5 Ingredients or Fewer

The Food Lab's Ultra-Smashed Cheeseburgers

May 25, 2016
4 Stars
Photo by Mark Weinbberg
Author Notes

These are a pretty straight-up, classic cheeseburger—except that they defy one of the most notorious myths of burger-making: to never smash the patties down while they're cooking, or the juices will run out and they'll go dry and tough. But if you smash your burger as soon as it hits the skillet—while the meat and fat are still cold—there won't be any juices (yet) to lose. You'll maximize the points of contact with the raging hot pan, so it all sears into a salty, beefy crust. But even more than the noted benefits of smashing, I love this burger because it also takes out pretty much all guesswork. As long as you have an extremely hot pan and you follow the protocol, this all happens so fast that you don't need to test anything for doneness, you just need to move.
Adapted slightly from J. Kenji López-Alt and Serious Eats. For more on Smashed Burgers and many many more brilliant recipes, check out The Food Lab, —Genius Recipes

  • Makes 1
  • 1 soft hamburger roll, buttered and toasted
  • Condiments and toppings as desired, such as mayonnaise, mustard, shredded lettuce, onions, tomatoes, or pickles (or nothing—the burger's that good)
  • 4 ounces good quality, freshly ground beef chuck, divided into two 2-ounce balls
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 slice good melting cheese, such as American
In This Recipe
  1. Prepare burger bun by laying toppings on the bottom bun. Have it nearby and ready for when your burger is cooked.
  2. Preheat a large stainless steel sauté pan or skillet over high heat for 2 minutes (this can be done on a grill, or a stovetop burner). Place balls of beef in the pan, and smash down with a stiff metal spatula, using a second spatula if needed to add pressure. Smashed patties should be slightly wider than the burger bun.
  3. Season generously with salt and pepper and allow to cook until well-browned and top is beginning to turn pale pink/gray in spots, about 45 seconds. Using a bench scraper or the back side of a stiff metal spatula, carefully scrape burger patties from pan, making sure to get all of the browned bits.
  4. Flip patties and immediately place a slice of cheese over one patty and stack the second directly on top. Immediately remove from pan and transfer to waiting burger bun. Serve.
  5. Note: The burgers are not good cooked in advance, so you do have to cook to order. Fortunately, with high heat they literally take a minute to cook from start to finish. But do have everything else ready—meat portioned, toppings sliced, buns toasted (just before guests arrive and keep them under a cover or foil so they don't go hard) so that you can minimize last-minute work.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Alexandra Stafford
    Alexandra Stafford
  • Ginger
  • Jana
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
  • T
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

16 Reviews

Alexandra S. August 31, 2016
Made these last night. They were spectacular! Felt like such a treat to have such a good burger. My husband was in heaven. I used grass-fed beef (15% fat), which I just found at my little co-op, and it was so tasty!
Tommy August 12, 2016
Been making these for some time.
Use a large cast iron frying pan or cast iron griddle.
450-475 degrees - I use a cheap laser temperature sensor from Harbor Freight.
Heat source is a blue hot kerosene or propane burner stove appliance.
Do this outside or in the garage since this billows smoke.
Another special touch is a pat of butter in the middle of a 6 ounce burger for
a Wisconsin butter burger flavor.
One minute on each side for medium rare and flip again for 30 seconds for medium but not as tasty.
Grilled buns also keep the bread from getting soggy.
Even average hamburger mixes taste great !!
jodyrah June 4, 2016
I've made these numerous times. Just follow the recipe. The burgers will be cooked and the cheese will be melted. The burgers are very thin. I don't see how you would be able to get them "less done" other than increasing the patty weight, which would defeat the purpose.
brodieb666 June 4, 2016
The recipe says to flip, immediately add cheese, stack and immediately remove from pan-is the second side supposed to cook at all? Seems not, so why not add the cheese on top of each patty when cooking? Then the cheeses will melt during cooking, and maybe give you a less well done center.
Bobjackson3 May 31, 2016
So if you're grilling, would it work the same if you were to smash the burgers before you put them on the grill
pjcamp May 31, 2016
Doubtful. The point is to push it hard against the cooking surface. If you want to grill, you could stick a griddle on your grill and press them on that.
Ginger June 2, 2016
Bobjackson3, I saw this very thing on The Food Network. Jeff M, from The Kitchen, put a griddle on the grill. He let the griddle get really hot
He, then, put the cold ball of meat on the griddle and smashed it. He seared it on the one side, flipped it over and seared it for a minute on the other. The smoke from the grill would get in to the burger.
Ginger May 31, 2016
So, Kristen, I have heard over and over that meat should be room temp before cooking. When making this burger, it should be fridge temp before starting? Thanks
Kristen M. June 2, 2016
Yes, cold, so the fat stays in place!
jodyrah May 30, 2016
I used Havarti. Very tasty. Just as described.
pjcamp May 30, 2016
Who makes 4 ounce burgers? At least 8 ounces or go home.
T August 31, 2016
so make it a quadruple stack!
Jana May 29, 2016
Will this work with turkey burgers? I don't eat mammals...
Kristen M. June 2, 2016
Yes, just make sure they're not too lean! Dark meat would be better.
svbooker May 29, 2016
The second I finished reading this recipe I looked at the TV and the exact burgers were being made on Food Network. I could almost smell them!
Ginger May 31, 2016
You must have been watching "The Kitchen," svbooker.?