Thin, juicy, crisp on the edges, and stackable, smashed burgers take burgers to new and delicious heights. They're also easy and super quick to make. We’re going to teach you exactly how to get it done, including shaping, seasoning, smashing, scraping, topping, and stacking. Follow these tips and you burgers will be better than anything you can order out.
The basic idea is this: Instead of a thick patty cooked to medium rare, smashed burgers get pressed thin on a hot surface. This maximizes the meat's surface area, which gets beautifully browned with crisp edges. The browning is not just for looks, however. Thanks to the Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction all seared foods undergo, this browning adds deep savory notes. And while a smashed burger will never be medium rare, it cooks up incredibly juicy.
There’s an old tidbit of burger-grilling wisdom that says you should never press on your burgers while they’re cooking. So smashing a burger can sound counter intuitive, but trust us, it works.
Why Smashed Burgers Work
Smashed burgers work because, compared to a normal hamburger, they change two important variables: The thinness of the patty and the heat of the griddle.
When you cook a thicker burger, it takes longer for heat to travel from the outside of the patty to its center. That’s great if you’re looking to cook a medium-rare burger, but it does make it trickier to get the perfect balance of crispy outside and tender inside. You have to cook it quite a bit slower and lower so you don’t end up with a burned outside and raw inside.
Smashed burgers, on the other hand, flatten the patty to make it as thin as possible. That means the heat can quickly and evenly distribute through the patty, cooking it faster and crispier than your standard burger. And along the way, you get more of those lovely Maillard reactions we mentioned above.
Now let’s go step-by-step through a foolproof method to get the best smashed burger patties you’ll ever make.
Determine if you're making single patties or doubles (or triples).
Smashed burgers can certainly be served as a single patty, but because they are so thin, you will often find them stacked, which gives you even more of the browned goodness and crisped edges.
If you're cooking single patties, a good weight is 4 to 5 ounces. If you have a hearty appetite, you can certinaly stack two 4-ounce patties, but more often, smaller patties of 2 to 3 ounces are ample when stacking.
Larger patties will make for a thicker burger that takes a little bit longer to cook but stays juicier on the inside. Smaller patties will cook up fast and crispy, maximizing their browned flavors. Either option will result in a delicious smashed burger.
Make balls, not patties to start.
Because these burgers will get smashed, you don't start out with a patty. Instead, you roll the meat into tight balls, which take better to the smashing. Once rolled, you can season them simply with salt and pepper, with a rub, such as our Burger Rub, or even with porcini powder like Tim Hollingsworth does in his smashed burger recipe.
Get your griddle good and hot.
Call us partial, but we think the best griddle for making smashed burgers is our flat top grill. Its large surface area lets you cook up multiple patties at once. And because it has three different temperature zones, you can sear the patties in two zones while gently toasting the buns in the third. If you are just making a couple burgers, a cast-iron griddle or pan is your next best bet.
If your cook surface is very well seasoned you might be able to get away with not oiling. However, it's never a bad idea to coat the surface lightly with oil to prevent the patties from sticking. Heat the griddle to medium-high heat.
Once the griddle or pan is nice and hot, go ahead and place your beef balls on it. You should hear an audible sizzle as soon as they hit the griddle—if not, you haven’t let the cooking surface pre-heat enough.
Pro tip: While your grill is heating, cut a 6-inch sqaure of parchment paper. This is not crucial, but it comes inhandy when smashing the burgers to keep them from sticking to the spatula.
Smash the patties
As soon as your patties hit the grill, the next step is to smash them down. A weighted grill press, such as the one included in our Traeger Smashed Burger Kit is your best bet because its handle and heavy weight means less elbow grease for you. But you can use anything with a heatproof flat surface for smashing.
If using the parchment, place it over the ball you are planning to smash. Smash the ball until it becomes a round patty between ½ inch to ¼ inch thick. Remove the paper, if necessary, and move on to the next ball.
Scrape under the patties and flip.
Let the patties cook undisturbed for a minute or two depending on thickness before flipping. The flip, however, is more of a scrape because you want to ensure you get any browned bits sticking to the griddle to flip with the patty. Use the sharp edge of your grilling spatula to really dig under the burgers, scraping up as much of that delicious crispy crust as possible. Once flipped the burgers need only another couple minutes to finish cooking.
