THE ART OF THE SMASHBURGER
Burgers. What a smashing creation (yes, there will be puns). With so much hype surrounding brioche buns, secret sauces and gourmet beef blends it’s easy to sometimes overlook the importance of the burger itself. Simplicity is so often best and that’s why we feel there is one burger that smashes all others out of contention.
As a general rule, I have three requirements as far as burgers are concerned.
There must be cheese.
There must be bacon.
The burger must be smashed.
For the uninitiated amongst you, a Smashburger does not involve hurling your brioche-bunned-bundle-of-joy at the nearest hard surface until well and truly flattened. Smashburgers are not a thick, exquisitely grilled, medium rare burger. They are not a lovingly crafted, perfectly symmetrical patty made with the most expensive cuts of beef and a heavily guarded spice mix.
They’re minced beef and salt, smashed flat over a searingly hot flat-grill until you get a crispy, craggy-edged, asymmetric, cooked-through patty that’s juicy, caramelised, beefy and, frankly, the best burger you’re ever going eat.
So why are they so good? Where’s the science?
When you're cooking beef there are two golden rules when it comes to flavour - Colour and Fat.
What makes toast taste malty and delicious? And the char-marks on a piece of grilled chicken so appetising? The Maillard Reaction - The Holy Grail of cooking science whereby heat causes sugars and amino acids in proteins to react and form a dark, caramelised, rich crust that makes food taste and look so mouthwatering.
And then there’s the fat. It’s really very simple. Fat-Means-Flavour. It’s no secret.
So how does that translate to our Smashburger? Firstly. You have to use minced beef with a good 20% fat content. That’s where your flavour is and that’s what is going to make your Smashburger sing. Minced chuck steak is gold for Smashburger.
Secondly, it’s the smash that really makes it. When you smash the burgers down on a super-hot grill, the fat has nowhere to go but back up into the burger patty meaning you’re essentially cooking your burger in its own beefy juices. If that concept alone doesn’t bring a dripping-glazed tear to your eye then I don’t know what will. Furthermore, the extreme heat and pressure supercharges the Maillard reaction, yielding the amazingly dark, crisp-crusted, flavour-packed patty that are the hallmarks of a true Smashburger.
The basic principle is to take a big handful of minced beef, loosely packed lest you’ll end up with a beef-puck, and then slam it down onto a very hot, flat surface (cast iron pans work perfectly).
Then - and this part is key - smash the mound of beef as flat as you dare with a spatula. I like to aim for roughly 1cm in depth.
Once flattened, heavily salt the top of the patty and leave to sizzle and cook for a couple of minutes. Under no circumstance try to move or disturb your patty - what is happening underneath is culinary magic and should not be disturbed. When your patty has been cooking for a couple of minutes and you can start to see colour creeping up the side take a metal spatula and pry your way under the patty - there may be a little resistance from the crust built up underneath but you want to get as much of that crust as possible so work quickly and precisely.
Flip the burger and marvel at the magnificent Maillard-made crust that has formed. Salt again and then hit with a few slices of cheese of your choice. Cover the pan, this will aid in cheese melting, and leave to cook for a few more minutes. Once cooked, place into a toasted bun, toasting is non-negotiable, top with bacon, again non-negotiable, a dollop of your favourite burger condiment and you are good to go. In all of a few minutes to boot!
As you may have gathered by this point - I really love a Smashburger. Hopefully, my ramblings as to they’re clear superiority over any-and-all other burger craft will have convinced you to try your hand at building your own Smashburger.
With that in mind, we have 3 variations of our beloved Smashburger to get your teeth into and provide a little inspiration for your next burger indulgence.
It should be noted that in order to comply with my exacting burger requirements, I’ve laid a few ground rules for consistency.
All burger patties are made from 150g minced chuck steak. Smashed to perfection.
All burgers have been topped with cheese and bacon.
All burgers are housed within a toasted bun, I can’t stress the necessity of toasting highly enough, with little gem and pickles.
Grizzly Bear-naise Burger
A standard setter. A benchmark for your Smashburgers. Were this a burger menu - this would be the signature. The twist? No special sauce on this burger - we’ve gone high-brow with Bearnaise.
Toasted Brioche Bun, 150g Smashburger, Swiss Gruyère Cheese, Crispy Bacon, Bearnaise Sauce, Charred Onions, Slow Roast Tomato, Little Gem, Pickles.
A time-honoured combination. Beef simply adores the sour-spicy fermented flavours of Kimchi. We’ve added Sriracha to our classic mayo-ketchup-mustard burger sauce for an added kick.
Toasted Brioche Bun, 150g Smashburger, Extra Mature Cheddar, Crispy Bacon, Sriracha Burger Sauce, Kimchi, Little Gem, Pickles.
Parmesan Tuile Burger
How to improve on the Smashburger? Sandwich it between two parmesan crisps, obviously. We’ve also amped up the flavours of Italy with sundried tomatoes and fontina cheese. (Special thanks to Binging with Babish and Parks and Rec for the cheese crisp idea. Pure gold.)
Toasted Brioche Bun, 150g Smashburger, Fontina Cheese, Parmesan Crisps, Crispy Bacon, Classic Burger Sauce, Balsamic Onions, Sundried Tomato, Little Gem, Pickles.
Smashed it, right? Let us know how you get on with your Smashburger creations. We definitely want to see them.
Do you have a favourite combo you think we're missing out on? Leave your suggestion in the comments below!