Food Bloggin' with Chef Patrick Whittaker: The Smash Burger

Photo by @kevinwtackett.

Photo by @kevinwtackett.

The Quintessential American flat top burger has too many merits to list -- these are the things you should consider in your quest to build a truly outstanding smash burger --

Pat's Burger Mantra:

  • Proper beef/fat ratio: That’s right kiddos, this isn’t a diet show. If you want a good flat top burger, you’ve got to have fat. It’s that rich, umami sumptuousness that makes the world go-round. 80/20 beef to fat ratio is my preferred blend. 80/20 chuck is a readily available option, or if you own a meat grinder, experiment with specific cuts of beef and use the same beef/fat ratio. Every cut brings its own unique flavor and texture to the party, don’t be afraid to experiment to create your own proprietary burger blend!
  • Respect the Burger: Don’t overwork the beef with your hands -- handle it just enough to form a loose ball and season it simply and liberally with kosher salt. And for the love of all that is beefy- it’s not meatloaf, friends. Don’t add onions or liquid to your hamburger. Treat your burger like a steak and cook it over medium-high heat and focus on getting a good sear. I use a lateral cooking method that is comprised of a hard sear on your presentation side, and a shorter cook on the second side to ensure even doneness. -- More on that later.
  • The Bun: It’s not an artisanal brioche or ciabatta. It’s an old school, liberally buttered, griddle-cooked hamburger bun. The kind of bun that leaves little finger shaped imprints from where you may have squeezed it just a little too hard in that first bite. Don't go huge -- you don’t want the bread detracting from your burger. Choose something soft and pillowy, but sturdy enough to maintain burger integrity until the final bites.
  • The Cheese:. American cheese without question. You can’t make a proper flat top burger with anything else. When American cheese melts on a burger something magical happens -- a thin veil of warm, gooey sexiness caresses the patty like a comforting duvet of plastic, velvety nostalgia. This is comfort food -- don’t try and chef it up too much.
  • The Garnish: You may be sensing that I’m an evangelical burger purist, here. Save the veggies for your side salad, they’re better there.  I like garnishes to enhance a burgers natural qualities and create a greater depth of flavor -- they shouldn't detract or muddle the flavor of the burger. Grilled onions for Malliard sweetness and a fist full of crispy dill pickles for a burst of acidity to cut through the fat. 
  • The Spread: Adding sauce to a burger is important. It adds flavor and, perhaps more importantly, protects your base (in this case the bun). If you’ve grilled your bun correctly, you should have a golden brown toasty base for your burger to rest. By adding a liberal layer of spread, you’re protecting the toasty textural contrast that you’ve worked so hard for and preventing your warm patty from steaming and compromising the integrity of the bun. The devil is in the details they say.
  • Timing is everything: Prepare your mise en place before you start cooking. Staging all of your ingredients, toppings, and sauces then keeping things clean and tidy makes the difference between enjoying a good burger and a great burger. You should be chomping away at your gastronomic contribution to man kind within a few minutes after it’s finished cooking. Cold burgers aren’t good burgers.


Photo by @kevinwtackett.

Photo by @kevinwtackett.

Makes four hamburgers.

  • 1 pound, 80/20 hamburger

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 pound of onions, thinly sliced

  • 4 Tb unsalted butter

  • Dill pickle chips

  • Mayonnaise or spread

  • 4 hamburger buns

  • Softened unsalted butter

For the onions

  • In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt 4 Tb of unsalted butter. Add shaved onions to the pan and gently cook until caramelized and soft, about four minutes.

For the burger

  •  Using a scale, weigh out four loose, 4 oz balls of hamburger. Stage on a plate.
  •  Add your hamburger portions to a preheated cast iron skillet or griddle at medium-high heat. Apply firm pressure with a spatula to spread the meat out into ¼” thick patties and press for approximately 30 seconds. Season the exposed side with kosher salt and cook for about three minutes.
  •  Gently flip the patty. Season with kosher salt. Cook for approximately 30 seconds.
  •  Add American cheese. Cover with a lid and cook for approximately one minute or until your cheese has melted.

For the bun

  •  Apply a liberal amount of softened, unsalted butter to a hamburger bun. Over medium heat, gently toast the bun until golden on both sides.

Assembling the burger


  • Coat toasted bunswith an even amount of mayonnaise or spread.
  • Add a heaping tablespoon of grilled onions to the base of the bun.
  • Top the onions with your burger.
  • Top the burger with 4-5 dill pickle chips.
  • Cover with the top of the bun and enjoy!

Beverage Pairing

Shake, Rattle, & Roll is nostalgia in a bottle. This Neapolitan shake-inspired Bourbon Barrel Aged American Strong Ale was brewed with both lactose and malted milk sugar to give the beer a rich, creamy mouthfeel reminiscent of that secret menu delight! Indulge with a scoop of ice cream after a classic American smash burger!

Eat well, drink craft.

Pat whittaker

Posted on June 30, 2018 .