Top with cheese, if you like.
If making smashed cheeseburgers, top the flipped burgers with a slice of cheese. American cheese is the classic option, but sharp cheddar or other good melters work as well. To speed the melting, top the patties with a steam dome, like the one included in our kit.
Serve on toasted buns.
We almost always prefer a toasted bun for burgers. To toast, simply place them cut side down on the hot oiled grilled until lightly browned. Brioche or potato rolls are our go-to's because the tender bun works well with the thin patty. But you can go with whatever kind of bun you prefer.
Consider multiple patties for more flavor.
What’s better than one smashed burger patty? Two (or more). Stacking up multiple smashed burger patties gives you more crispy surface area and more layers for cheese and other toppings. And because they're so thin, you can have a double patty burger which is still a quarter-pounder.
Watch how it's done.
In the video below, Tim Hollingsworth makes a fancy (and delicious!) version of smashed burgers featuring porcini powder. But the methods he uses are the same as for all smashed burgers.
Like all burgers, smashed burgers take well to all kinds of toppings, Unlike most, they also are delicious with what you might call and under-ings, namly thinly sliced onions into which the patty gets smashed. Keep reading to learn how to do it.
Onions. If you want to add griddled onions directly to your smash burger, start with very thin slices of onion. Place them in thin piles on the hot griddle about the size of your burger. Let them cook briefly before placing your burger ball on them and smashing the meat into the onion. When you flip, be sure to get under the onion layer.
Other onion options would be thinly sliced raw onions, quickly sauteed onios, or caramelized onions placed on the cooked patty or paties.
Lettuce. A refreshing cunch of crisp Romaine or iceberg is almost always welcome on a burger.
Pickles or tomatoes (or both). The tang from pickles or sliced tomato complements the deep savory flavors of smashed burgers.
Sauteed mushrooms. Add to the umami flavors found in a smashed burger with the umami found in mushrooms.
Mustard, mayo, ketchup or a combo. We know some people must like a plain burger, but not us. We add one or more of these condiments as the mood strickes. Other sauces, such as A-1 or a barbecue sauce like our Traeger ‘Que BBQ Sauce are also great options.
We admit it: We can't get enough of smashed burgers. That's why we have more than a few variations on this theme ready for you to try.
Here is what you might call the basic model cheeseburger made with those thinly sliced onions. As mentioned, Tim's porcini burger takes things up a notch, but the only tricky part about it is procuring the porcini powder. We even have a smashed burger version of the classic juicy Lucy, which comes stuffed with cheese.
These burgers are all cooked on the Flatrock, and it's hard to find a better way to make them. That said, they can be adapted to another griddle. In fact, you can cook a smashed burger on your pellet grill as is done for our Classic Traeger Burger. Simply heat a cast iron griddle directly on the grill grates and get smashing!
So that’s the basic method for making smashed burgers. If it sounds almost too easy, that’s because it is! Smashed burgers are a pretty low-maintenance way of cooking ground meat.
But to make your best smashed burgers yet, keep these three tips in mind:
Whatever sides you like with regular burgers also go with smashed burgers.
Fries, perhaps obvious, are always delicious. These Baked Cheesy Garlic Fries don't require you to do any deep frying to get golden, crispy spuds. Other good potato options are tater tots or grilled sweet potato planks.
There may still be a few odds and ends of smashed burger recipe preparation floating around in your head, so we’d like to take a minute to answer the most frequently asked questions about smashed burgers.
What griddle temp for smashed burgers?
When using the Traeger Flat Top Grill, opt for medium-high.
What type of beef should I use for smashed burgers?
Use high-fat beef for smashed burgers, at least an 80/20 mix.
How many ounces should my smashed burgers be?
Smashed burgers work best at 4 ounces per patty if you’re doing single-patty burgers, or 2 to 3 ounces per patty if you’ll be stacking them.
Smoke, beef, fire. You don't need much more to create a burger worth repeating. Top it with our homemade smoked ketchup and you’ll never go back to the glass jar stuff.
Whiskey in a burger? Dreams really do come true. We start by incorporating whiskey directly into the ground sirloin and lightly season the patties with Traeger’s Beef Rub. Once cooking, baste with our homemade whiskey glaze for one-of-a-kind flavor.
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