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~ For the Love of Hamburgers: The Smashed Burger ~

IMG_4777I have always contended that hamburgers cooked in a skillet or on a flat-topped griddle are the best.  I won't turn down a hamburger hot-off-the-grill, but, sorry my friends, it's just not as moist and juicy as a hamburger that seared in its own juices.  As a 'burger lover, I'm always looking for and open to a new-to-me 'burger combination.  I wasn't, however, expecting to come across an old method for cooking 'burgers touted as a new method for cooking 'burgers.  Huh?  Read on.

If you ate in some of the mom and pop establishments I grew up eating in (in the small towns of Pennsylvania and New Jersey), I am here to tell you, the concept of smashing 'burgers isn't new -- it has merely been revisited and remarketed.  As a kid living in the pre-McDonald's food world, I watched many grill-cooks grab and slap an ill-formed ball of ground beef onto a seething-hot flat-top-griddle, then give it a solid whack with a big, heavy all-purpose spatula to smash it into a patty.  A few juices would bubble up around the sides, but, these 'burgers cooked so fast there was no reason to worry that might be cause to dry them out -- they were drippy-juicy to a fault.

Hold the presses:  I'm adding the Smashburger to KE today.

SmashburgerSmashburger is an American 'burger chain that was founded in Denver, CO, in 2007.  It currently has over 370 franchises in 37 states and 9 countries.  The name explains what they do, as they literally smash secret-seasoned 'burgers on a flat-topped griddle over high heat, so the fat and juices stay trapped inside. American cheese gets melted over the top, then, crusty and cragged-edged, they are served with various customized toppings on a soft, sweet secret-sauced bun.

SmashBurger-logoFounders, Rick Schaden and Tom Ryan are veterans of the restaurant-chain  world, with Ryan inventing some legendary items.  At pizza hut, he was behind the Lover's Line of toppings, and, the Stuffed Crust.  At McDonald's, the Dollar Menu, McFlurries  and McGriddles are all his.  At Quiznos he played a leading roll in developing Steakhouse Beef Dip and the Prime Rib Sub.

4-smasher-smashburgerAt Smashburger, Ryan put his PhD in Flavor and Fragrance Chemistry to use.  Every burger is made the same, using never-frozen chuck & steak trimmings, which resemble being chopped or food processored rather than ground.  Loose balls of meat, not patties, go on on a butter-brushed 385° flat-top griddle, and smashed with his invention, the multismasher, to create almost-instant crusty-caramelization.

The patented multismasher at Smashburger, with about 3/8" lip of headspace to insure consistent thickness, makes four burgers at one time.  The loose texture of the meat being smashed below its weight allows meat juices to bubble up, creating and trapping steam. After 90 seconds of additional cooking, the burger gets flipped and it's finished cooking in three total minutes.

Smashburger isn't another cookie-stamp fast-food chain.

Screen-Shot-2015-06-17-at-7.48.45-AMWhile the technique for making the 'burger is precisely the same in each and every location, everything else is left open to controlled interpretation.  In order to  avoid the stigma of a fast-food chain, after doing extensive localized market research, every menu includes at least one signature 'burger crafted for the locals.  For example:  Colorado locations serve 'burgers topped with roasted green chiles; Miami's locations serve 'em with grilled chorizo; in Minneapolis, which has a big Scandinavian populous, Swiss and caramelized onion goes on;  Oklahoma features fried-pickles, and, in Boston, it's onions and cranberry chutney (supplied by Ocean Spray).

The bread and sauces on the signature 'burgers are also regionally inspired:  Sourdough in San Francisco; telera rolls in California;  pretzel buns in Chicago, onion rolls in Minnesota, and; brioche in New York.  In Michigan the bread is slathered with cherry barbecue sauce; in Chicago, Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce; in Tennessee you'll get Jack Daniels barbecue sauce; Florida's sauce contains orange juice;  New Orlean's makes theirs with Barq's root beer syrup, and: in Utah (The Beehive State), it's honey barbecue.  One more tidbit:  In 2012 a program to partner with regional craft beer breweries to pair and serve local beers was launched too.

For my basic smashed-'burger seasoning, sauce & beef:

IMG_4695Both the Smashburger seasoning and Smashburger sauce are pretty well-guarded secrets.  That said, research reveals the seasoning contains:  salt, black pepper, garlic powder and granulated beef flavoring.  Research also reveals the sauce contains:  mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles and lemon juice.  Armed with that information, I simply concocted my own versions, to my liking.  As for the beef, I've been grinding my own in the food processor for decades -- there is indeed a discernible difference between its texture and traditional ground.  For my smashed 'burgers, I am using a 2:1 ratio of 85/15 (85% lean/15% fat) ground beef and food processor ground flank steak. Feel free to use all 85/15 ground beef -- they'll taste great, but the texture will be different.

IMG_4661 IMG_4665 IMG_4665 IMG_4665 IMG_4670 IMG_4670 IMG_4670~Step 1.  Place 2 pounds ground beef (32 ounces) in a large bowl.  Cut 1 pound flank steak (16 ounces) flank steak into 1 1/2" chunks.  Place the chunked steak in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade -- depending upon the size of the food processor, working in two batches may be necessary.  Using a series of 30 rapid on-off pulses, process/grind/mince the meat.  Place the ground steak in the bowl with the ground beef.  Using your hands, thoroughly combine the two.

