When I cook a burger – and I’ve cooked a lot of burgers – I tend to keep it simple. I season them with salt and pepper, toss them on a hot grill and let them cook for 4-5 minutes per side until they are medium-ish in doneness. Assuming you use decent beef that has 15-20% fat in it, you’ll be in good shape just by doing no harm.
But there may be a better way. There’s an mid-range burger restaurant that started in Denver, called Smashburger, that now has locations all over the U.S. and they take a slightly different approach to the burger. As their name implies, they literally smash the burger on a super hot grill. It cooks in about two minutes and is one of the better burgers I’ve ever had. The intense heat and pressure sears in the juices from the beef and makes for a really tasty burger.
While the restaurants use an expensive, patented pressing device that no home cook has access to, I figured there was a way to duplicate this crazy method at home.
I was right. It turns out not to be that hard and is totally worth the effort.
1) For sauce, dice pickle very fine and stir ingredients together. Store in refrigerator until needed.
2) Portion out three 6-oz. burgers and roll them into loose balls.
3) Heat your large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes until it's very hot. While it's heating prepare the second cast iron skillet (smaller) and wrap some foil around the bottom of it.
4) When you're ready to cook a burger, add some butter to the hot pan and let it melt. Then add a burger ball and press it down hard with the second skillet. Try to press down straight from above so create an even circle. Press down on the burger for 10 long seconds.
5) Remove the top skillet and season the burger with seasoning mix. When the juices start to bubble up from the burger, flip it.
6) If you're adding cheese, add it after the flip and cover the burger with a metal bowl to steam the cheese.
7) Cook the burger on the second side until the burger reaches 165 degrees F. in the center, about 90 seconds or so.
8) Serve the burger on a toasted bun with lots of sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, and red onion.
One signature thing about Smashburger is they have this special sauce called “Smash Sauce.” Their website gives zero hints as to what is in it so I kind of had to wing it. Basically, I made a mix of mayo, mustard, and relish. I’m not sure if it’s what they actually use, but it tastes close and is really good.
Just dice up the pickle really finely and then stir together the ingredients in a bowl. The pickle juice may sound strange but it’s pretty crucial.
Every burger needs seasoning and this one is no exception. I mixed together a ratio of kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and seasoned salt. This is enough seasoning for 8-10 burgers so you can save it for later.
Also, before we actually start cooking the burgers, get the other toppings ready that you want. You can go crazy here and top this sucker with anything you would throw on your favorite burger.
I kept it simple for this version with just a diced red onion, tomato, and fresh lettuce.
Making the Burger
You need to start with a large burger for this to work right. A small burger won’t smash correctly. I like to use 6 ounces of ground beef, but you could even go up to 8 ounces honestly.
Once you have the meat portioned, roll it into a loose ball. You want it to be in a ball, not in a patty when it hits the pan.
Now for the setup. To get the proper smashing you need two heavy skillets. The larger skillet needs to be able to get very hot so cast iron is a good choice. The top skillet just needs to be smaller so you can fit it in the larger skillet. The top skillet won’t actually get hot. In fact, you don’t need to use a skillet, but something flat and round works.
Whatever you use, it’s a good idea to wrap some foil around the bottom of it so the foil is in contact with the burger. This is especially true if you’re using a dirty old cast iron skillet like I used.
When you’re ready to cook, get your larger pan very hot. Put it over medium-high heat and let it heat for a few minutes. Then, turn on the vents above your stove because it’s gonna get steamy.
When you’re ready to cook, add a small pad of butter to the pan and spread it out so it melts evenly. Then add your burger ball to the pan and immediately press down on it with the top part. Try to press down straight from above so the pressure on the burger is even, creating a round patty.
Press down for a long 10 seconds. One one thousand. Two one thousand… you get it.
It will smoke and hiss and complain, but it’s all good.
When the 10 seconds is up, remove the top pan and the foil and immediately season the patty really well with the seasoning blend.
Let the patty continue to cook on this side for 30 seconds or so until the burger starts to brown up around the edges. You’ll also notice that the juices bubble up a bit in the center.
When you flip this guy, take your time. There will be a serious crust on the bottom of the burger and you want to make sure that crust stays attached to the burger. Use a sturdy spatula and really work around the patty to make sure the burger loosens nicely.
If you do it right, it’ll be a thing of beauty.
The burger only needs to cook for about 90 seconds on the second side since it’s so thin at this point. If you’re using cheese, add the cheese and then I recommend slapping a metal bowl down over the burger which will help melt the cheese faster.
Here’s my finished patty which was done about three minutes after I started it.
Stack this sucker on a toasted bun with a good smear of the sauce and whatever other toppings you want and you’re in business!
This post isn’t sponsored by Smashburger or anything. In fact, they might dislike the fact that I just showed you how to make their burgers at home, but if you drive by one it’s worth checking out. They make really tasty burgers (and try their fries with rosemary).
But, if you’re feeling frisky and have a large skillet, this is totally a doable way to make a really delicious burger.
Has anybody tried a Smashed burger? Leave a comment!