From cookouts to sports games, from quick and easy fast food to elevated fine dining, burgers have been a staple of North American cuisine since their invention over 100 years ago. Burgers are delicious, satisfying, and incredibly versatile, making them a perfect meal for any occasion. With the recent rise in popularity of the Smash Burger, people are finding themselves wondering what the difference is between Smash Burgers and traditional burgers. Keep reading as we take a closer look at Smash Burgers vs. regular burgers, digging into the differences in cooking methods, best ingredients, and history.
What is a Smash Burger?
A Smash Burger is a kind of burger that is made by pressing a ground beef patty with a smash burger press or spatula onto a hot griddle or grill. The resulting thin burger patty is crunchy and caramelized on the outside while remaining tender and juicy on the inside. Because they are so fast to cook, cranking out a Smash Burger for any meal is quick and painless.
The History of Smash Burgers
The first known incarnation of the Smash Burger dates back to the 1970s in Kentucky. It’s said that the owner of the original Dairy Cheer burger shop created the first Smash Burger when a cook used a can of beans to press the burger patty onto the grill, giving it the distinctive crunchy flavorful bite that we know and love today. However, the exact inventor of the Smash Burger is hotly debated and difficult to determine, as the cooking method has likely been iterated upon and refined over time by different restaurateurs, cooks, and chefs. Regardless of who invented it, though, the Smash Burger has become a beloved dish and a staple of American cuisine.
While Smash Burgers have been around for many years, they have only really gained mass appeal in the past 10 or so years. Much of their appeal can be attributed to the unique texture and flavor profiles that Smash Burgers are famous for. Accessibility enabled Smash Burgers to take off with the rise of fast-food chain restaurants. It wasn’t until 2004, when a hotdog cart operator won a bid to develop a fast-food kiosk called Shake Shack in Madison Square Park in New York City, that things really took off. Shake Shack’s average store revenue eclipses McDonald's average revenue by twice as much, making it one of the fastest-growing fast-casual restaurants in the world, introducing Smash Burgers to a wider range of consumers.
The Ingredients of a Smash Burger
Smash burgers are often made with chuck beef, which is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat that is high in fat content and rich in flavor. Sirloin and brisket are other popular choices for making Smash Burgers, as they have a good balance of flavor and tenderness. In terms of seasoning, salt and pepper are a must, but don’t feel limited. Depending on your personal preference, feel free to experiment with other spices, such as garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme, and mustard powder.
The toppings for a Smash Burger are nearly infinite, but typically, the fresher the better. Some common toppings include lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, bacon, avocado, and cheese. Don’t forget your sauces, such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, or any special sauces you might want to try. A burger is a blank canvas, your masterpiece is limited only by your imagination and access to certain ingredients.
What is a regular burger?
A regular burger, also known as a traditional burger, is a type of burger with a thicker patty, seared and cooked on a grill, in a pan, or in the oven. The first known burger dates back over 100 years, to the end of the 19th century. While the story of who invented the burger is contested by two different establishments, the Library of Congress does officially recognize Louis Lassen, of Louis Lunch, in Connecticut as being the inventor. In fact, they still prepare and serve their burgers exactly as they did 130 or so years ago. Check out Mark Wiens' in-depth behind-the-scenes look at the Louis Lunch here.
The Traditional Burger Cooking Method
While cooking burgers is synonymous with grilling, there are several ways you can cook a burger. Depending on the equipment you have available and the ingredients at your disposal, burgers can be cooked on the grill, in a frying pan, on a skillet, on a griddle, or in an oven. Grilling usually yields the best results, producing a nice, crispy crust and a tender juicy interior.
To cook a burger, form the ground beef into patties of your desired size and thickness, making sure to avoid over-handling the meat, which will cause the patty to break apart during cooking. Heat up your grill, griddle, or frying pan to medium-high heat and place the patties on the cooking surface, cooking it for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side, depending on your temperature preference.
The Ingredients of a Regular Burger
The most important element in a burger is the ground beef patty, which is typically made with a blend of different cuts of beef, such as chuck or sirloin. Generously season the patty with salt and pepper to enhance its flavor, adding other seasonings to taste. The same toppings you add to a smash burger are appropriate on a regular burger and vice versa. Feel free to experiment with seasonings and toppings to make your burgers unique and memorable.
We're pretty biased over here. But it all comes down to preference, at the end of the day as long as you’re eating burgers, there really is no wrong answer. If you’re in the mood for a crispy crust, juicy interior, and explosion of caramelized flavor, Smash Burgers are your best bet. Should you have a preference as to how rare or well-done your burger is cooked, regular burgers offer more variety. Both Smash Burgers and regular burgers are going to be deliciously satisfying meals that can be enjoyed any time of day.