This Smash Burgers recipe walks you through 10 easy steps to burger nirvana. Say goodbye to drive-throughs and expensive burger joints because burgers at home just got better!
Let's face it, enjoying burgers at your favorite restaurant isn't what it used to be.
Have you noticed how they have started:
- Serving smaller portions?
- Using lower quality ingredients?
- Continually raising prices despite both of the above?
Well, not anymore! We can make better burgers at home at a fraction of the cost.
What's so great about smash burgers?
Simply put, smash burgers deliver the most flavor.
This is primarily due to the sear that develops during the 'unique' cooking process.
This sear is created by pressing (a.k.a. smashing!) the raw burger meat firmly into a hot pan.
The sticky bond between the hamburger and the pan develops an amazing, delicious, end-to-end crust on the patty.
It is from this sear that the smash burger gets 90% of its flavor!
Now for some science geekery: this sear process is known as the Maillard reaction.
What is the Maillard reaction?
Stated briefly, the Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between the sugars and amino acids in meats (and other foods) that creates the beautiful browning you're always trying to get when you sear meat, for example.
With beef, the resulting seared crust means concentrated flavor. The Maillard reaction is the most important part of a smash burger's delicious flavor!
Now, let's make some Smash Burgers!
10 easy steps to smash burger perfection
Whether you're making a single, thick burger or thinner patties for a double burger, the steps below will guide you every step of the way.
1. Use the right type of hamburger meat
Choose 80/20 hamburger meat. The '20' refers to the fat content percentage.
This higher fat content is necessary for two reasons:
First, while it cooks, this fat renders (melts) and creates the perfect environment for that gorgeous sear.
Second, the fat inside the burger will keep it flavorful and juicy.
Anything leaner than 80/20 ground beef will result in a subpar smash burger.
2. Don't overwork the meat
Regardless of the size of the burgers you are making, don't overwork the meat as you portioning it out.
Simply portion your burger meat into relatively loose balls. Don't pack tightly.
Packing your meat loosely ensures a more tender burger.
3. Pre-heat your cast iron
Yes, cast iron is the best for delicious smash burgers.
(Make sure that your cast iron is properly seasoned before starting this recipe.)
Allow the pan to pre-heat on medium for 5 minutes before adding your meat.
We want the pan good and hot to create that sear.
Don't add oil!
By not adding oil to the pan, you're ensuring that the burger will stick, which means a uniform crust along the entire bottom of the burger.
4. Press & Sear
Once the pan is pre-heated, place your hamburger ball onto your hot pan.
If you're making more than one burger, make sure they are 4-5 inches apart.
Using a wide, sturdy spatula (like this one), press down on the hamburger ball until you reach your desired burger thickness.
You'll need to use your other hand in order to apply enough pressure to smash the burger.
We're not worried about the patty being perfectly round: it's the thickness that's important.
Then add salt and pepper, or any other seasoning you prefer. I prefer Lawrys seasoned salt.
5. Now, don't touch it!
This is key! Let your burger patty cook for 2 minutes—undisturbed— on medium heat before flipping.
Let the Maillard reaction do its thing!
You will notice the fat in the hamburger starts to render out a bit, which helps that beautiful crust form.
If you are cooking in a pan, get yourself a splatter guard. This will keep the grease around the stove to a minimum.
Thin (⅛ inch thick) burgers below will cook almost all the way through right before flipping.
6. Time to flip 'em!
Using a wide spatula set at a slight angle, firmly scrape under the burger and flip it over.
It's important to keep the spatula pressed along the bottom of the pan the entire time so you can lift up all that perfectly seared meat.
Once flipped, it's time call your family over to look at that beautiful sear!
Make sure they notice how the sear goes across the entire bottom of the burger.
7. Season, cheese & cover
Once flipped, immediately season again and apply cheese (if using).
Good-quality sliced American cheese is our favorite (it melts really well), but use your favorite slices of melting cheese.
Now it's time to cover the pan.
Covering the pan helps the cheese to melt and will quicken the cooking process.
Since I cook my smash burgers on a griddle, I use an inverted rimmed baking sheet as a cover.
