When I was a youngster, McDonald’s served my ideal burger. The thin little patty was not the star, rather just a member of the condiment and bun ensemble. Although my preference was a result of McDonald’s ubiquitous marketing, I had also never tasted a properly cooked burger. Every substantially sized burger I encountered was dry and bland. No matter how many condiments I used to make the beef pucks palatable, the desiccated mass of overcooked protein stood front and center, ruining everything. It wasn’t until my twenties, when I first experienced a great burger. While I savored the crispy crusted, juicy, flavor bomb of beef (that’s what he said), I soon became angry. How had I gone two decades without experiencing true love?
'n Shake has been employing the smash technique since the 30’s and a more recent chain has incorporated it as their name, Shake Shack is often credited with perfecting the method.
Shack burgers use the smash to maximize crust formation, but leave enough thickness that allows for a medium to medium-well center. When I realized one of my gurus, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, had already tackled recreating the Shake Shack burger, I had to give it a go. I didn’t follow his instructions to a tee, in fact; really all I did is smash ground beef in a hot skillet, but I was impressed with the results. Salty, crusty burgers were enjoyed by my family. Even my 15 month-old was impressed. While literally chewing on the idea of the smash technique, I got to thinking how I could make the burgers even better.
Since entering prime grill season, I’ve been enjoying the flavor boost of combusted fats over hot coals. What if I could add smoky grilled goodness to the maillard munch of a smash burger? Pressing a burger through my Weber grate would just end as a sacrifice to the Grill Gods. As much as I’d like to win their favor, especially from Chip Hardwood, the God of Smoke, my family’s bellies take precedence. While pondering this issue, my peripheral vision picked up on a hanging cast iron pan. That’s it! The solution is a pan that can handle serious abuse. My plan was to start a blazing hot fire covering enough space to heat the pan while also allowing for an area to finish over hot coals.
I had good luck with this technique. While it didn’t impart as much grill flavor as I had hoped, I was able to make delicious smashed burgers without destroying my kitchen. Below is an adaptation of Kenji’s recipe, for the grill. I recommend using ground chuck because it contains enough fat to keep these medium / medium-well burgers from drying out. I wouldn’t go much lower than 15% fat for these burgers.
Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope you enjoy the post. This might be a good one for Father’s Day. Please question or comment below.
Dinner & a Movie
Bringing you food and drinks so that you can make movie night that much more delicious.
"Food is essential for life; therefore make it good"
Shannon does it Julie & Julia style as she cooks through a cookbook and shares thoughts and recipes along the way.