Thin Burgers Are Better Than Thick Ones

Image: iStock

Burgers have gotten out of hand. Not only are bistro pubs and hip bars topping them with everything from avocado to pork belly (both of which detract and distract), but the patties themselves are just too darn thick. A burger is not a steak; a burger is a sandwich, and a sandwich is about balance between all the fillings.

Do you want a thick slab of beef to dominate your mouth and palate? Get a rib eye.

Minced beef is fine, but a burger is best when the predominant flavours are those you coax out using a hot pan or griddle — I’m talking about the Maillard reaction, friends.

You want to maximise the amount of browned meat you’re consuming, and the best way to up the browned-to-not-browned ratio is to make that patty thin and smash it.

Smashing burgers is also the easiest way to make them. You don’t have to mess with a grill. You don’t have to make little thumbprints in the patties. You don’t have to add ice.

You just get a pan real hot, smash a salty meat wad down in it, let it form a crust, then flip it to get some colour on the other side. Melt some cheese on top, and serve on toasted, buttered buns with classic burger toppings. Why would you want to complicate this?

To make four of these not-too-beefy beauties, you will need:

  • 450g of 80 per cent lean minced beef
  • Salt
  • Butter to grease the pan
  • 4 slices of burger cheese
  • 4 toasted, buttered buns
  • Whatever toppings and condiments you like

Place a stainless steel or cast iron pan over medium-high heat and rub a stick of butter around it to lightly coat. Divide the meat into four equal portions, shape it into little mounds, and season each one liberally with salt.

You’ll only get one chance to smash, so make it count. (According to the Food Lab, smashing after half a minute has elapsed will result in a loss of fat, and that’s a very sad story.) Place a meat mound in the pan, take a very large spatula (or two regular spatulas), and press down with all of your mighty strength.

Next, walk away, Renee. Leave that burger alone for at least two minutes to let it form the crust you crave, then scrape the whole thing up, flip it over, and gaze upon it adoringly before covering it with a piece of cheese.

Let it cook for a couple of minutes more, then get it on a toasted bun with all its favourite friends.


Comments

    This is so wrong. There's a reason cheap patties are thin patties; because a thin patty tastes like nothing. A thin patty cooked to nicely browned on either side is effectively cardboard. There has to be some thickness and some colour other than grey to the patty for a good quality meat flavour to come through. Gordon Ramsay (unsurprisingly) gets it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iM_KMYulI_s

      There's a reason not fully cooking minced meat is a bad idea - because the mincing process has "taken in" all the surface bacteria present onthat would ordinarily be killed by searing the outside of a piece of meat. All this "pink and juicy" patty stuff is actually a health concern.

        All this "you have to have it well done or you'll get sick from the bacteria" health concern is actually just needlessly paranoid for most people. It doesn't exist in the US where they ask you "how would you like your burger?" the same as you would for a steak, and plenty of people have it medium rare with no issues.

        For store bought mince ... mince it yourself and cook it nearly immediately.

        Really only a problem if the meat was minced a while ago, like minced in the shops. Then the outside bacteria is taken inside and distributed over LOTS of surface area of each little tiny minced piece of meat and also exposed to oxygen so it can multiply. FRESHLY minced meat is not really much riskier to eat rare than a steak.

    I like my burgers, and will happily go out of my way for a good one. Thankfully, Wollongong has a vast array of quality options so the hardest part is choosing. Theres one award winner that's basically a $13 Big Mac for example. Brilliant onion rings as well. The most popular joint would barely make the Top 10 here.

    Having said that, one of my favorites is still the classic fish n chip shop burger. Basic patty, tomato, iceberg lettuce, beetroot, onion, and either tomato or bbq sauce. As a kid, they were $1 a pop, and mana from heaven. I'll accept the options you add to make it a royale (ie, bacon, egg, pineapple and/or cheese) but they're extras, not the default.

    Not a single fancy thing about them, but that basic combo still cant be beat in my opinion. Overcomplicating it with fancy alternatives (eg different lettuce, fancy cheese, weird meats) just detracts from why we all fell in love with burgers in the first place.

    "Maillard reaction".
    I learned something today!

    Last edited 24/07/18 2:12 pm

    Best tip for burgers. Toast the inside on the bun to prevent the buns from going soggy.

      Amen - cut the bun, lightly butter both sides, then place face down on sandwich press (keep lid open) - a great result every time - just enough crunch, melted butter and a soft, fluffy dome. Glorious.

    I have to say I like a nice juicy thickish burger that's still a bit pink in the middle (not raw though). There is a balance - it shouldn't be too thick (no more than an inch) but I love those suckers.

    Ooh yeah.

    Nothing wrong with avocado on a burger. Or any of the "works" burger toppings like pineapple, bacon, egg...

    I hate the burgers that are six inches high and need to be put in a hydraulic press to make them thin enough to get in your mouth. At least with avocado you can make a relatively thin spread of it on the bun.

    I'll also say that steak burgers have been around at least since I was a kid (and I'd assume a lot longer) so that's at least 40 years. And a good steak burger is awesome.

    I like my burger patties to be reasonably thick, but not too thick. If they are too thin you can't taste the meat properly, so they need to have some thickness to them. Add cheese, lettuce, tomato and whatever condiments you prefer on a toasted bun with melted butter and you're golden.

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