Recreate a delicious fast food-inspired smash burger in your home kitchen with fresh ingredients and a tangy, creamy sauce. Smash burgers are thin, so they cook fast.
Here’s the story with these smash burgers. Back on October we decided to pick up our home-based operation and move it to the beach. We spent two weeks on the Outer Banks in North Carolina where our first-graders continued to do virtual school, Frank and I continued to remote work, and two-year-old June did...well, whatever June does. We lucked out with great weather and a near-empty beach (I shared a few pictures at the bottom of this post).
Since it was the off-season most restaurants were closed. We did some takeout, but we cooked most of our meals in a rental house that, while beautiful, had the most minimally stocked kitchen I’ve ever used. I cooked almost every meal - breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a single cast iron skillet. It was a cooking challenge, but you might guess that I love those!
The favorite meal of the week, and one we had several times, was smash burgers. Frank and I perfected our technique to get burger patties with golden crisp lacy edges and perfectly melty cheese. And the best thing about these burgers? They’re such a fun meal. They use less meat than your standard burger, and you get much more by way of texture. Thin burger patties that are pressed down against the pan or griddle as they cook to get maximum browning against the pan. They are so satisfying to eat!
While many recipes we found online say that you should just drop the meat right onto the hot pan and press down to get them to flatten, we found it much easier to follow a more traditional burger method of lightly shaping the burgers first. This method makes it easy to season the burger patties before cooking them (seasoning is one key to a great burger!) and also eliminates the need to handle raw meat over a very hot skillet.
What is a Smash Burger?
A smash burger is a thin all beef burger served on a soft bun. The burger patties are pressed down during cooking and are often cooked in butter to maximize browning and result in crispy edges.
Here’s how to make them at home!
1. Make Sauce
Totally optional, but trust me, take 5 minutes to make this sauce. Just a mix of mayonnaise, ketchup, garlic powder, and a bit of Worcestershire sauce which gives it some great umami flavor.
2. Prep Burger Patties
Apologies for the raw meat photos, but I wanted you to see how I set everything up for cooking. One pound of beef will make either four or five smash burgers. If using 80% lean ground beef, I recommend making 4 burgers because the fat will cook out and the burgers will shrink as they cook. If using 90% lean ground beef, you can probably stretch it to five burgers. Divide the meat up and gently form it into patties that are about ½-inch thick. Don’t worry if the edges aren’t rounded or if the patties still seem thick - they just need to be in the general shape. Place the patties on a platter or sheet pan.
Tip: Before you get started, prep a small container with salt and black pepper and put it on a tray with the meat. Use this to season the burgers before and during cooking so you won’t be scrounging around for salt and pepper with messy raw meat hands.
These burgers take up a lot of space, so it’s best to use a griddle for these or a very large skillet. Melt some butter and then sear those patties, pressing down very firmly with a sturdy spatula as they cook. When you flip the burgers, place a slice of cheese on top. Finish cooking.
Finish with your favorite toppings!
American Cheese on Burgers
Maybe this is a controversial statement, but when we were testing these burgers, Frank and I found that this is one place where processed, individually wrapped American cheese just works. It gets incredibly melty in the short cook time and doesn’t have so much intense cheese flavor that it overwhelms the thin burgers. Any type of cheese will work here, but if you’re not fundamentally opposed to American cheese, it’s definitely worth using. (We also discovered that the leftovers make ridiculously good egg and cheese sandwiches. So...two places.)
Other Fun Takeout Fake-Out Meals
- Honey Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry
- Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Chicken
- BBQ Pulled Chicken
- Instant Pot Crispy Pork Carnitas
- Instant Pot General Tso's Chicken
- Sweet Potato Fry Nachos with Chorizo
- Half Sheet Pan
- Anchor 3-Piece Glass Mixing Bowls
- Flat Spatula — I use my Wok Spatula for these burgers because it is so sturdy that I can press down very hard on the burgers as they cook.
- Griddle or Grill Pan — I like either this Presto Cool Touch Electric griddle or the Cuisinart Stovetop Double Griddle.
- Mixing Bowls
- Half Sheet Pan
- Grill Pan or Griddle
- Flat Spatula
- 1 lb Ground Beef (preferably 80% lean chuck)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
- 2 tablespoon Unsalted Butter
- 4 slices American Cheese (see note)
- 4 Soft Hamburger Rolls (we like potato rolls or brioche-style rolls)
- Optional toppings - Shredded Iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced white onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, mayo
- ¼ cup Mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Ketchup
- ¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce (substitute soy sauce)
- If you want to make ‘special sauce’, whisk together mayonnaise, ketchup, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside.
- Divide beef into 4 even portions (these will be 4 oz each - no need to weight them, but just in case you wanted to) on a large sheet pan. Use your palm to gently press down on each portion so it is about ½ -inch thick. Season the beef on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Heat a large griddle to medium heat. Add butter, moving it all around on the griddle as it melts.
- Add burger patties and use a sturdy flat spatula to press very firmly down on the burgers until the patties are slightly larger than your burger buns. The edges should be uneven (craggy edges will get nicely browned).
- Cook the burgers, without moving them, until light brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip burgers and top with cheese. Cook until cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes more.
- Toast buns, if you’d like. (Note: I find that with really soft burger buns, they are sometimes better untoasted because it really highlights the golden crispness of the burger patties.)
- Spread sauce over inside of buns. Fill with burger patties and any toppings you’d like. Enjoy with fries!
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