Smash Burgers: Tips, Recipes, and Top US Locations

Smash Burgers: Tips, Recipes, and Top US Locations

Smash burgers are a type of hamburger characterized by their cooking technique. Cooked on a hot griddle, the patties are pressed flat during the cooking process. This technique creates a crispy, caramelized crust, known as the Maillard reaction, which enhances the flavor. The pressing process ensures that the juices are locked in, resulting in a juicy, flavorful center.

How Smash Burgers Differ From Regular Burgers

Smash burgers differ from regular burgers in several ways:

  1. Cooking Technique: While traditional burgers are typically grilled or pan-fried thick, smash burgers are pressed flat on a hot griddle.
  2. Texture: The pressing method creates a crispy, caramelized crust on the exterior and keeps the inside juicy, unlike regular burgers which might have a more uniform texture.
  3. Flavor Development: The Maillard reaction intensifies in smash burgers due to the increased surface area contact with the hot griddle, enhancing the overall taste. Regular burgers may not achieve the same level of caramelization.
  4. Speed: Because the patties are thinner, smash burgers cook faster, making them ideal for quick meals compared to thicker traditional burgers.

These differences contribute to the unique taste and texture of smash burgers, setting them apart from conventional hamburger varieties.

The Ingredients of a Classic Smash Burger

Choosing the Right Meat

For a classic smash burger, the choice of meat is crucial. Use ground beef with a fat content of 80% lean and 20% fat. This ratio ensures a juicy burger with a crispy exterior. Select high-quality beef, such as chuck or a chuck blend, for optimal flavor. Form the patties loosely—around 3 ounces each—for even cooking and better texture when pressed on the griddle.

Essential Toppings and Buns

The right toppings and buns elevate the smash burger’s flavor. Use a fresh potato roll bun, lightly toasted, for a soft yet sturdy base. Classic toppings include American cheese, pickles, onions (thinly sliced), and lettuce. For an authentic taste, add a special sauce made from mayonnaise, ketchup, and a touch of mustard. The proportions of each topping should complement the beef without overpowering its rich flavor.

How to Make Smash Burgers at Home

Preparation Techniques

Choose ground beef with an 80/20 lean-to-fat ratio. Divide the beef into 2-ounce portions. Form loosely packed balls. Avoid overworking the meat; overhandling reduces tenderness. Preheat your cooking surface to medium-high heat. Use a cast-iron skillet or griddle for even heat distribution. Ensure your toppings and buns are ready before cooking. Have slices of American cheese, pickle chips, thinly sliced onions, shredded lettuce, and your special sauce on standby.

Cooking Tips for the Perfect Crust

Place a beef ball on the hot cooking surface. Use a sturdy spatula to press down firmly until the patty is about ¼ inch thick. Hold for 10 seconds to ensure contact. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes without moving. Flip and add a slice of cheese. Allow to cook for another 1-2 minutes until edges are lacy and crispy. Avoid pressing down after the initial smash to preserve juiciness. Serve immediately on toasted potato rolls with your prepared toppings.

Best Spots to Find Smash Burgers

Famous Smash Burger Places in the US

Shake Shack (New York)
Shake Shack, founded in New York, is renowned for its crispy, flavorful smash burgers. Using 100% all-natural Angus beef, they ensure each patty has the perfect crust while maintaining juiciness. Popular items include the ShackBurger and the SmokeShack.

Smashburger (Nationwide)
Operating across the US, Smashburger focuses on crafting high-quality smash burgers. Their menu features options like the Classic Smash and the Bacon Smash. They use a 100% fresh, never frozen Angus beef mix, guaranteeing an optimal smash every time.

Slater’s 50/50 (California)
Known for its innovative approach, Slater’s 50/50 offers smash burgers with unique toppings. Their burgers use a blend of 50% ground beef and 50% ground bacon. The Original 50/50 and the PB&J burger are top picks that showcase their creativity.

Hopdoddy Burger Bar (Texas)
Hopdoddy Burger Bar, based in Texas, provides handcrafted smash burgers made with certified Piedmontese beef. The Primetime burger and the Classic are customer favorites. They also emphasize sustainability by sourcing local ingredients.

Local Hidden Gems

Stanich’s (Portland, Oregon)
Stanich’s is a local favorite in Portland offering delicious smash burgers since 1949. Their Superburger, featuring a perfectly smashed patty with fresh toppings, is a must-try. Known for its consistent quality, this spot is a hidden treasure.

Bill’s Original Tavern Burgers (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
Bill’s offers a traditional smash burger experience with patties pressed onto a hot griddle. The Tavern Burger, paired with house-made pickles and special sauce, stands out in flavor and texture. Locals appreciate the nostalgic vibe and authentic taste.

Home Run Burgers & Fries (Louisville, Kentucky)
Home Run Burgers focuses on crafting smash burgers that deliver robust flavor. The Home Run Burger, with its crispy edges and juicy center, is a highlight. They use a special blend of spices, enhancing the overall taste experience.

Brown Bag Burgers (Cleveland, Ohio)
Brown Bag Burgers is a local joint delivering exceptional smash burgers. Their Brown Bag Burger, known for its crusty exterior and tender interior, is a hit. Each burger comes with a choice of fresh, local toppings enhancing its appeal.


Smash burgers offer a delightful blend of crispy texture and juicy flavor that sets them apart from traditional burgers. By mastering the right beef ratio and cooking techniques, you can create a mouthwatering experience at home. Whether you’re visiting iconic spots like Shake Shack or discovering local gems like Stanich’s, there’s a smash burger out there for every taste. Dive into the world of smash burgers and elevate your burger game to new heights. Enjoy the crispy, flavorful goodness that only a perfectly executed smash burger can deliver.

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