Less Meat Is More When It Comes To The Perfect Smash Burger

While the words "less meat," might strike terror in the hearts of the average burger lover, if you've ever had a smash burger, you know there is nothing to fear, as the undeniable joys of a perfectly balanced burger await you. Sadly, you'll never achieve true burger bite perfection by unhinging your jaw for the extra thick patties of a gourmet burger (and everyone knows smash burgers are better than regular burgers). No, the secret to the ultimate umami-laden burger bite is in its ratios. 

The true beauty of a smash burger is its simplicity, the layered goodness — gooey cheese, grilled onions, crisp lettuce, sliced ripe tomato, and that tangy special sauce, all nestled between two super-soft butter-grilled buns. Nope, if Flavortown is your destination, then the smash burgers' thinner, lightweight patties are your only ticket there. But how can less meat equal more flavor? 

It's easy when you're capitalizing on the Maillard reaction. Thin, smashed burger patties maximize this reaction, allowing the greater smashed surface area of the burger to be covered in all those deliciously browned, crispy bits, tastebud-to-tastebud, bite-after-bite, increasing the complexities of aroma, flavor, and texture. This means, that even if your double smash burger has the same weight as its chunky one-patty counterpart, the smash burger will smash on taste over your standard hamburger patty or hefty chi-chi chef-made favorites. But just because the patty is thin and the ingredients simple, doesn't mean transforming rich ground beef into its delicious final form is a slamdunk.

Mastering the smash burger

Mastering the smash is an art — one that's not technically difficult but which does require a certain vigilant adherence to achieve its flavor-packed, crispy-lacy-thin on the outside, juicy on the inside quintessential smash patty. It starts with the right fat-to-lean meat ratio – 80/20 is ideal. Those burger-to-bun-to-cheese-to-produce-to-condiment ratios are equally essential. But the shaping and cooking of the burger itself are what really lays the foundation for excellence here. 

While there is some debate as to what that "right amount," of meat is (standards range from 2 to 4 ounces per patty), conventional smash wisdom dictates ounces by how many patties you're looking to put on each bun. If you're serving singles (and let's get serious here, who's doing that?), then a pound of ground will get you four to five patties; doubles yield six to eight. Dividing your meat into equally-sized meatballs, you can smash your way to Flavortown on your griddle, frying pan, or my personal favorite, a beautifully seasoned cast iron comal. 

Creating perfect double smash patties in minutes is easy on a cast iron comal because it gets super hot and retains even heat better than your typical frying pan, it's easier to flip patties than a cast iron frying pan, and simpler storage than a griddle. Pro-tips: grill your onions on the hot comal first for an extra boost of flavor, only smash once to keep it juicy, and add a little gochujang to your special sauce — you'll thank me later.