End of Summer Smash Burgers

Through some magic combination of high-fat ground beef, a roaring hot pan, and the smashing action, these burgers turn out succulent, juicy, and super crave-able. 
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If you’ve never had one, your burger-cooking-instincts might be turned totally upside down when you try your first smash burger.

Lots of us (and lots of chefs) ascribe to the idea that burger patties (unless they’re from a fast-food joint) should be thick. We’re talking at least 1 ½ to 2 inches tall. So tall that you might have to unhinge your jaw a bit to take your first bite. That height is the only way to achieve that perfect medium-pink inside that leaves makes your mouth water and covers your fries in delicious cheeseburger juices. 

But, there’s more than one way to create a juicy, drippy, savory burger experience, and this route lets you get out some of that latent aggression that’s been building up. Rather than preparing thick patties and leaving them alone to cook, this recipe requires you to literally smash the burger patties into the pan. 

You might be wondering: Won’t that make my burger patties dry and charred and not very good?

You’d think so. But, through some magic combination of high-fat ground beef, a roaring hot pan, and the smashing action, these burgers turn out succulent, juicy, and super crave-able. 

The edges of each patty turn lacy and crispy as they fry in the pan, while the center of the patty remains tender. The cheese melts perfectly into the patty, and the effect is doubled because each smash burger has two of these tasty patties layered on top of each other. When everything comes together. . . it’s cheeseburger paradise. 

Biting into one of these smash burgers is reminiscent of visiting an old-school drive-in or established diner. The greasy-spoon element is part of the charm (and part of why I recommend serving them with a salad). Try a light, greens-packed side salad to counter the dripping-with-fat vibes of this perfect burger. 

Or go with fries. There’s no reason to buck every tradition. 

Summer Smash Burgers Tips and Tricks

Before smashing your burgers, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Ground beef. Go with ground beef that’s higher in fat content – 70-80% lean as opposed to the typical 90% lean. This helps create those crispy, lacy edges all around the outside of the patty.
  • The buns. The classic standard bun for a smash burger is a potato bun. But, I’ve found that potato buns, and their softer and sweeter cousin – brioche buns – are just a little too dainty to handle these smash burgers. Try to get a bun that can stand up to some serious meaty, juicy goodness. I usually use pretzel buns; their flavor complements the American cheese perfectly, and they can stand up the smashed patties.
  • Grill Press. You don’t need a grill press to make perfect smash burgers, but it does make it a heck-of-a-lot easier. I’m not a gadget gal myself (see my top 5 here), but a high-quality grill press can be used for all kinds of things besides smash burgers. And they’ll get you as close as possible to that to-die-for crispy-edged patty. 
  • Toppings. Smash burgers are all about that classic diner taste, and nothing brings that out more than the classic burger toppings we all know and love: ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, dill pickles, onion, tomato, and lettuce. Of course, feel free to put your own stamp on this recipe. Try a teriyaki-inspired smash burger. Or a BBQ smash burger. Add bacon. Throw on some sport peppers. Follow all of your heart’s smash burger desires – this is one of those recipes that never gets old. 

Summer Smash Burgers Recipe

Makes four smash burgers.

Ingredients

1.5 lb. 80% lean ground beef

8 Slices American cheese

4 hamburger buns

Salt and pepper

1 Tbs. vegetable oil (or cooking oil of your choice)

¼ c. Mayonnaise 

Burger toppings of your choice: Ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato, etc.

 

Method

  1. Divide the ground beef into eight ~3oz. balls. No need to press or form into patties. Sprinkle with salt and freshly-cracked pepper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest.
  2. Warm the oil on your griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
  3. While the pan is heating, preheat your broiler on the Low setting. Place your buns open-side up on a baking sheet. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise onto the inside of each bun, top and bottom. Broil the buns for 4-5 minutes, until they are lightly toasted. Remove from the broiler and set aside.
  4. Place 2 -3 burger patties on the pan, several inches apart. Quickly, use either a large, flat spatula or a grill press and flatten the burger balls until they are as thin as possible, about ¼ of an inch. The edges of the patty should start to look lacy. 
  5. Cook on the first side for 1-2 minutes. Once the edges are brown and crispy, flip the patties and immediately add a slice of cheese to the top to melt. Cook on that side 1-2 more minutes, then remove from the skillet.
  6. Assemble the burgers. Start with your bottom bun, then add two patties, pickles, tomato, onion rings, lettuce, ketchup, and mustard (or whatever combination of toppings sounds good to you!). Top with the other half of the bun, and enjoy.
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