The Possible Reason Your Smash Burgers Dried Out

The smash burger is the classic meal found in diners and fast food restaurants like Shake Shack. As the name suggests, it's made by smashing ground beef on a hot griddle or pan (usually with a spatula) to get a thin patty with crispy edges and a charred crust. However, if your smash burgers turn out dry, there might be an simple explanation: You're smashing your burgers more than once.

If you smash a burger a second time, especially after flipping it, you're squeezing out the juices and fat, leading to a drier patty. When the ground beef first hits the pan, the fat is solid and its juices are still locked up in the meat. You're not going to lose a ton of moisture when you do the initial smash. However, as the patty cooks, the fat begins to melt and the proteins firm up, pushing out its own moisture, so if you smash the burger again, you're pressing out more of the juice. Keep in mind that the ideal time to smash a burger is within the first 30 seconds of cooking. 

Smash your burger once for juicy results

Smashing a burger achieves a craveable patty with unique craggy edges and a crunchy exterior. When you press the patty into the hot pan, you're maximizing the surface area with which the burger makes contact with the hot pan, which leads to a crispy outside before the inside dries out. Compared to thicker burgers, this cooking process deepens the Maillard reaction, which is the browning that occurs when you cook proteins and why your meat typically takes on a stronger flavor when seared. 

Other safeguards against a dry smash burger include ensuring the lean to fat ratio in your ground beef is high — ideally at least 20% fat. Additionally, make sure your skillet or pan is hot, and once you smash the burger, don't move it around. Depending on the size of your patty, leave it alone for about a minute and a half to two minutes to ensure a deep brown crust. To further avoid dryness, melt some cheese over your meat for the final 30 seconds of cooking to add another rich, gooey layer to your burger.