- July 2023
- Makes 2
- Hands-on time 15 min, plus a few minutes resting
Our smash burgers are the best burgers you can make at home: simple yet offering a perfect balance, of salt, sweetness and tang. The smashing boosts that all-important caramelisation and crispiness at the edges, while letting the burger rest for a few minutes melds everything together.
For a juicy burger with a twist, check out these ultimate venison burgers.
- 52g (16g saturated)
- 33g (11g sugars)
- 250g beef mince, about 20% fat
- 4 slices American cheese
- 2 sesame burger buns, sliced open
- 2 gherkins, sliced
For the beef marinade
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp ketchup
- 1 tbsp American mustard
- 1 banana shallot, very finely chopped
- Pinch sugar
- Pinch garlic powder or granules (optional)
- 1 gherkin, very finely chopped, plus a splash of brine/pickle juice
- To make the sauce, mix together all the ingredients apart from the gherkin brine. Then add enough brine to loosen the sauce (but not so much it becomes runny). Taste and add more salt, sugar or brine to taste.
- Put a wide cast-iron or stainless steel frying pan over a medium heat and wait for it to heat up. Meanwhile, divide the mince into 4 equal balls. Flatten the balls slightly to make them into thick pucks.
- Put the pucks in the frying pan, spaced out as far as possible. Use 2 frying pans or work in batches if needed. Using a metal spatula and a rolling pin (or a metal press, if you have one), smash the pucks into thin patties, pressing down hard and getting them as thin as possible. Season liberally with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, pressing the patties back down if they start to rise in the centre.
- Use a metal spatula to scrape the patties off the pan and flip them, season with a touch more salt and lots more pepper, then lay a slice of cheese on top of each one. Cook for another 2 minutes, then scrape them up and set aside.
- Spread both cut sides of the buns with the sauce, then put 2 patties on each bun base, cheese-side up. Top with the sliced gherkin, put the lid on top and wrap the burgers in foil. Leave for a few minutes, then unwrap and enjoy.
What is a smash burger?
A nifty method which sees roughly shaped balls of seasoned beef mince added to a hot pan and then flattened with something heavy, creating a thin patty with as much contact with the hot metal as possible. I love it because it’s easy, quick and really does make a difference. You can buy special metal presses, but I just use a wide spatula, pressing down on it with the end of a rolling pin to really flatten and squish the meat against the pan. Finally, there really isn’t any need to add anything to your patty apart from salt and pepper. The other elements in the burger are going to provide all the extra flavour you need.
What cheese should I use?
Just use those processed slices of American cheese. We know it’s not real cheese. We know it’s full of all sorts of preservatives. But a burger just doesn’t taste right without it. It melts in just the right way, acting as a glue to hold everything together, providing just enough richness without an overpowering cheesy flavour. Weirdly, it tastes far nicer once melted – so don’t be tempted to try a piece straight out of the fridge (it’s not pleasant).
And what about the bun?
About four years ago it suddenly became very difficult to find a burger which wasn’t housed inside a brioche bun. I understand the appeal – they provide extra richness and sweetness and look all appealing and glossy. But they are far too overbearing, becoming a cakey coffin for your burger that’s generally too large and thick, knocking everything off balance. A simple sesame seed bun is all you need to house patty and friends: it quietly does its job of allowing you to pick up your burger without trying to assert its dominance flavour-wise.
Which sauces are best?
Ketchup, mayo and American mustard are the holy trinity of fast food condiments, but if you try and apply them separately you tend to get an over-sauced burger that starts to venture into sloppy territory. Instead, whisk them together with some finely chopped onion and gherkins (plus a splash of brine for extra acidity), then fine tune the flavour with sugar and garlic granules. This is where the majority of your ‘burger’ flavour comes from, providing sweetness and acidity to counteract all that rich meat and cheese.
To pickle or not to pickle?
The only other thing to add to a cheeseburger is a few slices of gherkin, to help boost the sauce’s acidity and add a little bit of crunch. The idea of warm lettuce or slimy sliced tomatoes just doesn’t do it for me – if I wanted those, I’d have made a salad! If you’re feeling particularly indulgent then a few slices of crispy bacon are admissible, but I find this upsets the balance between the fat and acid present, making it too greasy and heavy. Of course, the joy of a burger is its endless customisability – but even though I sometimes veer off the beaten track and add a dollop of hot sauce, some pickled cabbage or a tomato jam, I’ve never found they improve on the classic.
What's the secret to a great burger?
Once you’ve built your burger, wrap it tightly in foil and just let it sit for 2 minutes – just like in a burger chain. The trapped heat will soften the bun, allow the cheese to stick everything together and amalgamate that meat, bread, cheese and sauce into a single entity: the cheeseburger. When you unwrap it you’ll be greeted by a perfectly formed burger, tightly knit and without any risk of fillings falling out or your bun lid sliding off the top. It really does make all the difference, so if there’s one thing you take away from all this, it should be this.
Eco tip: Save the foil – it can be flattened out and used again.
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