The Food Lab's Ultra-Smashed Cheeseburgers

By • May 25, 2016 16 Comments

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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,
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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
  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.

More Great Recipes:
Ground Beef|Sandwiches|Snacks|Beef & Veal|Cheese & Dairy