How to make Smoked Smash Burgers at Home

Simple-but-delicious smash burgers with crispy bacon, caramelized onions and homemade ranch dressing.
Smoked Smash Burgers

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If you’ve never tried making your own smash burgers at home you need to give this recipe a go.

The delicious combination of textures and flavors, incorporating a seared exterior as well as the subtle hint of smoke takes them up a notch over regular grilled burgers. 

Fresh, high-quality dressings accentuate the flavor of the beef without overpowering the burger as a whole. Let’s dive into the recipe!

What’s the difference between a ‘Smash’ burger and a regular burger?

Making a smash burger involves applying pressure (or “smashing”) the bugger patty into the griddle surface while cooking. This technique gives you lots of beautiful crisp edges and helps the burger cook fast making them popular in restaurant kichens. There’s no reason why you can’t cook this style of burger at home though.

But I was told to never push down on a burger

There’s long been debate on whether to press down on burger patties as they cook. You’d often hear not to smash burgers when grilling, and that holds true when cooking on grates.

When you press down on the burger patty as it cooks on grates over an open fire, the rendered fats are pushed out of the burger and into the flames below. Not only can this cause flare-ups and grill fires, but it’s a perfect storm for a dry puck of burnt meat.

When to smash burgers

When cooking on a flat surface such as a griddle or frying pan, the rendered fat stays contained on the cooktop and has the opportunity to redistribute in and around the beef.

The caveat to this is that you should really only smash when the meat is first placed on the cooking surface. You want your cooktop to be on high heat and then smash the raw patty down with your burger press of choice – being sure to apply pressure for at least three to five seconds. 

This scenario is perfect for the Maillard reaction between beef and cooktop that results in a crusty sear every time. The beef’s own fat renders fast and hot, frying in its own juices, keeping the flavor in the meat and not in the fire.

The recent rise in popularity in this method can be somewhat tied to the mainstream chain SmashBurger as well as the many competitors and social media pop-ups using the same method.

How to smash burgers like a pro

With the advent in retail griddles such as Blackstone, PitBoss, and CampChef, it’s never been easier to smash burgers like a pro at home.

The general idea is to have your cooking surface screaming hot. High heat is necessary or your burger edge will steam and not caramelize.

cooked smash burger patty on a griddle
The main condition to achieve a Maillard reaction is to have the cooking surface screaming hot

To get that signature crust, you need high heat.

  • If you’re using a non-stick surface like cast iron or a seasoned griddle top, there’s no need to add external oil, there’s enough fat in the burgers, though some butter will add flavor.
  • If you’re using stainless, you’ll need to add an external fat source to keep the burgers from sticking leaving your precious sear stuck to the pan.

Once the pan or surface is on high heat, place your ball of meat down and smash it into the surface using a burger press. Hold it there for three to five seconds and slide your press off, being careful not to tear the meat.

Use good meat and quality ingredients

Your meal is only as good as its ingredients, and burgers are no different. 

Whenever possible source quality beef and veggies from local purveyors or butchers. Read the grocery store labels or ask the butcher there to find out where the meat came from and how it was raised.

We used grass-fed, New Zealand beef from Silver Fern Farms which they were nice enough to send out to us to try.

The same goes for the burger toppings as well. High quality veggies with no pesticides, high quality cheese from happy cows – they all add depth to the overall flavor profile of the final product. 

How to make smash burgers (step by step instructions)

This burger recipe is simple with a few quality ingredients. The buffalo ranch has more ingredients, but most should be within your pantry.

You can always use a store bought ranch or swap it out for another dressing.

1. Get everything you need ready

For the burgers (yields 4 burgers):

  • 1 pound quality ground beef – at least 80/20 fat ratio
  • 1 head butter lettuce
  • 1 onion – sliced and caramelized
  • 4 slices Havarti cheese
  • 8 slices thin-cut bacon – or make your own
  • Dill pickles
  • Brioche hamburger buns
  • Kosher salt
  • Coarse ground black pepper
  • Half cup water
  • A grill or smoker set for indirect smoking
  • A griddle or heavy-bottomed frying pan
  • Flat bottomed burger press

For the Buffalo Ranch:

  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 clove of garlic – chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise – I used Duke’s
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup flat-leaf parsley – minced
  • 2 tbsp green onions, greens only – minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill – minced
  • ½ tsp distilled white vinegar
  • ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne to taste

2. Smoke the burgers

You don’t have to do this step, especially if you are going to cook your smashed burgers on a griddle over charcoal. But I’ve found it the best way to get a nice smokey flavor.