IMG_4655For my seasoning & the sauce:

2  teaspoons fine sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon beef bouillion

IMG_4658Stir spices together. Makes a scant 2 Tbsp. 

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2e448b8970c1  cup mayonnaise

1/4  cup each: ketchup and sweet pickle relish

1  tablespoon yellow mustard

1  teaspoon white vinegar

1/2  teaspoon each:  garlic and onion powder and paprika

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2e4490f970cWhisk all ingredients together, cover and refrigerate 1 hour.  Makes 1 1/2 cups.

To make my basic Smashburger-style smashed 'burger:

IMG_4691If you're thinking a smashed 'burger is a thin, scrawny, bordering-on-dry-edged 'burger, you'd be wrong. Smashed 'burgers are thick and juicy crispy-edged perfection.    The only thing that can change that is if YOU overcook this all-beef plus American-cheese patty served on a Brioche roll topped with secret sauce, sweet pickle chips, acidy tomato slices, shaved red onion, and, soft Bibb lettuce leaves.  

One more noteworthy point:  In order to maintain the perfect temperature of 385º in the home kitchen, I'm turn to my trusty flat-surfaced 16" electric skillet to cook them and it works perfectly. While I am demonstrating one today, the skillet is large enough easily make two-at-a-time.  On a cheese-melting note, I have two cheese-melting domes which accommodates both 'burgers, but, there's no need for them -- just put the lid on the skillet and wait for the cheese to melt.

IMG_4681For each smashed 'burger & cheese:

6  ounces Mel's-meat mixture per sandwich, prepared as directed above

2  pinches Mel's-'burger seasoning blend per sandwich, prepared as directed above

1-2  slices yellow American cheese, 1 or 2, your choice

For the rolls & the toppings for each sandwich:

1  4"-round brioche hamburger roll, sliced in half horizontally

1-1 1/2  tablespoons Mel's-'burger sauce per sandwich, prepared as directed above

4 sweet pickle chips per sandwich

3  thin slices Campari tomatoes per sandwich

10-12 thinly-sliced red onion pieces (half-moon shapes) per sandwich

3-4  small, soft Bibb lettuce leaves per sandwich

1 1/2 teaspoons salted butter, for preparing electric skillet or flat-topped grill

IMG_4694 IMG_4694 IMG_4694 IMG_4694 IMG_4716 IMG_4716 IMG_4716 IMG_4716 IMG_4726 IMG_4726 IMG_4726 IMG_4726~Step 1.  In electric skillet, melt butter over low heat.  When melted, using a pastry brush, paint bottom of skillet.  Increase the heat to 385°.  Place a lightly-compacted 6-ounce ball of meat mix on the skillet.  Using the grill press, smash it down, lifting and lowering the press 2-3 times to make sure the entire surface has been evenly smashed (into a free-form, craggy-edged 4"-4 1/2"-sized patty).  Lightly-season top of 'burger.  Sauté for 2 minutes.  Flip the 'burger over, top with 1-2 slices of cheese (one is traditional, two is additional), place cheese dome on and cook for another 1-1 1/2 minutes (1 minute for rare-ish, 1 1/2 minutes for medium-rare-ish).  Turn heat off.  When the butter-sputtering stops, use a spatula to transfer to rolls topped as directed below.

IMG_4740 IMG_4740 IMG_4740 IMG_4740 IMG_4749 IMG_4749 IMG_4749 IMG_4749~Step 2.  Slice each brioche roll horizontally and place the bottom half on a plate.  Slather the bottom half of the brioche roll with 1-1 1/2 tablespoons of the secret sauce.  Plop a hot cheese-topped smashed-'burger on top.  Coming up next: four sweet pickle slices, three small Campari tomato slices, and, a scattering of red onion.  Finish these beautiful 'burgers with a few small, soft Bibb lettuce leaves.  Put the bun tops on and enjoy each and every drippy-juicy bite.

Once you've smashed a 'burger, you'll never grill a 'burger:

IMG_4767Enjoy each & every drippy-juicy succulently-seasoned bite:

IMG_4783For the Love of Hamburgers:  The Smashed Burger:  Recipe yields meat mixture for 8 (6-ounce) single-pattied 'burgers/2 tablespoons secret-seasoning/1 1/2 cups secret sauce/instructions to smash, cook and top smashed-'burgers. 

Special Equipment List:  ramekin; 1-cup measuring container; small whisk; cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; kitchen scale; 16" electric skillet; pastry brush; 'burger press; cheese-melting dome; wide spatula;  serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d27ff4dc970cCook's Note:  Armed with the right equipment (a skillet, a lid, and a heat source) hamburgers or cheeseburgers can be made anywhere, anytime -- even under the worst of circumstances.  My recipe for  ~ The  Iwatani 12-Minute Tornado Cheeseburger ~ is proof that just because you have no electricity for a week, is no reason to not eat great food.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


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