy.

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