How To Make Secret Sauce For Your Burger

We all know what secret sauce is. It goes by a lot of different names, but seemingly every decent burger joint has some form of it. In-n-Out has spread. McDonald's has the oh-so-clever Special Sauce. Shake Shack has Shack Sauce. What's it called? I call it secret sauce, but you can call it whatever you want — point being, every burger lover should learn how to make it.

There are three key things to keep in mind for a fantastic secret sauce:

  • Mayo, mustard and ketchup must be combined in perfect balance, that is to say "in equal parts." Depending on taste, you can add a bit more of any, but when you mix them together it should turn that perfect pink color you know oh-so-well.
  • Mustard choice is up to you, but no honey mustard. In fact, any mustard with extra sweetness should be avoided. The point here is to get a tangy bite in your sauce without an overwhelming mustard flavor (if you want more extreme mustard flavor, put extra mustard on your burger, smart guy). My preference is for something spicy and brown like Gulden's. A good dijon or spicy English mustard like Colman's also works — even plain old yellow mustard, it all depends on what you like.
  • Chopped up crunchy dill pickles from the refrigerated section of the supermarket, NOT pickle relish, nothing neon green on a jar on a shelf at all. There is a time and place for pickle relish, and it's called hot dogs. Pickle relish has no place in a good secret sauce.
  • Now that you have your beautiful pink base, load that bad boy with the abovementioned diced pickles. I like my secret sauce nice and chunky, but the chunkiness can vary with your preferences (even though everyone knows the chunkier it is the better it is; it can practically look like a pickle salad tossed in pink dressing). Now add just a splash of pickle juice; you don't want it to be runny or it won't adhere to the burger properly.

    And then, the secret ingredient.

    Some people might tell you it's crazy, or gross, or that these things don't have any business being together. Follow your heart: they do belong together. There was once a tiny burger place in Monrovia, CA called Yaki's. They used to mix homemade teriyaki sauce into their secret sauce and they called it Froggy Sauce. You can achieve a similar effect by splashing a little soy sauce in for  salt and umami goodness. As with the pickle juice, don't add too much. Here's how to do it:

    Chop the pickles

    Halve and quarter whole dill pickles lengthwise, then chop, keeping things on the chunky side, and transfer to a mixing bowl.

    Add the condiments

    Add the condiments in equal parts on top of the pickles in the mixing bowl so you can keep an eye on the ratios.

    Mix the sauce and add soy sauce and pickle juice

    Mix the sauce thoroughly until it's uniformly pink with large and frequent chunks of pickle. Now your own personal taste comes in: add small (very small) splashes of soy sauce and pickle juice until just umami-spiked and tart enough, keeping an eye on the texture. Thicker is better. Now you're ready to slather this stuff on a burger. 

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