8. Cook, covered, until the smash burger patties are done
Burger thickness will determine how long these need to cook:
9. Let the burger patties rest
After pulling your burger patty from the pan, let it rest 2 - 5 minutes before serving.
Thinner burgers rest 2 minutes, thicker burgers closer to 5 minutes.
This rest allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat resulting in a juicier burger.
10. Last, pick a good bun
You just made an incredible burger, so now is not the time for cheap white buns.
All there is left to do now is add your favorite toppings and ENJOY!
Double burger suggestions
Since most of the flavor is in the sear, two smash burger patties should deliver twice the flavor...right?
Here are some suggestions for making double burgers.
Use smaller portions
Portion the hamburger into 3 ounces balls. A food scale makes this very easy.
Press them thinner
Press the meat to about ⅛" thick.
Shorten the cook times
The initial sear time will still be around 2 minutes, but the cover time will be reduced to 15-30 seconds (it just depends how cooked through the patty was before flipping).
No temp taking required
Since these patties are so thin, you won't get an accurate temperature if you try to use an instant-read thermometer.
If you want them medium-ish, only cover and cook an additional 15 seconds. If you want a bit more well-done, let them go closer to 30 seconds.
Chef tip: take notes
Since all stovetop burners and pans heat slightly differently, you may need to make some slight modifications to temps and times.
Some helpful information you'll want to jot down after your first cook:
- What burner setting was used?
- How thick were the burgers?
- How long were they covered?
- How were the results? Any recommended changes for next time?
I always take recipe notes in my 'Notes' app on my iPhone. I probably have 100 notes on my phone for different recipes where I've recorded various tweaks.
Fun Fact: taking notes is a good habit to get into with any recipe you make!
How to clean your cast iron after making smash burgers
You will notice a bunch of burnt burger meat stuck to the pan, which can be difficult to clean off.
The best way to remove those burnt pieces is by deglazing your pan or griddle with a little water while the pan is still very hot.
When the water hits this pan, VERY hot steam is produced and can burn you.
I find the best time to add this water is while the burgers are resting those few short minutes before eating.
Right after some water has been added and the steam subsides a little, use the spatula to scrape up these burnt bits. They should come off fairly easily.
Just let this pan of water cool for an hour or so before you finish the cleaning process.
Last, re-season the pan if necessary.
Other recipes that should interest you
The recipes below are some of our best. I hope you try them too.
- Smoked Ribs
- Homemade Pizza
- Chicago Style Hot Dog
- Movie Theater Popcorn
- Reverse Seared Ribeye
- Butter Chicken
- Prime Rib Roast
That's it! We hope your family raves about these fabulous smash burgers as much as ours does!
- 1 lb 80/20 ground beef
- ¾ teaspoon salt, fine (¼ teaspoon per burger)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper (⅙ teaspoon per burger)
- 3 slices of American cheese (optional; see Recipe Note #1)
- 3 hamburger buns
- Pre-heat your cast iron pan or griddle on medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Portion your ground beef into 3 loosely packed balls. If making double burgers, portion into 6 balls.
- Place balls onto pre-heated pan and press down with a wide spatula until desired thickness is achieved (see Recipe Note #2). Season the top side of the patties with salt & pepper.
- Allow the patties to cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Then use the spatula to firmly scrape under each burger patty to lift and flip.
- Season the patties again and top with cheese (if using).
- Immediately cover the pan and allow the burgers to cook until done. This can take anywhere from 15 seconds to 2 minutes depending on your burger thickness (see Recipe Note #3).
- Once done, remove and allow the patties to rest 2-5 minutes.
- After resting, serve on a good bun and add your favorite toppings.
- Good-quality American cheese is a great choice for these burgers, but feel free to use your favorite melting cheese.
- Use your other hand to press down on the spatula in order to flatten the hamburger.
- ⅛" burgers: Cook 15-30 sec.
¼" burgers: Cook 45-60 sec.
½" burgers: Cook 75-90 sec.
¾" burgers: Cook 2 min.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 688Total Fat: 37gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 185mgSodium: 1237mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 59g
Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate: if you are tracking this information for medical purposes, please consult a trusted external source. Thanks!