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Oh, the smash burger. The deeply crisped, craggy, juicy, squashed patty. The drip-melt of the cheese. The pile of your burger essentials like bright sweet tomato, ruffly lettuce, fried onions if you are a star. The buttery toast of the brioche bun. The dreamy zip of the secret sauce.
Are you drooling? Crying? Screaming? Some combination of all three? Welp, us too. So, don your aprons for this one, folks (you’ll need it). This is an absolute burger game-changer.
In This Post: Everything You Need To Make Smash Burgers
If you’ve never ventured into a Shake Shack or SmashBurger or any of your local non-chain faves (Bebe Zito if you’re in Minneapolis, YUM!), then it’s possible we’re saying “smash burger” and you’re all, “whaaa?”
But it’s exactly as described. It starts with a ball, not a patty, of very cold beef, and then it is, well, quite literally smashed on a very hot griddle and quick-seared to a stunning crisp in its own fats, making a perfectly thin little irregular disk that is still juicy and full of unbelievable flavor. It is most definitely not the super thick, dare we say, kinda dull dad-burgers that taste…just a little too…burger-y? You know? Certainly a time and a place for that on your grill, but this is not that time.
There is something just so special about these. The history of this smashed burger method is a little wrinkly. Most credit the midwest-founded Steak n’ Shake which gave inspiration to the infamous NYC-founded Shake Shack. Other internet clicks mention a little burger shop in Kentucky called Dairy Cheer where it’s said they discovered that smashing the meat with a bean can made for the best-tasting burger around.
Regardless of whoever gave us this absolute meat-icon method, we thank you forever and ever.
Let’s Talk About Sauce (And Other Magic)
What smash burger would be complete without a secret sauce? Luckily for you, we have absolutely no desire to keep it secret because we, like, reallyreallyreally want you to make it and absolutely not skip it because, my oh my, is it a zippy swath of magic on these burgs. Please! Take the extra step to make it! It’s the stuff of love letters.
For your house sauce:
horseradish (grabbing a little jar of this is SUCH a worthwhile investment!)
shallot or garlic, minced or grated
The other sauce to note that makes this particular recipe sing is the sneaky little mixture you put INTO your burger meat for an extra fun flavor-party. The type of beef you use will also be important. You need to choose a blend that has some fat in it or you won’t get that signature crisp. An 80/20 blend is a pretty ideal place to start.
Beyond that, you’ll need:
This idea of adding this smoky umami flavorwave into the meat itself came from Carnal Dish and we absolutely do not regret one single drip of just general extra-ness that it provides. YOU WILL NOT EITHER. Smash burgers are already magic, but this becomes a real magic-plus situation.
All About The Toppings
Sometimes, with the aforementioned dad-burgers, you tend to pile a million toppings on because they need those extra flavor boosts. Here, the burger itself tastes so ding dang buttery crisp good that you might want to consider keeping things relatively simple.
You’ll definitely want to melt some cheese on there, and you can’t beat a slice of really good – like from the deli – American cheese. Superior melty gooeyness. But if you’re mad about it, you could sub your fave cheese.
You’ll want a perfectly squishy brioche bun. Buttered and toasted, only on the inside. Trust.
We already spent some time pleading with you not to skip the house sauce. Just, please don’t.
Beyond that, some thinly sliced red onion, a juicy tomato, maybe a ruffle of lettuce. You’re there. It’s perfect. Dig in.
Tools To Make It Happen
First, and foremost, a smash burger can definitely be a bit of a splatter platter so, you’ll want to have an apron ready and leave your vent on. And because the really thin, irregular-edged smash is v v important, there are a few tools that can help out.
We loved the Lodge cast iron griddle* and cast iron press* for this job. The griddle is great for other things like pancakes, french toast, grilled cheese parties and more, but it’s going to be hard to not just be making smash burgers on it all day every day.
Second best: if you don’t have your hands on a press, a big flat spatula will of course work. Sometimes it helps to put a little piece of parchment paper on the burger before smashing to avoid any sticking. You can also use the handle of a second spatula/wooden spoon in the center of your spatula to really help press down for maximum smash.
No better time than this summer to become the absolute envy of the neighborhood with one of those out back, right?! Imagine.
Happy smashing, friends.
Smash Burgers: Frequently Asked Questions
What if I want to make these outdoors? Because, well, summer!
While we typically make these inside on the stove using this griddle*, you could also use the griddle out on the grill. OR if you want to really invest in the al fresco vibes, you could get this flat top grill*.
Are Smash Burgers really worth the hype?
If you’re wondering “are they really that good?” we can confidently say that YES, they are. What makes them so good: the sauce mixed into the meat for a flavor explosion, and the texture of the patties themselves – crispy-edged but still incredibly juicy and flavorful.
How do you keep the burgers from sticking when you smash them?
The secret is in the parchment paper! Don’t skip that step. Cut a small piece of parchment and use that between the meat and the press/spatula – this will keep the patties from sticking.
How can I make these for a crowd?
These are pretty simple to scale up recipe-wise! And for cooking a large number of patties, you’ll either have to do them in batches and keep them warm in the oven, or invest in something like the flat top grill linked above to make a large batch at once.
The famous Smash Burger! Deeply crisped, craggy, juicy, squashed patties covered with melty cheese, piled on a buttery bun, and topped with a dreamy zip of secret sauce.
Smash Burger Sauce (for mixing with the ground beef)
1 tablespoonWorcestershire sauce
a couple swishes of fish sauce(about 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoonsmoked paprika
Burger Essentials and Toppings
1 lb. ground beef(80/20 is ideal)
American cheese (the good kind from the deli)
House Sauce(see notes for recipe – do not skip! this stuff is magical)
Other toppings you might like: diced or sliced onions(sautéed for an extra level up), lettuce, tomato, or pickles
Mix the smash burger sauce in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, place the ground beef and pour the sauce over. Mix with your hands to get it well-distributed through the meat. Form into 4 balls. Place the balls in the fridge for 20-30 minutes while you prep everything else. You can even pop it in the freezer for a few minutes – you just want them to be pretty cold so the butter mixture doesn’t immediately melt out everywhere once you start cooking them.
Butter the buns and toast them on your skillet or griddle until golden.
Prep the toppings and house sauce (see notes).
Cut a small piece of parchment paper that you’ll use on top of the burgers to prevent sticking.
Heat a cast iron skillet or flat griddle until it’s very hot; place a few of the burgers on the hot surface. Sprinkle them with a big pinch of salt and let them sit and sizzle for about 20 seconds.
Place the parchment paper on top of each burger and then, using a heavy, flat tool, press the burgers down as flat as you can get them in one swift motion. They’ll be super sizzly and splattery, but they should make a nice, round, thin smash burger shape on the griddle. (The ideal tool for this is a cast iron grill press, but a flat spatula can work in a pinch). Cook for a few minutes and then flip and top with cheese right away. Leave them undisturbed for another 1-2 minutes to melt the cheese and get a max amount of flavorful browning on the back side.
Assemble your burgers! Mine is always a toasted brioche buns, mega flavorful smash burger patty (or 2), cheese, crispy lettuce, and a thick smear of that house sauce. Happy, happy summer.
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House Sauce: Mix 1/2 cup mayo, 2 tablespoons ketchup, 1 teaspoon horseradish, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire, a quick squeeze of sriracha, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, half of a shallot, minced or grated (or sub a clove of grated garlic). Season with salt to taste. NEXT LEVEL.