Smash Burger

5 from 6 votes
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The best smash burger recipe with a juicy and flavorful blend of beef, crispy toppings, and a special sauce that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Whether you’re grilling for friends and family or want a delicious dinner at home, this mouth-watering meal is perfect for any occasion.

Photo of a homemade smash burger with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onions.

We all love a thick and juicy stovetop burger, but you’re in for a culinary treat if you haven’t tried a smash burger! As the name hints, the burger patty is formed into a ball, added to a hot pan, then pressed down until thin. The result is a more flavorful browned crust on the surface with crisp edges. It’s absolutely delicious!

Typically a cast iron press is used for smashing the burgers down, but I’ll show you other simple techniques with the tools you already have. The patties start smaller since they will expand with flattening. Single or double them up and stack them on soft toasted buns with a special sauce and your favorite toppings. Serve with onion rings, tater tots, or French fries for the ultimate experience!

Key ingredients

Ingredients needed to make a smash burger recipe.
  • Ground Beef: Use ground chuck, which is 80% lean ground beef. It has the proper ratio of meat to fat, making for juicy and flavorful patties easy to smash down. There should be at least 20% fat, or it will be hard to press thin.
  • Seasoning: Use a simple combination of salt and pepper. You can also use garlic or onion powder for extra seasoning on the burger patties.
  • Cheese: American cheese will give the best melt and is often used in burger joints and diners. However, mild or sharp cheddar is a delicious choice for a stronger taste.
  • Burger Buns: Brioche buns are my top choice because they are sturdy, tender, and rich in egg flavor. Plain hamburger buns, potato buns, or sesame topped work well. Don’t purchase the jumbo size; the patties will be too small.
  • Sauce: The smash burger sauce recipe is a simple combination of mayonnaise, yellow mustard, and sweet pickle relish.

Make the sauce

A good burger always benefits from a sauce to complement the meat. Since the burgers are rich from 80% lean ground beef, I like adding mustard-based sauce. It’s just three ingredients; mayonnaise, yellow mustard, and sweet pickle relish.

Dijon mustard is a good substitute for a less tangy flavor. Dill pickles can be chopped up to substitute the relish. I recommend adding ½ to 1 teaspoon of honey to balance the pickled vegetable.

Form the patties

Ground beef seasoned with salt and pepper and formed into balls.

Divide the ground beef into 4-ounce portions. Gently form them into a round shape until they just hold together. You don’t want to compact the proteins, or it will make it difficult to press down. Overworking the muscle fibers also causes the proteins to contract and squeeze out more juices. Lightly flatten the top, then season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Refrigerate until ready to cook. You don’t want the burgers to be at room temperature, or the fat will melt too quickly, causing a dry taste with a less crisp surface. If you’re going to add two patties like the famous double-double at In-N-Out Burger, then make eight patties.

Pan selection

Use a large heavy-bottomed pan for even cooking and for the best crust formation. A cast iron skillet is my first choice, but a stainless steel pan works too. It sticks more to the stainless steel pan, so make sure the pan is preheated and a crust forms on it to make it easier to flip.

Avoid nonstick pans; the high heat required will ruin the coating. A sizeable hot cast iron griddle or outdoor barbecue with a flat surface works well for making a larger batch. Smash burgers should not be made on barbecue grates, or they will fall through when pressed.

Tools for making smash burgers

The ideal tool for smashing the beef is a round smashed burger press. It’s wide enough to make 4 to 5-inch wide patties, and the handle makes it easy to push down just once. However, here are some other options with tools you already have in your kitchen:

  • Cast Iron Skillet: Use the bottom of a mini cast iron skillet, 4 to 5 inches in size, to push down on the patty.
  • Measuring Cups: Use the bottom of a 1 or 1-1/2-cup measuring cup. You must quickly press down a few times since it’s smaller than 4 inches wide.
  • Spatula: Use a flat metal spatula to push down on the patties. It helps to use a meat pounder or another spatula to push straight down on the top of the blade to flatten the meat.
  • Parchment Paper: Cut 4 to 5-inch sized squares. Place a piece on top of the burger before flattening it with the desired tool. This helps to prevent sticking. If you feel more comfortable flattening the patties before adding them to the pan, do this in between two squares or parchment, then transfer them to the pan.

Smash the burgers

Metal spatula pressing down on a burger patty inside a cast iron pan.

Grease the pan with vegetable oil to prevent sticking and kickstart browning. Heat the pan over medium heat to ensure it’s evenly heated throughout. When ready to cook the patties, add the beef balls one at a time to allow for spreading when pressed. Don’t wait longer than 30 seconds to smash the burgers down with a sturdy flat metal spatula. Otherwise, the fat will warm up and release its juices.

You want maximum contact with the bottom of the hot pan. It helps to use another spatula or meat pounder to press straight down on the patties. They should be about 1/2-inch thick and 4 inches wide.

Cook the burgers

Cook each burger until a golden crust forms, about 2 minutes. Use the edge of the spatula to scrape and release the patty from the pan. Flip the burger and cook for about 1 minute.

Add a slice of cheese and heat until melted, about another minute. The thin patties cook in less than 5 minutes! If it’s easier to fit in the pan, cook two patties at a time.

