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A Beginner’s Guide to Making a Smash Burger

Up your grilling game with deliciously crispy and caramelized smash burgers. 
burgers grilling Savory February March 2020 2024 June May

There’s nothing quite like that first bite of a burger at a barbecue to mark the start of grilling season. This year, surprise guests of your backyard bash with something special—the smash burger. This style of burger is extra flavorful and has gained popularity over the last few decades for its crispiness and thin patty, perfect for piling on all the toppings. Smash burgers have gained momentum in the U.S., headlining restaurant and fast-food chain menus across the nation. But you can easily make your own smash burger right at home with these easy tips.

What Is a Smash Burger? 

Let’s start at the beginning. A smash burger is a classic hamburger that has a thin and crispy patty due to a specific cooking method where the patty is immediately pressed down onto the cooking surface. Traditional smash burgers usually start as a loosely packed ball of ground beef or a rounded patty that is placed on a very hot cooking surface, like a griddle or grill. Then, the patty is smashed down to flatten using the back of a spatula or other flat and heavy object.  

 This cooking method increases the surface area of the patty that comes in contact with the griddle, causing the Maillard reaction to take place, a chemical reaction in food responsible for the deep browning and development of flavors like toasty, charred, and malty. The resulting burger has a rich, crispy, perfectly caramelized crust without losing any of its juiciness. While you can eat a single smash burger, they’re often enjoyed as a double stack because of how thin they become.  

How to Make a Smash Burger 

Divide your ground beef into two-ounce portions for a double stack or four-ounce portions for a single patty burger. Then, heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high on a stovetop or grill until very hot. Place patties on the griddle or skillet and immediately press down on the burgers using a metal spatula until they’re about ⅓ of an inch thick. Alternatively, you can place a piece of parchment over the burgers and use a heavy-bottomed cast iron pan to press down.  

Once flattened, season the patties with salt and pepper. The edges will start to crisp and grease will begin to bubble after about a minute, depending on thickness. Now it’s time to flip. Once flipped, you can add cheese to melt if desired. After about a minute on each side, remove your burger to a prepared bun and pile high with your favorite toppings.  

 Smash Burger Vs. Regular Burger 

The most obvious difference is that a smash burger patty is much thinner than a standard burger. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean there is less meat in a smash burger. Usually, you start with the same amount of ground beef, but because the smash burger is pressed down during the cooking process, the meat spreads out, creating a larger surface area.  

Additionally, due to the thickness of a regular burger patty, you can cook them to various degrees of doneness depending on your personal preference, unlike a smash burger, which is cooked through completely. Smash burgers also cook much faster, while keeping the juiciness of a burger with a crispier crust. Everything else, other than the patty, is pretty much the same!  

 What Is the Best Meat for a Smash Burger? 

Because smash burgers are pressed so thin, the biggest risk in the cooking process is that they may become dry. To avoid this (and to ensure the best flavor), use ground beef with a higher fat percentage and avoid lean options like turkey. Look for 80 percent lean, 20 percent fat for the best results. If you’re interested in trying a ground beef blend with a higher fat content, making smash burgers is the perfect time! 

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