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Think of your favorite burger. What do you love about it? For me, it’s the crispy char on the patty, juicy meat, a great bun, good seasoning, grilled onions, gooey cheese, and ketchup. Can’t forget the ketchup, or a great burger sauce.
Burgers on the grill are often dry and un- or under-seasoned. After their stint on the grill, they are placed on underwhelming buns that are often not toasted, and topped with cheese that is not melty.
It’s fine. Really, it is. The point of a barbecue isn’t always the food. It’s really more about hanging out with friends and family, but why not have great food too?
Enter the smash burger. A smash burger has a smaller patty that starts as a ball of meat and is smashed on a flat top grill. That patty gets supper sear-tastic from the fast contact with the hot grill. It cooks very quickly, so they are easy to do to order for maximum deliciousness. Here’s how you do it:
Like I said, smash burgers are a quick affair once they hit the grill, so preparation is key. Set up your grill station, or you will be sad.
First, patty assembly. I did a beef (85% lean 15% fat) vs impossible meat showdown. Take your meat or meat substitute, and divide it into 8 pieces per pound, 2 ounces per patty. This seems like a tiny patty, but they turn out just the right size for the buns, and you can use 2 (or however many you want…) per burger. Roll each 2 oz piece of beef into a ball and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Put that baking sheet in the freezer for about 15 minutes while you prep the rest. A short stay in the freezer helps the fat melt slower so the patty retains juiciness once it hits the grill, just don’t leave the meat in there too long. You don’t want it to freeze all the way.
Next, set up your grill station. This can be inside or outside, but it needs to be a flat surface. I cooked mine outside on a baking steel preheated on my propane grill. Like so:
Here’s a link to a baking steel. I bought one after my baking stone cracked on its maiden voyage. I use the steel for homemade pizza and smash burgers, mostly. You can also use it for bread. I like it because it gives you the high heat of a baking stone with way more durability. This is not the exact one I have, but it is very similar.
You could also cook these on a cast iron pan or griddle. You could do it inside on a burner, or outside on the grill. Whatever you do, preheat on medium for about 5 minutes. Be warned, cooking these is a very warm experience, so it will heat up your kitchen big time if you do them inside.
While your cooking vehicle is preheating, set up your fixins. Chop your onions for grilling, and lay out your cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc. on a plate or platter. Pro tip- get a small bowl and put in a few tablespoons of salt and some pepper. Mix it together, and use that for your seasoning. It’s fast and less clumsy than dealing with salt and pepper containers out by the grill. Slice and butter your buns, and out to the grill we go!
Step one: place your buttered buns cut side down on your hot grill to toast them. Be careful not to let them burn. Put them on a plate or platter to the side.
Step 2: Grill the onions. Add some vegetable oil to the center of your steel or cast iron skillet, then add onions, season with salt and pepper, and grill to your liking.
Step 3: Burger time! Take two balls of meat, season them aggressively with salt and pepper and place them on your cooking surface. Then, moving with purpose, take a large metal spatula, or, if you’re like me and don’t own a large metal spatula, a cookie sheet and two oven mitts, and squish the meat down onto the griddle. When you see browning around the edges of the patties, flip them. Put your cheese on top, stack your patties, and place on a bun with grilled onions and anything else you’d like.
Step 4: Chow time!
The Taste Test: Beef vs Impossible
For funsies, Mark, my sister and I did an impossible meat vs beef burger taste test. None of us had ever had impossible meat, so this seemed like a great time to check it out.
I was very impressed with the taste texture of the impossible meat. It had lots of umami, and a pleasant mouthfeel. I felt that it really shone in a burger application. The beef had a little more flavor and juiciness, but it really was close. My biggest hang up with the Impossible meat was the price, coming in a $10 for 12 ounces. Ouch. If the price comes down, I will definitely use it more in my cooking.
Be the hero of your next outside get-together with delicious smash burgers. You will be so happy you made them! They truly are the best backyard burgers.
- 85 % lean ground beef 8 patties per pound
- burger buns
- any veggies you want on your burger
- Form 2 ounce balls of ground beef (8 per pound)
- Place the balls on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Preheat your flat top grill, baking steel, or cast iron on medium heat.
- Butter the hamburger buns and toast them.
- Put 2 balls of beef onto the grill and smash them with a large metal spatula or a cookie sheet with 2 oven mitts covering your hands.
- When you see browning on the edges of the meat, flip the patties.
- Place cheese on one or both patties.
- Stack 2 patties and place them on a bun.
- Top with your grilled onions, and the condiments of your choice.