Build the burger

Close up of a smash burger and french fried on a white plate.

Toast the buns in the toaster oven, or butter and toast on the pan until warm and the cut side is crisp—layer on the smash burger sauce, pickles, lettuce, patty, tomato, and onion.

Now that you know how to make a smash burger have fun customizing it. There are endless ways to switch up the sauces and toppings. Make a burger bar for your next party. Guests will have a blast building their own creations.

Flavor variations

  • Herbs and Spices: Herbs like rosemary, oregano, or thyme add a nice herbaceous note. Add dried alliums like garlic powder and onion powder. Sprinkle on a little smoked paprika for a barbecued flavor. For a shortcut, make a batch of my hamburger seasoning.
  • Spicy: Add chili powder or cayenne for a spicy kick. Give this cajun seasoning a try!
  • Meat: Try lamb, bison, pork, turkey, or chicken for your next smash burger. Mix ground beef with some Italian sausage to bump up the savory taste.
  • Umami: Increase the beefy flavor of the meat with 1 to 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, coconut aminos, Worcestershire sauce, miso paste, or anchovy paste.
  • Toppings: Avocado, butter lettuce, arugula, sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, caramelized onions, pickled red onions, crispy bacon, grilled pineapple, or a fried egg.
  • Cheese: Add cheddar, brie, mozzarella, gouda, swiss, provolone, blue cheese, or feta.
  • Sauces: If you like a tomato-flavored spread, try my secret sauce recipe. Barbecue sauce, ranch, green goddess, or teriyaki add a delicious twist.
  • Hamburger Buns: Brioche, sesame, potato, plain, or pretzel buns.

Serving suggestions

Frequently asked questions

What is the secret to smash burgers?

Use a heavy bottom pan, like cast iron, that is preheated for even and quick surface browning. Immediately smash the burgers to 1/2-inch thick so they stay juicy and develop a delicious crust. Don’t move them so that a crust forms!

How is a smash burger different from a hamburger?

Smashing ground beef into thinner patties creates more surface area for a well-browned crust with crisp edges. These patties only need about 2 minutes to cook per side, as you don’t want them to dry out. Hamburgers are shaped before adding to the pan and not pressed down. These are thicker and less crisp and can have more of a pink center.

Should smash burgers be at room temperature before cooking?

No! The meat should be chilled before cooking. This helps the fat in the ground beef stick together to hold the patty shape. The cold fat also prevents the juices from releasing too quickly, preventing a dry texture.

Hand holding up a smash burger with cheese.

What creates a flavorful Smashburger?

It’s not loading up the beef with seasonings. It’s using the Maillard browning reaction of proteins already in the meat to your advantage. As the beef reaches 300ºF, the change in the protein structure and flavor and aroma development occurs. It’s the characteristic smell in burger restaurants. Smashing allows for more surface area contact with the hot pan, creating a crisp and delicious browned crust. Smash the burgers down within 30 seconds to ensure a juicy texture and enough time to brown without overcooking the center of the patties.

Smash Burger

Make a restaurant-quality burger right at home! Smash burgers are an ideal way to achieve a crispy exterior with a juicy, flavorful patty on the inside.
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

Sauce

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard, or Dijon
  • 1 tablespoon sweet relish, or chopped pickles

Burger Patty

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 pound ground beef, 80% lean
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 4 slices American cheese, or cheddar

Burger Fixings

  • 4 burger buns, brioche, sesame, or plain
  • 12 pickle chips
  • 1 ½ cups shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 4 slices tomato
  • 4 slices red onion

Instructions 

  • Make the Sauce – In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, and relish. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Form the Patties – Divide the ground beef into four equal portions, 4 ounces each. Loosely form the beef into rounds. Generously season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the Pan – Add the vegetable oil to a large 12-inch cast iron skillet or stainless steel pan. Use a paper towel to spread it into an even layer. Heat the pan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high right before adding the patties.
  • Cook the Burgers – Carefully add 1 patty at a time to the pan. Immediately use a metal spatula to press the patty down to ½-inch thick and 4-inch wide. Continue adding and flattening the remaining patties. If needed, cook in two batches depending on pan size.
    Cook without moving until a golden brown crust develops, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Use the spatula to flip and cook for about 1 minute, then add the cheese and until melted, about 1 minute.
  • To Serve – Toast the burger buns. Spread on the sauce. Place the pickles, lettuce, tomato, and onion, then add the patty.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Make Ahead: The patties can be formed, covered, and refrigerated for up to 1 day in advance. Wait to season them until ready to cook.
  • Storing: The cooked patties can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
  • Reheating: Microwave on high setting in 30-second increments until hot.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 614kcal (31%)Carbohydrates 29g (10%)Protein 29g (58%)Fat 42g (65%)Saturated Fat 15g (75%)Polyunsaturated Fat 8gMonounsaturated Fat 14gTrans Fat 2gCholesterol 107mg (36%)Sodium 980mg (41%)Potassium 629mg (18%)Fiber 3g (12%)Sugar 8g (9%)Vitamin A 965IU (19%)Vitamin C 8mg (10%)Calcium 339mg (34%)Iron 4mg (22%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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