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The key to a better burger: Crust is king!

Staff, America's Test Kitchen on

Smashed burgers share the same thin, verging-on-well-done profile and all-American array of condiments as typical fast-food burgers, but their big selling point is an ultra-brown, crispy crust. We used commercial ground beef instead of grinding our own, because the former is ground finer and thus exposes more myosin, a sticky meat protein that helps the patties hold together when they are smashed.

Using a small saucepan to press straight down on the meat ensured that it spread and stuck uniformly to the skillet (instead of shrinking as it cooked), which helped guarantee deep browning. We made two smaller patties at a time instead of one larger one, because they fit nicely inside a burger bun.

Sandwiching a melty slice of Kraft American cheese between the two patties helped the cheese melt thoroughly and seep into the meat almost like a rich, salty cheese sauce would. Our creamy, tangy burger sauce added more richness and moisture; lettuce and thinly sliced tomato provided freshness and acidity; and the soft bun offered tenderness.

Smashed Burgers

Serves 2

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped dill pickles plus 1/2 teaspoon brine

1 1/2 teaspoons ketchup

1/8 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon pepper

For the burgers:

2 hamburger buns, toasted if desired

8 ounces (80% lean) ground beef


1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

2 slices American cheese (2 ounces)

Bibb lettuce leaves

Thinly sliced tomato

For the sauce:

1. Stir all ingredients together in a bowl.

For the burgers:

1. Spread 1 tablespoon sauce on the cut side of each bun top. Divide beef into 4 equal pieces (2 ounces each); form into loose, rough balls (do not compress). Place oil in 12-inch cast-iron or carbon-steel skillet. Use paper towel to rub oil into bottom of skillet (reserve paper towel). Heat over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. While skillet heats, wrap bottom and sides of small saucepan with large sheet of aluminum foil, anchoring foil on rim, and place large plate next to cooktop.

2. Increase heat to high. When skillet begins to smoke, place 2 balls about 3 inches apart in skillet. Use bottom of prepared saucepan to firmly smash each ball until 4 to 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Place saucepan on plate next to cooktop. Sprinkle patties with 1/8 teaspoon salt and season with pepper. Cook until at least three-quarters of each patty is no longer pink on top, about 2 minutes (patties will stick to skillet).

3. Use thin metal spatula to loosen patties from skillet. Flip patties and cook for 15 seconds. Slide skillet off heat. Transfer 1 burger to each bun bottom and top each with 1 slice American cheese. Gently scrape any browned bits from skillet, use tongs to wipe with reserved paper towel, and return skillet to heat. Repeat with remaining 2 balls and place burgers on top of cheese. Top with lettuce and tomato. Cap with prepared bun tops. Serve immediately.

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