A good smash burger gets texture and flavor from the quick searing process combined with the large amounts of surface area contact between the patty and the hot cooking surface. The goal of the “smashing” procedure is to ensure as much meat as possible touches the hot metal causing browning and forming a crust on the meat.
Many of us learned early on that you aren’t supposed to press on your meat while it’s cooking because that would cause it to lose moisture and become dry. This is true. Squishing meat while it is cooking will definitely cause you to lose juice. You can watch this happen if you try it (don’t do it). BUT the smash burger technique requires smashing BEFORE the meat starts cooking. You are simply smashing a ball of meat to your desired thickness (usually pretty thin) and then the meat starts cooking. There’s no moisture loss through this process. Once your first smash is done, you do not want to smash the patty again. Not even after you flip. Only smash once at the very beginning.
For me, this is the best style of burger to cook at home. It’s fast and the texture is perfect. If you make it a double patty smash burger with cheese (which I usually do), the slice of American cheese melts between the patties keeping things moist. You can use other types of cheese but American works the best (make sure you’re buying “American Cheese” and not “American Cheese Product”). You also don’t need fancy meat. I find 80/20 ground chuck works great.
There are a few tools that I enjoy using when smashing patties. Here are four items I own that are also all useful in other kitchen applications (all links are affiliate links for Amazon products).
- If you want to be more precise you’ll need a kitchen scale that works with ounces and grams.
- I use a finishing trowel for smashing patties. You can get a lot of downward pressure with a trowel and should be able to smash two patties at once.
- This one is the least important for smashing burgers, but I like having it nearby when cooking most anything on the stove. I bought this Infrared thermometer and use it a lot to know how hot my surfaces are.
- You will need a good metal spatula to flip your patties. It’s important to scrape under the patty so that you do not lose any of the crispy seared texture that you’re working hard to achieve.
The last item that you’ll need is some sort of pan or griddle. Cast iron works really well here. The main thing to remember is that you’re going to be smashing and scraping so you wouldn’t want to use a Teflon coated pan with metal spatulas. I personally own a Baking Steel griddle that fits over one stovetop burner and I can easily smash two patties at the same time. This is also great for grilled cheese sandwiches or melts, but that’s another blog post for another day.
Check out the recipe below for the procedure that I use for my typical smash burger. Try it and impress your friends!
Here's a super simple burger recipe that requires a couple of easy techniques to learn. You could even substitute ground turkey if you wanted something different.
- 1 lb ground beef (80/20 is best)
- Slices of your favorite cheese (American works best)
- Hamburger buns and whatever toppings you might require
The most consistent way to make any type of burger is to weigh your meat on a scale first. If you don't have a scale proceed to #2. if you have exactly 1 pound (450 grams or so) you'd want to weigh it into 2.65 ounces (56 grams) balls. If you have a pound of meat you should end up with 8 small piles of meat. If you have a scale you can skip #2.
If you do not have a scale, you need to divide your meat in half until you have two pieces. Then divide each of those two in half until you have four pieces and then divide each of those four pieces in half until you have eight total similarly sized pieces.
After weighing or dividing your meat, make each portion into balls. Do not over work the meat or mix it up.
Get your skillet or surface hot. If you're using a skillet, don't use a non-stick one or this process might lead you to get it scratched and ruined. If it's a black non-stick skillet, it's possibly covered with a teflon surface and you can scratch it with metal spatulas. Don't ruin your pan. I typically use a cheap infrared thermometer to monitor the surface area of my skillets and flattop surfaces and 400 degrees is usually where I start cooking.
Place two balls of meat on your skillet or flat top with four or five inches between each ball. If you're using a skillet, you will probably only be able to cook two patties at a time.
Once the balls hit the hot surface give them 10 or 15 seconds and smash. You're going to want to use a lot of pressure and smash them really hard. The goal here is to get as much surface area of the meat to touch the hot surface as possible. If you have a flat top or a griddle, you might want to use some sort of very heavy spatula or even a clean finishing trowel from your local hardware store.
As soon as you've finished smashing, this is when we season. Hit the (hopefully) very thin patty with some salt and pepper. You can season again when you flip, but this is when you should do most of the seasoning.
Cook for 1.5 to 2 minutes on this first side.
Use a sharp spatula and scrape under the patty in order to flip. The goal here is to make sure you don't lose any of the crispies you worked hard to build up with the smashing process.
Once flipped to the second side, you will want to season and cook for another minute. After you season this side, you should add any slices of cheese you want on the patty.
If you're making a double (and you should - this recipe is for a double after all) you should stack one patty on top of the other with one slice of cheese between the patties while they're on the heat. Cook another 30 or so seconds and pull them all off the heat.
Now you have a smash burger patty and the rest is up to you. Add "toppings" or "bottomings" or even eat it without a bun. You're in charge.
If you're doing this with ground turkey, you would want to put some butter or oil on the pan/flat top prior to cooking to give it a little help in the fat department.
With beef and with turkey you can watch the meat cook almost all the way through before flipping. So if you're concerned about your turkey being fully cooked (as you should be) then you can rest assured that it is after flipping.