Smash Burgers 101: What's the Hype?
If you've been following along in the grilling world, you've heard of smash burgers. (No, not the restaurant... Although they claim to be the masterminds behind this whole operation.) We're here to break down what makes smash burgers so great and how to master it. Is it really as easy as it sounds?
What's the Difference?
To smash or not to smash... That is the question. The basics behind the 2 styles of burger-making is the same: ground beef on a grill. However, the science behind it? That's a different story.
Burgers: What happens on the grill?
When cooking a classic, thick burger on the grill, the meat’s natural sugars and proteins react with each other under the extreme heat, breaking down into hundreds of different compounds that give the burget that browned outer edge. This is known as the Malliard reaction. For thick burgers, this happens at about 250F degrees and increase with the increase of heat. However, the higher the heat, the more likely you are to lose all the moisture in the burger at the expense of the flavor.
Smash Burgers: How is it different?
With smash burgers, the concern of moisture goes away! Here's why.
First of all, when you smash the patty, you're creating more surface area for the Malliard reaction to take place. This means more flavor! The reason this doesn't dry out the meat is because the thinness of the burger increases the quickness of the Malliard reaction, which forces the juices in the meat to go upward (aka: back into the burger). It sounds like a lot, but its really not.
What's the Catch?
The key to getting this to work is high quality, fairly-fatty meat and NO SHAPING. That's right. Gently roll the meat into a ball, smash it, and grill it. This is key, because overworking the meat can make the proteins too tough, delaying the Malliard reaction and keeping the juices from soaking back up into the burger.
How to Do it Right...
There are 2 things you need to make smash burgers, and luckily, both of them are fairly simple to get.
1) A griddle.
Its OKAY if you don't have a high-tech, $500, table-top griddle. You can get affordable grill mats that turn your grill into a griddle whenever you need to. If you're not sure what we're talking about, take a look at these.
2) A smasher.
You could go out and buy a tool specifically for smashing burgers... OR you could just get a no-hole spatula that does the same thing. (After all, that's what the Smashburger restaurant uses.) If you need one, check these out. They're fully customizable too!