What Is A Smashburger & Why Are They So Popular?

I started hearing about smashburgers a few years ago and now it’s everywhere. But what and why is there a craze for them? You might’ve assumed, like me, that the smash burger originated when the now nationwide chain, Smashburger (yes, very creative name), opened its first restaurant back in 2007. In reality, the very first smash burger may actually have been invented several decades prior. It got its name from a restaurant owner named¬†Bill Culvertson, when his employee smashed a burger on the grill using a can of beans and realized how much better it tasted.

When Smashburger starte, their idea was to create a burger from fresh 100% certified Angus beef that has been hand-packed into a ball, placed on a hot, well-seasoned grill, and smashed into a thin, savory patty. Placed on a buttered bun with a blanket of cheese, briny pickles, and a handful of other classic burger toppings, the new and improved burger quickly became a hit.

Smash Burger vs Regular Burger

So what really makes the two so different? Well, as you all are most likely aware, a¬†classic burger is made with a thicker patty that’s either been seasoned before shaping or just seasoned with salt and pepper (or not seasoned at all). They’re also often cooked to medium-rare or medium, which results in a nice, pink, and super juicy center. As you can guess from the intro, a smash burger is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. A loosely packed ball of ground beef that’s been placed on a hot pan or grill and then pressed firmly into a thin patty with a spatula or a cast iron press. The burger is usually pressed down onto the very hot cooking surface for at least 10 seconds to get a proper sear.

There’s not really a medium-rare in the smash burger world, but you’ll know it’s done when it’s nice and browned (almost slightly burned) on both sides. Even though classic burgers are also typically grilled, they’re not pressed down and flattened like smash burgers. Everything besides the burger patty (like the bun, toppings, sides, and¬†dipping sauces) is pretty much the same for both, depending on where you go. And of course, any version of burger deserves¬†great sides¬†to go with them.

The¬†Maillard reaction is a form of browning and is “loosely explained as a chemical reaction between amino acids and a type of sugar called a “reducing sugar,” located on the surface of food, in the presence of heat.” This reaction is what helps to create those incredibly deep and savory flavors and aromas we so often crave. Since most of the meat is pressed down onto the grill and browned, you’re getting more Maillard goodness than when cooking a regular burger. Remember: maximum browning equals maximum flavor. Not only that, but because they’re so thin, you can easily stack several on a bun ‚ÄĒ which BTW, also means an additional layer of melty cheese. And who doesn’t want that?

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