Smash burgers have become all the rage in recent years. They’re juicy. They cook quickly. And they achieve a wonderful crustiness. When placed one atop another (the popular double-meat), they are also super meaty. Ground chuck is a great go-to because it is flavorful and easily available. But if you want to experiment with blends, try a third each of trimmed fatty brisket, sirloin and ground chuck. So they get super crispy, each burger is 3 ounces. It assumes, too, that you’ll make a double-meat (because they’re amazing). However, a single-meat 3-ounce burger is terrific as well. And if you don’t want your burger quite so crispy, make 4-ounce burgers from 1 pound of meat. The cooking times are the same.

Because it keeps the burger juices in the pan and helps with uniform cooking, a cast-iron skillet is used here. You can cook directly on the grates of a grill, though, and achieve excellent results. The cook time and directions are the same for both methods. The classic method is to smash the ball of meat once you place it in the skillet, but you can form the burger beforehand if you prefer. We’ve found that it’s easier to preform when you’re putting the meat directly on the grill, because sometimes the spatula will stick to the meat, which can become a hassle. Whether you are cooking on the grate or in a pan, use the remainder of the grill’s cooking surface to cook corn or other vegetables to go with your burgers.

If you want to toast the buns, do so before cooking the burgers. Otherwise, the timing can get tricky and you may end up burning the buns or the burgers, or both.


Condiments of your choice

12ouncesground chuck (80-20)

2tablespoonsunsalted butter, melted

2 or 4 hamburger buns, preferably potato buns

4iceberg or greenleaf lettuce leaves (optional)

1teaspoonneutrally flavored oil, such as canola oil or grapeseed

Coarse ground kosher salt (about 1 tablespoon)

Freshly ground black pepper (about 1 tablespoon)

4sliceswhite or yellow American cheese


Step 1

Prepare a grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to high (500 degrees). If you are using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; once the briquettes are ready, distribute them under the cooking area for direct heat. For a hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 3 or 4 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames.

Step 2

Set out your favorite condiments so you’ll be ready to dress your burgers as soon as they come off the grill. Divide the meat into 4 equal portions; shape into balls.

Step 3

Place a large cast-iron skillet on the grates directly over the fire. Brush a little melted butter on the inside of the buns. Place them, buttered sides down, in the skillet or on the cooking grates to toast for 2 to 3 minutes total. (Turn them over and lightly brown the exteriors, if desired.) There’s no need to clean the skillet before adding the oil to cook the burgers. Transfer the buns to a plate.

Step 4

If you want to dress the bottom buns with mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and/or a special sauce, now’s the time so that you can set the burger directly on the dressed bun. If you are using the lettuce leaves, place one on each bottom bun.

Step 5

Add the oil to the skillet; once the oil shimmers, place the balls of meat in the pan and immediately mash them down with a heatproof spatula. Use half the salt and pepper to season the meat. Cook, uncovered, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the burgers crisp a little on the bottom, then turn them over and season with the remaining salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, for 1 to 2 minutes, then lay a slice of cheese on each burger. Close the grill lid; cook for about 1 minute, then, once the cheese is gooey, stack two cheese-topped burgers on each of 2 bottom buns (for double-meat portions) or place 1 burger on each of 4 bottom buns (for singles), then finish with the top buns.

Step 6

Serve right away.

From Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin.

Tested by Andrew Sikkenga; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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The nutritional analysis is based on 4 single burgers with buns.


Calories: 410; Total Fat: 23 g; Saturated Fat: 10 g; Cholesterol: 110 mg; Sodium: 1330 mg; Carbohydrates: 28 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 8 g; Protein: 25 g.