Cook's Illustrated

Smashed Burgers

If the edge-versus-center debate were about burgers instead of brownies, my allegiances would fall squarely with Team Edge—or, in this case, Team Crust. Because as much as I appreciate the beefy, medium-rare middle of a plump, juicy burger, the savory depth of well-browned beef is simply unrivaled.

That’s why I love smashed burgers. These diner icons share the same thin, verging-on-well-done profile as typical fast-food burgers, as well as their all-American array of fixings: gooey American cheese; creamy, tangy burger sauce; crisp lettuce; thinly sliced tomato; and a soft bun. But with a smashed burger, extra-special attention is paid to making the brownest, crispiest, most savory crust.

Maximizing that Maillard browning is where technique comes in, but as I discovered, there’s more to it than simply searing the patty hard on each side. Furthermore, you have to get the toppings just right, because smashed burgers—more than any other style of burger—rely on the condiments to deliver the moisture

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