The Smashburger was popularized by a fast-casual hamburger restaurant chain of the same name founded in Denver, Colorado.
They have a proprietary system of smashing their burgers and cooking them quickly. It creates a thin patty, with a caramelized, crispy crust. Top it with cheese and all the fixings and you’re in for a real treat.
Living in Denver, I’ve been working on my homemade Smashburger for years now and I’ve even made a version on my own blog a few years ago. This recipe, though, is officially my favorite way to make a homemade burger, especially if you don’t have access to a grill.
Smashburgers can be topped in any way you choose, but the classic involves a homemade smash sauce (a mayo and mustard based topping), along with American cheese, tomatoes, red onions, and lettuce.
Trust me when I say that once you start making these, you’ll be firmly on team Smashburger. They are the best!
What is a Smashburger?
The idea behind a Smashburger is that instead of letting a big, fat burger languish on the grill to cook, you add the burger meat to a rip-roaring hot skillet or griddle and smash it as it cooks for the first few seconds. The heat plus pressure combo results in a crispy and well-browned burger that cooks very fast.
Maillard Reaction is Key
The Smashburger is cooked over high heat with a lot of pressure, which helps the beef develop a deep, rich crust. The browning process that happens is officially called the maillard reaction. The end result is delicious caramelized flavor and a burger that cooks quickly and doesn’t dry out.
Bonus: The burger is pressed at the beginning of cooking so you don’t end up with any football burgers, you know what I’m talking about—the shrunken burgers with a bulge in the center.
The hard part of making Smashburgers at home is also a result of this maillard reaction. You want a hot skillet which will create a fair amount of sizzle, steam, and smoke as it browns quickly in butter. You will absolutely want to crank up any over-the-stove fan you have. I even open a window or two when I cook these at home to help with air flow and prevent fire alarms from going off! It’s going to get smoky!
The Best Beef for a Smashburger
The best beef to use for a Smashburger is ground chuck, which should have a fat content in the 15-20 percent range.
Using a higher fat beef is nice because as the fat melts it further caramelizes the burger while cooking. Also, fat is flavor! You can use a leaner cut if it’s all you can find, but it’s worth it to ask your butcher to grind up some fresh if you can.
That said, perfect is the enemy of good. Any ground meat will caramelize well using this smash method. You can even use plant-based meats with decent results if you are smashing them like this.
How to Make a Smashburger
To make a Smashburger, divide your beef into four loosely packed balls. I wouldn’t bother with a scale for this. If you eyeball four loosely packed balls, they will be close in size. You’ll buy one pound of meat for this recipe so each burger should be four ounces. This will end up giving you a nice thin patty. Season the outside of your balled meat with the burger seasoning mix.
Get your skillet or cast iron griddle hot over medium-high heat. Do not use non-stick skillets for this because you won’t get as good of a crust on the burger. Add some butter and spread it around. It will start to brown, which is fine.
Add the meat balls to the skillet and immediately add pressure to them. The best way to do this at home is to wrap a second smaller skillet in foil and press down hard on the beef balls for about 10 seconds each until they are very flat and sizzling. Repeat with all the burgers. If you don’t have a smaller skillet to press down don’t worry about it. Just use a spatula.
Then let the burgers cook for another 60-90 seconds until the juices start to bubble through the burgers. Season again with a pinch of burger seasoning mix and flip the burgers with a sturdy metal spatula. Be sure to scrape under the burger to ensure you get all the crispy bits.
Add cheese and cook for another minute or two.
Serve Smashburgers immediately!
How to Make Smash Sauce and Other Toppings
Smash sauce is a classic burger sauce. I make my version with mayo, mustard, a splash of pickle juice, and some finely diced pickles. It’s a burger sauce!
Also, prepare any other toppings you’d like before you cook the burgers. They cook so fast, you don’t want to have to worry about slicing tomatoes while you’ve already cooked the burgers.
Other Ways to Dress Up a Smashburger
The burger is really the star of the show here, so I like to keep my toppings minimal, but if you want you can jazz up the burgers with all kinds of toppings. Here are a few ideas:
- Sauté mushrooms and use Swiss cheese instead of American cheese
- Add roasted poblano chiles and pepper jack cheese plus a slice of avocado
- Skip the smash sauce and use a good thick BBQ sauce with crispy onions
More Great Burger Recipes!
Smashburgers cook up pretty quickly so make sure all your toppings are ready, including the burger sauce, before you begin cooking.
- For the copycat smash sauce
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons pickle juice
- 1 tablespoon diced pickle
- For the burger seasoning mix
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- For the smashburger
- 1 pound 80/20 ground chuck
- 4 potato hamburger buns
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- For the toppings
- 1/2 head green leaf lettuce, washed and dried
- 1 medium tomato, sliced
- 1/2 Red onion, sliced
- 6 slices American cheese
Make the copycat smash sauce:
In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, mustard, pickle juice, and diced pickles. Set aside until you’re ready to assemble your burgers.
Make the burger seasoning mix:
In another small bowl combine the kosher salt, black pepper, and seasoned salt.
Prepare the burgers:
Loosely divide the ground beef into four even balls. Season the balls of beef with a 1/8 teaspoon burger seasoning mix. Don’t worry about completely covering them. You can add more seasoning when they are cooking.
Cook the smashburgers:
Wrap a heavy skillet (cast iron works well) with some foil, you will use this to smash the burgers. I use a smaller 8-inch cast iron skillet, but any smaller size will work.
Turn on the fan over the stove and open a window to help with air flow.
In a large skillet or griddle (I do not recommend using non-stick) set over medium-high heat add one tablespoon of butter. Once the butter has melted, add the beef balls.
Place the foil wrapped skillet or a spatula over the beef balls and smash them into flat disks. Smash each burger for 10 seconds, one at a time, applying a lot of pressure to it. Repeat until all the burgers are smashed.
Season burgers with more mix and continue to cook:
Season the smashburgers with another 1/8 teaspoon burger seasoning mix. Allow them to continue to cook for about 90 seconds until the juices start to bubble from the burger. Use a sturdy metal spatula to flip the burgers, being sure to scrap up any caramelization.
Add cheese to the burgers:
After you’ve flipped the burgers, add cheese (I like 1 1/2 slices per burger) and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, until burgers are cooked to desired doneness, usually medium. The burger is so thin that there’s no need to check temperature. It will be done if the burger has a good caramelization on the outside. You can continue to cook for another 30 seconds if you want a very well done burger.
Toast the burger buns:
While burgers cook, toast the buns. In a large skillet over medium heat add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the buns, cut side down, and toast for 30 seconds, until golden. Repeat until all buns are toasted. If you have a griddle, you can toast the buns alongside the burgers.
Build and serve the smashburgers:
Build a smashburger by adding some sauce, approximately 1 tablespoon, to the bottom of the burger bun. Add lettuce over the top of the sauce, then add a smashburger, and finally top with sliced red onion and tomato. Continue until all smashburgers are assembled.
Serve immediately with fries and a cold drink.