For this step, you don’t want a high temperature that will start to cook the burgers. You want to keep the temperature low so it imparts smoke into the meat without starting to cook out the fats. 

I’m using the Z Grills 700D3 with their proprietary oak pellets. The smoke setting on the Z Grill registered between 160°F – 180°F with a good bit of smoke circulation.

four ground beef balls in a smoker
Smoking beef patties at low temperature will impart smoke into the meat without cooking out the fats

Form the beef into ¼ lb patties and roll loosely into balls. Place the balls directly on the smoker racks and let smoke 30 – 40 minutes or until they slightly darken in color.

While they smoke you can prepare the sauce, onions and bacon.

When ready, remove the meat from the smoker and let sit at room temperature.

3. Make the Buffalo Ranch Sauce

In a nonreactive bowl, pour the salt over the chopped garlic. Use a fork and mash the garlic into a paste. (alternatively, you can use the knife method)

In another bowl or using a stand mixer, whisk all the remaining ingredients except the buttermilk.

Once fully blended together, slowly add the buttermilk until you get a smooth consistency. If you prefer a spicier sauce, you can add more cayenne to taste – or add your favorite buffalo hot sauce like Frank’s Red Hot.

Refrigerate until ready to use. Makes 2 cups. 

4. Cook your bacon and onions

Preheat half the griddle to medium heat and the other half to medium-low heat – I’m using the CampChef Flat Top Grill 600. Put the bacon strips on the medium heat side at least an inch apart.

bacon strips cooking on a griddle
When cooking bacon, place the strips at least an inch apart

Let the bacon fat render and spread some to the medium-low side of the griddle. Toss the onion slices in the bacon fat and toss to coat. Sprinkle salt over the onions and leave them alone until they start to brown on the bottom side.

Flip your bacon when cooked to your desired crispiness on one side. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate when it’s to your liking.

sliced onions cooking on a griddle
Utilize bacon fat to add more flavor to the onions

Meanwhile, flip the onions over and let the other side caramelize fully until they are a golden brown throughout and limp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. 

5. Burger smash time

When you’ve removed the bacon and onions, wipe excess grease from the griddle with paper towels and increase heat to high.

Once the griddle top starts to smolder, place the four balls of beef on the cooktop, at least four inches between them.

smash burger patties cooking on a griddle
Be careful not to tear the meat when smashing burgers

With a burger press, smash the burgers down on the griddle for 3 – 5 seconds. Slide the burger press slowly off the top of the meat being careful not to tear the meat. Go over the burger patty around the edges so they stick to the griddle. Jagged edges are your friend here. 

Season the burgers liberally with salt and pepper. Let cook until you see juices start to pool on the top of the burger and the outer edges are brown, roughly 2 minutes.

Use a spatula to flip the burger. Be careful here not to rip the sear from the burger. You’ll need to apply pressure to the spatula and scrape the sear from the griddle top so it stays with the meat and not stuck to the cooktop.

smash burger patties with cheese cooking on a griddle
Drizzling some water around the edges of the burger will help the cheese melt better

Once flipped, season with salt and pepper. Place one slice of Havarti cheese on each burger and drizzle water around the edges. The steam will help melt the cheese onto the burger. Let cook undisturbed until cheese melts and burgers are medium-rare – another 1 – 2 minutes.

Remove burgers and tent with foil while you prepare the buns. 

6. Assemble the burgers

smoked smash burger
Assemble your Smoked Smash Burgers and serve immediately.

Start with the heel of one brioche bun. Spread about a teaspoon of buffalo ranch on the bottom bun. Add 3 – 4 dill pickles that touch the edges of the bun.

