Smash Burgers Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep/Total Time: 15 min.
In this smash burger recipe, each patty gets delightfully crispy edges cooking in a cast-iron skillet. Add a slice of cheese and a few crunchy pickles, and these smash burgers taste like they were made in a restaurant.

Updated: Jan. 25, 2024

I’ve spent a lot of time working with grills, so people always ask me for tips on how to make the perfect burger. For most burger recipes, I advise them not to press on the patty. Doing so squeezes out all the tasty juices and makes the patty dry. But that advice goes out the window if they’re looking for a smash burger recipe. In that case, a firm pressing is in order!

You see, the best smash burger recipe is all about creating crispy, caramelized burger edges. Flattening the beef on a hot cooking surface maximizes the patty’s surface area, which leads to a beautiful exterior crust. There are a few easy tricks to ensure the meat stays nice and juicy on the inside.

What is a smash burger?

A smash burger is exactly what it sounds like: a burger patty that’s been smashed onto a hot griddle using a spatula. These thin patties cook up quicker than regular burgers. They also get crispy, browned edges from a process called the Maillard reaction. As the patties brown, the proteins and sugars in the meat begin to caramelize, creating hundreds of flavor compounds. Basically, it’s what makes smash burgers taste incredible.

How to Make Smash Burgers

In this smash burger recipe, you’ll form the beef into loosely shaped balls. Place them on a hot griddle, and use a spatula to smash them into thin patties. You can make smash burgers inside in a pan like a cast-iron skillet, or take them outside. Use a flat top for an outdoor grill or a propane-powered griddle like a Blackstone griddle.

Once the bottom becomes crispy and caramelized, flip the burger, and top it with cheese (if desired). The burgers always cook a little quicker on the second side, so be ready to transfer the smash burger to a toasted bun. If you need more time before serving, you can tent the cooked patties with foil to keep them warm, but they’ll be crispiest just after cooking. When ready to dig in, load the burger with all your favorite toppings, and enjoy.

Ingredients for Smash Burgers

  • Ground beef: Beef is the star of the show here, so choose the best-quality beef you can afford. You can use meaty-tasting grass-fed beef or the sweeter-flavored grain-finished beef. Your choice!
  • Salt and pepper: You don’t need any fancy seasonings for our smashed burger recipe. Simply sprinkle salt and pepper directly on the patty. Don’t skimp on the kosher salt. It crusts onto the burger patty and locks moisture inside.
  • Hamburger buns: The best smash burger recipe uses a soft, squishy bun. Sesame seed and potato buns are classic. We also love buttery brioche and salty pretzel buns. Just avoid any hard breads here. They won’t grip the patty, and the burger might slide out the side as you eat.
  • Burger toppings: Add your favorite burger toppings, such as mayonnaise, sliced American cheese, sliced tomato, dill pickle slices, lettuce, ketchup and yellow mustard.

Directions

Step 1: Gently shape the beef into balls

Place a 9-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, gently shape the ground beef into four balls. Handle the meat just enough to keep the ball together. Do not compact the meat.

Test Kitchen Tip: The more you work the ground beef, the tougher the burger. Use just your fingertips to form the loose balls. Don’t worry about tucking in any strands that may stick out. They will turn into well-browned bits of goodness.

Step 2: Flatten and cook the smash burgers

Increase the burner temperature to medium-high, and add the oil. Add two of the beef balls. With a heavy metal spatula, flatten each to 1/4- to 1/2-inch thickness. Sprinkle each with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook until the edges start to brown, about 1 minute and 30 seconds.

Test Kitchen Tip: When flattening the burgers, you can use a meat mallet to press on the spatula. This helps the burgers form and prevents the spatula from bending. After you smash the burgers, wait to move them until you’re ready to flip. A lot of flavor develops during this browning step.

Step 3: Flip the smash burgers

Flip the burgers, and sprinkle each with an additional 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook until well browned and a thermometer inserted into each patty reads at least 160°F, about 1 minute.

Repeat with the remaining beef.

Test Kitchen Tip: If you have the space, flip the burger onto an unused area of the skillet. It’s much hotter than the section of the pan where the burger was. To make a smash cheeseburger, add a slice of your favorite cheese right after you flip it.

Step 4: Serve the smash burgers

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Serve the smash burgers on hamburger buns with your favorite toppings, such as mayonnaise, sliced American cheese, sliced tomato, dill pickle slices, lettuce, ketchup and yellow mustard.

Smash Burger Variations

  • Make smaller patties: Instead of dividing the beef into four 4-ounce patties, make eight 2-ounce patties instead. The thinner patties will have a crispier surface area. You can stack them with a piece of cheese in the middle to make a double cheeseburger.
  • Add a smash burger sauce: Keep it simple with ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard, or use a flavorful sauce like barbecue sauce. You can also make a special sauce or your favorite copycat restaurant sauce, like In-N-Out sauce or McDonald’s special sauce.

Can you make smash burgers ahead of time?

Smash burgers taste best right after cooking, so we don’t recommend making them ahead. Cooked ground beef is good in the refrigerator for up to four days, but it will lose its crispy texture. You can, however, portion the raw beef balls up to two days in advance. Roll the ground beef into balls, and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Smash Burger Tips

What is the secret to smash burgers?

The key to making the best smash burger recipe is getting the temperature right. Starting with cold beef will make the juiciest burgers. Once the cold, solid fats inside the patty hit the hot skillet, those fats expand rapidly, forming flavorful pockets inside the burger.

It’s also important not to overwork the beef when forming burger patties. The meat becomes tough the longer it’s handled. Also, don’t move the patties around on the cooking surface once you flatten them. You’ll create a more flavorful sear and preserve the salty crust if you let the patties cook—undisturbed—until it’s time to flip.

What is the best meat to use for smash burgers?

Ground chuck that is at least 80/20 is the best ground beef for smash burgers. If possible, look for a blend that contains ground brisket or short rib. The ratio of lean meat to fat in ground beef affects the burger’s flavor and overall moisture content. The patties are very thin in a smashed burger recipe, so you need the extra fat to keep the burger juicy. Leaner meats can create dry smash burgers.

Watch how to Make Best Smash Burger

Best Smash Burger

Prep Time 10 min
Cook Time 5 min
Yield 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef (preferably 80% lean)
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper, divided
  • 4 hamburger buns, split
  • Optional: Mayonnaise, sliced American cheese, sliced tomato, dill pickle slices, lettuce, ketchup and yellow mustard

Directions

  1. Place a 9-in. cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, gently shape beef into 4 balls, shaping just enough to keep together (do not compact).
  2. Increase burner temperature to medium-high; add oil. Add 2 beef balls. With a heavy metal spatula, flatten each to 1/4- to 1/2-in. thickness; sprinkle each with 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Cook until edges start to brown, about 1-1/2 minutes. Turn burgers and sprinkle each with additional 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Cook until well browned and a thermometer reads at least 160°, about 1 minute. Repeat with remaining beef.
  3. Serve burgers on buns with toppings as desired.

Nutrition Facts

1 burger: 339 calories, 16g fat (5g saturated fat), 70mg cholesterol, 760mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 1g fiber), 24g protein.

Now is not the time to cut the calories or skimp on the salt. Go for ground chuck that is at least 80/20. If you can find a blend with ground brisket or short rib, all the better. The best burger comes with being liberal with the kosher salt—it's beef's best friend, trust me. — James Schend, Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin
Recipe Creator