No-Frill Burgers Perfect for a Family Dinner

June 8, 2021 Updated: June 8, 2021

If you’ve never had a smash burger before, you’re in for a treat.

These no-frills burgers are exactly what they sound like: ground beef that’s cooked in a skillet and smashed with a spatula to create rough, craggy little patties. It’s that rough, uneven texture that allows the edges of the patties to crisp up and get so deliciously crunchy, and cooking them in a super-hot skillet gives them their deep, dark, and flavorful sear.

Here’s how to make them.

80/20 Ground Beef Makes a Better Burger

These burgers taste best when made with beef that has a high fat-to-lean ratio. Our recipe suggests using ground beef that’s 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat, but anything over 15 percent fat will work well. The higher percentage of fat helps keep the burgers moist and gives them a better flavor. A lot of the fat will render off during cooking, so don’t worry about them turning out greasy or too fatty. They’ll be perfectly juicy, tender, and full of flavor.

If you want to substitute another type of meat, such as ground turkey or chicken, make sure to also use a fattier variety. Ground dark meats typically have a higher fat content and make flavorful, moist burgers. These are typically labeled “dark meat” or “ground thighs.”

Mastering the Smash Technique

Achieving perfectly crisp, craggy-edged burgers is all about the smashing technique. Here are three tips for mastering it.

Epoch Times Photo
Achieving perfectly crisp, craggy-edged burgers is all about the smashing technique. (Jesse Szewczyk/TNS)

1. Make sure your pan is very hot. You want your burgers to be crisp on the outside, yet tender in the middle, so make sure your pan is super hot. We recommend heating up your skillet for a full three minutes before adding the beef.

2. Only smash it once. Resist the urge to smash the burgers a second time after flipping. Smashing them after their initial smash could cause some of their juices and fat to release, resulting in a dry burger.

3. Don’t move them around. The key to getting a dark, crisp exterior is to leave the burgers alone. After smashing, don’t move them around. If the burgers aren’t releasing from the pan, that means they need more time to cook and should be left alone for another minute.

Easy Homemade Smash Burgers

Serves 4

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pound ground beef (80 percent fat/20 percent lean)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
  • 4 split hamburger buns, toasted
  • Topping options: pickle slices, thinly sliced red onion, tomato slices, lettuce

Place kosher salt, seasoned salt, black pepper, and garlic powder in a small bowl and stir to combine.

Divide ground beef into 4 portions and form into rough, loose balls—don’t press them together. Place on a baking sheet or large plate and sprinkle all over with the seasoning mixture.

Heat a 10-inch or larger cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot—approximately 3 minutes. Add canola oil. Working in 2 batches if needed so as not to crowd the pan, add the beef balls. Flatten the balls with a flat spatula to form rough 4-inch wide patties that are roughly 1/2-inch thick.

Cook until the edges are brown and the beef no longer sticks to the skillet—2 to 3 minutes. Flip and place 1 slice of sharp cheddar cheese on top of each patty, if using. Continue cooking until the cheese is fully melted and burgers no longer stick to the pan—2 to 3 minutes.

Serve immediately on toasted buns with desired toppings.

Recipe Note: Leftover burger patties can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Jesse Szewczyk is studio food editor for TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to editorial@thekitchn.com. Copyright 2021 Apartment Therapy. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.