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Smash burgers

  • 05-05-2022 8:43am
    Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,779 Mod ✭✭✭✭

    In this thread I want to share my approach to making smash burgers at home.

    For those unfamiliar with them, smash burgers are essentially a way of making a classic american-style burger (often a cheeseburger). Unlike a thick, puck-shaped burger that is also a popular style, a smash burger is often built with two, or even three, thin patties that have been former from a piece of burger mix squashed down super flat, in order to maximise the contact with a very hot pan, and create a really tasty crust. Although this cooking process won't allow for a medium centre that some people like in a thicker burger, there's some evidence that the smash process still allows you to retain a lot of moisture. I'm also going to mention a couple of other tips at the end that delivers a soft restaurant-style bun and mouthfeel.

    Dash burger are probably the main smash burger people in Dublin at the moment. They are a contrast to the likes of Bunsen who do a great burger but it's more traditional in style.

    I read a lot of Kenji Lopez Alt articles in the beginning of trying to make smash burgers at home, if anyone wants to go directly to the source. But I also took various little tips and explanations from chefs including Gaz Smith (Michael's Restaurant).

    I'm somewhat dumbing down the method here, but honestly this works pretty well.


    Ground beef, ideally freshly ground, for the best texture and cooking experience. Should be at least 20% fat and 30% ideally, this is essential as you are going to be using a hot stainless steel pan without any oil. The high fat content is required for a few reasons as a result.

    American style cheese slices. You can use more premium cheeses if you want, but unfortunately the reality is that plasticky American cheese is the one that will soften and steam the best. Even Dash burger uses simple easy-slices or an equivalent. If you absolutely won't use these then the best alternative I can suggest is something like a sharp provolone slice.

    Brioche buns. The best I've used are the ones from Lidl and Aldi. You can buy expensive ones, but honestly the basic supermarket brioche buns work fine.

    Condiments/sauces etc. A matter of personal choice. A classic burger sauce mix is ketchup, mayonnaise, pickle brine, some blitzed gherkin, salt, pepper, maybe some hot sauce.


    Get a sheet of parchment paper and a heavy smaller saucepan or pot ready near your cooking area. This is going to be used soon.

    Get your stainless steel pan hot, really hot. People tend to say "smoking hot". You cannot use a non stick pan here as the coatings will be damaged at the heat you're going for, and also there's some suggestion the non stick finish doesn't result in the crust we are looking to develop.

    Shape and work your ground beef into a large meatball shape. You'll notice there's no additions of breadcrumbs or other things to form a burger mix. No salt or anything at this stage. Just the meat.

    Put 1-2 of the meatballs into the hot pan, depending on whether it's large enough to fit two. They should be decently far apart. Now you have up to 60 seconds to smash these down. Put the parchment paper over them and take the heavy smaller saucepan you've had ready and with both hands you press heavily down to flatten the meatballs out. You're squishing them down hard into the hot pan, and the effect should be that they flatten out into thin meat pancakes, almost. The distance you've allowed between the meatballs should mean there is space for them both to flatten out.

    Season with salt on top and stand ready with your spatula. I suggest you use your judgement and they may be ready to flip in as little as a couple of minutes. If the fat content of the beef is right, and the pan was hot enough, then you're going to find that they flip no problem. If they catch then either the pan wasn't hot enough or the beef was too lean!

    After you flip quickly smash again, same as before, and you could season lightly again.

    Cook another couple minutes and then turn OFF the heat.

    Quickly add your slices of cheese to the top of the burger, and cover the pan. You can use a metal mixing bowl or similar if you have one, or just a sheet of foil or a foil tent. You want to capture the heat and steam that's occurring and that will quickly melt the cheese restaurant-style.

    Quickly open again and now stack your brioche buns on top of the burger. Literally balancing your two brioche buns on top. Cover again, and let the steaming continue as the heat of the pan is still reducing.

    In a few moments open for the final time and when you take the buns out you should find that they feel moist and slightly warm - this is what your goal was, it's a delicious alternative to toasting the buns, as our rule of thumb with a burger is that we want the bun to be as soft as the meat in our mouth.

    Take a spatula and lift the patties off the pan and into the burger, assemble the rest of it as your normally would.

    Voila, smash burger.

    P.S I made one of the above burgers by smashing with a spatula and my hand, rather than a heavy pan and paper. You’ll notice the beef is not that thin, definitely harder to smash effectively with a spatula. I bent a few! Really recommend the pan and paper approach.

    Post edited by Black Sheep on


  • Registered Users Posts: 112 ✭✭SimpleDimple

    I approve of this message. Just wondering, would you have the meatball tightly packed or is it fairly loose when you put it into the pan?

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,779 Mod ✭✭✭✭Black Sheep

    Some smash burger experts warn that if you over-work the meat before shaping it then it can end up being a tight and dense burger.

    However, I made a few batches with very little mixing, and the first issue is they can be quite fragile and not flip without coming apart. They also still had the 'minced' look to them after cooking, you know, where they almost look like a bundle of spaghetti squashed together?

    So now I do work and shape the mixture by hand, at least enough that it binds together a bit better when squashed down, and so that the texture of the inside of the burger is a bit more even.

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,557 ✭✭✭✭The Nal

    If you're into burgers Id highly recommend getting a mincer. Only 80 quid or so. Night and day in terms of taste and textre and its fun making your own mixes.

    Shop bought mince is fairly nasty. Made up of all the off cuts and cheapo stuff and tends to release a lot of liquid and boils the meat which is why a lot of it goes grey.

  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 2,779 Mod ✭✭✭✭Black Sheep

    I have a meat grinding attachment for our KitchenAid, would definitely recommend.

    For those without access to one the best way to go is to do what our grannies used to do and ask for the meat to be ground in front of you at the butcher’s counter, and then to consume ASAP.

  • Registered Users Posts: 19,462 ✭✭✭✭Muahahaha

    Great tips OP. Only thing Id add is that if you're making smash burgers regularly it is worth buying a heavy cast iron burger press to smash them and a small cloche to steam the bun and melt the cheese. I used to use an upturned cereal bowl to steam them which works fine but the cloche is handier as it has a little knob on top to make lifting it easier whereas the bowl would be roasting hot and burn your fingers lifting it.

    Also agree that the pan doesnt have to be smoking hot and it is better that it isnt. The Malliard reaction happens at 160c which is what we're after to create a crust on the burger so the pan doesnt need to be 220c+, 180ish is fine

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