Place a burger patty on top of the pickles. Add caramelized onions, two slices of bacon and finish with a leaf of butter lettuce.

Spread more buffalo ranch on the top bun and top it onto the burger. Serve immediately. 

Smoked Smash Cheeseburgers with Bacon and Buffalo Ranch

Simple-but-delicious Smoked BBQ Source smash burgers with crispy bacon, caramelized onions and homemade ranch dressing.
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 889kcal
Author: Phen Pavelka

Ingredients

For the Burgers (yields 4 burgers):

  • 8 slices thin-cut bacon
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1.3 lb ground beef at least 80/20 fat ratio
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper ground
  • 4 slices Havarti cheese
  • ½ cup water
  • brioche hamburger buns
  • dill pickles
  • 1 head butter lettuce

For the Buffalo Ranch:

  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 clove of garlic chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise I used Duke's
  • cup flat-leaf parsley minced
  • 2 tbsp green onions green parts only, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill minced
  • ½ tsp distilled white vinegar
  • ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • tsp cayenne to taste
  • ½ cup buttermilk

Instructions

Buffalo Ranch Sauce:

  • In a nonreactive bowl, pour the salt over the chopped garlic.
  • Use a fork to mash the garlic into a paste.
  • Add the remaining ingredients, except the buttermilk, and whisk to combine.
  • Slowly add the buttermilk, stirring until you get a smooth consistency.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Bacon and onions:

  • Preheat half the griddle to medium heat and the other half to medium-low heat.
  • Put the bacon strips on the medium heat side at least an inch apart.
  • Let the bacon fat render and spread some to the medium-low side of the griddle.
  • Toss the onion slices in the bacon fat and toss to coat.
  • Sprinkle salt over the onions and leave them alone until they start to brown on the bottom side.
  • Flip your bacon when it’s to your desired crispiness on one side. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate when it’s to your liking.
  • Flip the onions over and let the other side caramelize fully until they are a golden brown throughout and limp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Smoke the Burgers:

  • Set smoker or grill for indirect cooking at low temperature 160°F – 180°F.
  • If using traditional smoker, add smoking chunks.
  • Divide the beef into 4 and roll loosely into balls.
  • Place the balls directly on the smoker racks and let smoke 30 – 40 minutes or until they slightly darken in color.
  • Remove the meat from the smoker and let sit at room temperature.

Smash the Burgers:

  • Wipe excess grease from the griddle with paper towels and increase heat to high.
  • Once the griddle top starts to smolder, place the four balls of beef on the cooktop.
  • Smash the burgers down on the griddle for 3 – 5 seconds with a burger press. Slide the burger press slowly off the top of the meat being careful not to tear the meat.
  • Season the burgers liberally with salt and pepper.
  • Let cook until you see juices start to pool on the top of the burger and the outer edges are brown, roughly 2 minutes.
  • Use a spatula to flip the burger. Be careful not to rip the sear from the burger. You’ll need to apply pressure to the spatula and scrape the sear from the griddle top so it stays with the meat and not stuck to the cooktop.
  • Season flipped side with salt and pepper.
  • Place one slice of havarti cheese on each burger and drizzle water around the edges. The steam will help melt the cheese onto the burger.
  • Let cook undisturbed until cheese melts and burgers are medium-rare, another 1 – 2 minutes.
  • Remove burgers and tent with foil while you prepare the buns.

Dress and serve the Burgers:

  • Start with the heel of one brioche bun. Spread about a teaspoon of Buffalo Ranch on the bottom bun.
  • Add 3 – 4 dill pickles that touch the edges of the bun.
  • Place a burger patty on top of the pickles.
  • Add caramelized onions, two slices of bacon and finish with a leaf of butter lettuce.
  • Spread more buffalo ranch on the top bun and place it onto the burger.
  • Serve immediately.

Nutrition

Calories: 889kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 77g | Saturated Fat: 26g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 175mg | Sodium: 1122mg | Potassium: 741mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2213IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 271mg | Iron: 4mg

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