This is a post about burgers. I love burgers. They’re one of the foods that hit me hardest with cravings.
I deeply respect the Hefty, Thick Burger and its cousin, the Fancy Burger, but to be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of either of them. I don’t need an inch-thick patty or brie cheese or truffles on my burger. I’ve always been into really simple, fast-food-style burgers. Give me a thin, crispy, juicy beef patty, and some American Cheese Product, and I count myself a lucky gal.
As I recently learned, the burgers that I love are widely known as Smashburgers, having earned their name by the fact that they’re made by being smashed onto a hot, flat griddle, caramelizing all over, getting crisp but staying super-juicy because the meat’s rendered, bubbling fat doesn’t fall through any grill grates.
As for toppings, I like my burgers cheesy, topped with mayo and dijon mustard, maybe a little hot sauce, and maaaaybe some onion. No lettuce for me- it’s the vegetable equivalent to foam packing peanuts- and though I adore tomatoes and pickles, I prefer them on the side rather than inside my burger. I’m a true burger purist.
As it turns out, Smashburgers, or Burgers Exactly To My Liking, are insanely simple to make and they’re even better than their fast-food equivalents. Here’s how to do it.
This recipe makes 6 patties, best enjoyed stacked in pairs. Live a little!!!
~500g medium (in terms of fat content) ground beef. If you go with a lean, or god forbid extra-lean, ground beef blend, your burgers’ flavour will suffer terribly and so will you.
1 to 2 tsp salt, depending on your palate
1 tsp pepper
6 slices of your favourite American Cheese Product (Kraft slices are ideal)
Butter for the griddle or pan
3-6 burger buns (depending on whether you’re stacking or eating them individually)
- Dump the ground beef into a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix with your hands until the meat is all broken up (no longer in its creepy package shape) and the salt and pepper is incorporated, and stop right there, don’t mix for a second longer. If you over-mix, the meat will be pasty and patties will be dense. This is the opposite of what we’re looking for.
- Gently form the beef into 6 loosely-packed mounds. They should be so loosely-packed that they’re falling apart a little. Don’t even form them into patties, just little piles. Smashing them into the pan will form the flat, burger-shaped entities you’re expecting.
- If you have a cast-iron skillet, today is your day. If not, a regular pan will work, you’ll just have to grease it a little more. Put your pan on the heat and add 1 tbsp of butter. Turn the heat to medium-high and let it melt and start bubbling.
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, separate your burger buns and throw them in the oven to toast.
- Have your little piles of beef at the ready. Grab one of them, drop it into the pan, and press down hard with a solid metal or wood spatula. Really press down and try to get an even thickness going. Enjoy the sizzle. Let it cook, without touching it or moving it around at all, for 3 minutes.
- When you see little bubbles of fat start to breach the surface of your burger, run a thin spatula underneath it and make sure it hasn’t stuck. If it’s a little stuck, don’t panic. To prevent the crispy bits from sticking to the pan and being tragically left behind, use quick, small movements as you run the spatula under the burger- the best way I can describe the motion is “stabby”- just try and push the front edge of the spatula under the burger, pushing confidently but in small motions, little by little. Once it’s unstuck, give it a flip- it should be nice and crisp and caramelized- and cook for another minute or two on the other side.
- Your kitchen will get very, very smoky, no way around it. Throw on your extractor fan, have a towel at the ready to wave at your screaming smoke detector, and open your windows. It’s worth it, I promise!!
- Once the burger is cooked through, throw a slice of orange cheese on top and let it melt down, covering the burger and getting into all its little valleys. As this happens, take a bun out of the oven, add your favourite condiments, and throw the patty onto it.
- Repeat steps 5-8 for the rest of the beef. Most pans or griddles are big enough to accommodate two or three patties at once, so the whole process goes pretty quickly once you get into the swing of it. If you find your burgers sticking, add more butter to the pan.
- Serve the burgers immediately to whoever is lucky enough to be in your kitchen. Feel nostalgic for McDonald’s trips and diners of days gone by.