It’s no question that burgers are a summer staple on the grill. But to make your fall season even tastier, we’re here to chat about the best method for skillet burgers. Imagine being able to consistently create a juicy burger with the perfect crust and optimal caramelization. We’ll go over the myth that smashing burgers is bad, then explain the science behind our technique (aka the Maillard reaction), then guide you to the burger promised land. Bun voyage!
To Smash Or Not To Smash?
That is the question. It’s been a longtime culinary myth that smashing burgers results in a dry, unappetizing patty. Let’s explore that a bit more. There are certainly cooking methods that do not lend themselves to smashing. Grilling is one great example of this. If you tried to smash a burger on the grill, all of the juices would be released and it would not turn out great. However, there are some opportune smashing times like when you cook patties in a cast iron skillet. Don’t worry, we’ll discuss how to properly smash a little later in this article. Up next is the science behind a good smash.
All About The Maillard Reaction
The Maillard Reaction is the phrase used to describe the browning process when a burger is smashed. For our purposes, this method maximizes the delicious crustiness of a smashed patty. Originally coined in 1953, it describes, in scientific terms, the chemistry of browning. For burgers, it occurs on the outside only and increases the umami flavor of the patty. All the yum!
Tips For The Perfect Smashed Patties
Now that we understand a bit more of the technical side of the smashing of burgers, we are ready to share our tried-and-true tips for this technique.
#1: Properly-Appointed Kitchen
For the best smashed patty, it’s best to start with a properly-seasoned cast iron skillet. Also, we like a large and flat metal spatula to do the actual smashing; it should be pretty sturdy since you’ll be putting pressure on it during the smashing process. A plastering trowel is another creative option for the smashing tool; just be sure to buy a new one specifically for kitchen use and never cook with one that has been used for painting. Another cool option is a special spatula called a “Smashula“. Also, for best results we prefer a gas stove with actual fire, but do not fret as smashing can still be done on any type of stovetop.
#2: Better Burger
For optimum results, the meat needs to have good fat content. We’ve found that the sweet spot is between 20-25% fat. For extra gourmet points, consider some fun additions to the patty like brisket, short ribs, or sirloin for a better burger. Feel free to experiment with mixing and matching to your tastes.
#3: Preheat Your Skillet
Be sure to heat your skillet to a high temperature before cooking when using this technique. And do not add oil to the skillet; you want the meat to stick for that killer crust result.
#4: When To Smash
For the best crust without drying out your burger, you’ll want to smash within the first thirty seconds of cooking. Use your smashing tool to press evenly for a few moments.
#5: Post Smash Seasoning
Be sure to add salt and pepper AFTER the smash. This will help make the first bite of burger a salty, delicious, mouth-watering moment.
#6: No Multiple Smashes
Do not, and we repeat, do not smash your patties multiple times. Simply let them cook for a minute or a minute and a half while they sit. If you smash again after that thirty-second mark, too much moisture will be released and it’ll be too dry; timing is truly everything.
#7: Flip It Good + Toppings Time
After a minute or so of cooking, carefully flip your patties. At this time, you can add cheese if necessary. We love a good melty cheddar or gouda for this. For extra funk, consider blue cheese or goat cheese.
#8: Safety First
Cook the burgers for another thirty seconds while cheese melts; at this time, use your meat thermometer to check the temperature of the patty. It should measure at least 160 degrees before consumption according to food safety guidelines. Cook for a little longer if the temperature is not at the desired number, then remove once the burgers are safely ready.
So overall, we’ve covered the science behind the best skillet burger, why the smashing method is appropriate in the right circumstances, and our top tips for a smashing success. Just remember, in crust we trust!