There's something aesthetically pleasing about a perfectly formed hamburger patty; especially when it has those little symmetrical grill marks. However, it turns out that smashing your patty during the cooking process actually imparts more flavour. Check out the video to see how it's done.
When you stick meat onto a hot surface, the amino acids and sugars rearrange themselves to create drastic changes in smell, colour, flavour and texture. This is known as the Maillard reaction.
According to the food blog Food-Hacks, squashing or "smashing" your burger during the frying process creates more surface area for the Maillard reaction to take place, which translates to more flavour. This is in stark contrast to common cooking wisdom, which recommends treating meat gently in the pan.
This rougher approach has become the signature cooking style for various high-end burger joints around the world, including the appropriately named Smashburger in the US. Check out the below video to see Smashburger's founder putting the principle into action:
So how's it done? One popular method is to cover the patty with a flat spatula and then press down firmly with a second spatula. The aim is to make the patty as wide and flat as possible. Keep the pressure applied for around 40 seconds at full heat, or until a dark crust begins to form. Then repeat the process on the other side.
As you'd expect, this cooking method tends to result in crispier burgers, so it's a good idea to purchase fattier beef patties if you like 'em juicy. As Food-Hacks explains:
You want to get the best-quality meat you can with some fat in it. [Serious Eats manager] J. Kenji López-Alt recommends ground chuck. If your supermarket still has actual butchers on hand, I say you get a chuck steak and ask them to grind it for you and add some bacon while they're at it.
Naturally, the "smash" method works best on flat, non-stick surfaces: achieving the same results on a griddle or BBQ hot plate will be a lot trickier. If any readers have their own burger cooking tips to share, tell us all about it in the comments section below!