A grilled hamburger is always great, but you don’t need to take it outside for perfect results. Learn how to make a smashburger, the best indoor burger around. The owner of Goldburger shares his tried-and-true tips for squashing your beef.
There is perhaps no better way to both satiate and de-stress during our current cuckoo bananas timeline than cooking smashburgers. It’s soul-satisfying comfort food that’s made with minimal (and cheap) ingredients. Plus, preparation is quick, easy, and indoors, not to mention, it provides a safe outlet to unleash some of that pent-up aggression that’s been accumulating while in isolation.
As its moniker suggests, a smashburger is highlighted by ground beef that’s been flattened like a pancake. But getting your Hulk on in the kitchen, while fun, also serves a culinary purpose. The thinness of the patty allows the burger to develop its signature crispy crust. “It’s got incredible texture,” says Alan Yelent, owner of Los Angeles-based Goldburger. “And if you do it right, you’ll get really great juiciness out of the burger.”
Yelent knows a thing or two about doing it right. Goldburger became an instant smash when it launched as a pop-up in 2018. After a brief hiatus beginning in March,Yelent recently reopened his smashburger sensation, setting up shop in trendy Highland Park. Business continues to sizzle—he slings nearly 500 of his award-winning smashburgers daily exclusively via online orders for pickup (face masks are required and social-distancing is enforced).
Below Yelent offers up some of his patented tips and tricks for laying the smackdown on the perfect smashburger in the comfort of your own home.
Rather than sculpt a traditional patty shape, roll your ground beef into 2.5-ounce balls that are loosely packed to ensure effortless smashing. While it may not seem like a lot of meat, that’s because Yelent prefers using double patties. That way you can still ensure the perfect burger to bun ratio and there’s the added bonus of laying down an extra slice of cheese.
Seasoning is simple: a sprinkle of salt added just before the smash. (Skip the pepper, which burns during the cooking process.)
If you’re an onion fan, Yelent recommends topping your ball of meat with a handful of slivers. “They cook quickly in the burger juices, giving it a mix of grilled with some raw bite,” he notes.
As for the all-important smashing tool, Yelent prefers using a meat tenderizer but feel free to opt for a cast iron press, the base of a small saucepan, or even the lid of a pot if it has a flat surface. Bottom line, something heavy.
Avoid plastic and use a metal spatula for flipping. “You’ve got to have something hard and sturdy,” Yelent advises.
First things first: Get that cast iron scorching hot. Make sure to crack open the windows, otherwise your kitchen will be smokier than a party with Willie and Snoop.
Though it may be tempting, Yelent doesn’t recommend flattening your meat with a single, forceful smash. Instead, he presses until the patty is around a quarter of an inch thick. “That way, I get a little bit of pink in the middle,” he says. Using the meat tenderizer like a joystick, Yelent then smears the edges of the patty to maintain the all-important balance of crispiness and juiciness.
It’s time to flip when you notice juices bubbling atop your patty. “That means it’s got a good sear on the bottom,” says Yelent. “The juice is going up from the burger instead of out of the burger.”
Caution: When you flip your patty, DO NOT press again. “You’ll lose all of those juices that you worked hard to keep in,” Yelent warns. Simply use the backside of the spatula to carefully scrape and loosen the edges of the patty, ensuring a crispy, flaky crust as the burger sears for an additional 30 seconds.
After a final quick flip, add cheese (preferably good old-fashioned melty American) post-haste. “Once you start to see the edges of the cheese melt a little bit, that’s my indicator that it’s done.”
“I love ‘em all, man!”, Yelent exclaims when asked about his preference for toppings. Lettuce. Tomato. Bacon. Pastrami. Dill pickles are a particular favorite of his: “Never shelf stable. Always fresh.”
Yelent isn’t afraid to get saucy, though he’s not a fan of ketchup (“it’s too sweet”) or plain Jane yellow mustard. His signature Goldburger is slathered with housemade garlic mustard aioli for brightness and acidity. Recently, he’s been riffing on a version of Russian dressing that uses horseradish, Worcestershire, ketchup, mayo, and relish.
And finally, there are the buns which receive a quick butter toast. Yelent’s brand of choice is Bimbo, but any classic white option will do.
Now go forth and smash!