The Trick To Properly Smashing Burgers

The next time you're planning on making burgers, why not take a page out of the Hulk's book by giving your burgers a good smash? There's nothing wrong with a classic hamburger recipe, but there's also nothing wrong with a thinner, crispier patty. If classic burgers are pancakes, then smash burgers are crepes; two ways to enjoy essentially the same dish.

For the uninitiated, Our Modern Kitchen explains that a smash burger is a hamburger patty that has been pressed down onto a ripping hot griddle to cook in its own juices. This style of burger has always been popular at burger shops like In-N-Out Burger and Shake Shack, but it's seen a resurgence in recent years in standalone restaurants (via Eater). Most places are using patties that are pared down to one to three ounces, smashing them on griddles, then serving them up quickly to hungry customers.

Cook's Illustrated points out that the secret to a good smash burger is, unsurprisingly, all in the smash. The reason smash burgers have so much savory flavor is that their increased surface area creates a beautifully charred crust, but how do you execute that properly?

Get creative for the perfect smash

If the secret to a great smash burger is maximizing its crispy surface area, you'll want to make sure you're getting an even press on the burger patty. The best tool for the job would be a burger press, but such a specialized tool might not make sense for most folks to keep in their kitchen. Bon Appétit recommends simply smashing your burgers down onto the griddle or cast iron with a spatula. This might be a convenient and easy way to do it, but it might not get the best results.

Cook's Illustrated points out that spatulas typically provide an uneven press because the handle is offset from where you're applying force. This means that you're not getting as much pressure on your burger as you need, and it may produce an uneven patty. Instead, the magazine recommends using a small saucepan. By safely gripping both sides and pressing down with your hands, you'll be able to get an even amount of heavy pressure going straight down onto the burger.

As Hospitality Magazine adds, you can also follow in the footsteps of Kentucky's early smash burger pioneers and use a large can of beans (or any large can) to smash the burgers. Just be sure to clean it off before it goes back into the pantry.

Any way you smash it, you are in for a crispy, savory twist on a classic burger.