Let’s Set The Scene
It’s 2:30 a.m. . You’ve just spent the last several hours assaulting your liver with dark liquors, cold draft beer and whatever that other guy bought you because “you’re a hell of a guy.” Security at the establishment you have been patronizing has graciously let you exit with your teeth still firmly planted within your head. After feverishly debating with various strangers about politics, proper handwashing techniques, religion and a local sports franchise you couldn’t give two flying fucks about on a sober day, you reluctantly decide to leave and get a bite. You’re starving, drunk and you don’t have any reservations about what is scarcely available at this culinary witching hour. You’re hungry. You’ll eat anything. You think.
You’re A Slave To Your City’s Late-Night Scene
Heat lamp pizza that resembles something found in a lunchbox abandoned at Chernobyl? Actually, that sounds kind of delicious right now. Dried out pepperoni and saucy edges dehydrating by the minute. The crusty shards that would cut open a tin can along with every square inch of your maw. But no. That’s not it. There is something you know is just right. The last couple of wits you are barely clinging to have been screaming at your booze-soaked soul since you were voluntarily exited from the bar.
There is Always A Diner Open SOmewhere
You know exactly what you want. Greasy beef with crispy edges and slightly pink center. Gooey fake cheese slices oozing down and touching the griddle top and turning a deliciously orange/brown colour. All-day-old-in-the-prep, slightly dry onions that magically rehydrate laying on top of perfectly ripe, overly juicy tomato. Introduce the perfect psychedelic colour mixture of mayo, mustard and ketchup, marinating a pile of cold, crisp shredded lettuce. Smashed hastily down, oozing that now-watery condiment potion all over the wax paper wrapper being partially absorbed between two pieces of perfectly toasted, cheap plain white bun.
You want The Diner Burger.
For Starters You Need Flavour!
You need a grill spice. We are going to kill two birds here. You will have leftovers because you’ll want this in the cupboard. This is also my “High Steaks” steak spice recipe. It works for pretty much any protein you cook, and is the base of all of my dry rubs. I’m not here to make money, so it’s not for sale. I’m here to make you fat and happy so I will be giving away these secrets for free.
Here’s the Rub
1/4 cup Coarse Kosher Salt
1/4 cup Cracked Coarse Ground Pepper
1/4 cup Dehydrated Granulated Garlic (not powder. See pics)
2tbsp Dry Thyme
1tsp Dry Greek Oregano
1tbsp Onion Powder
1tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/2tsp 'Accent' (Yes... It's. MSG and this is optional if you deny science and are scared of monosodium glutamate, but once you grow up and do some research, this is game-changing for your food.)
Prime Rib Burgers are garbage
Don’t let the pretentious dickholes in your life tell you Prime Rib, Kobe Beef, Wagyu or Tenderloin burgers are best. They apparently base quality assessments on price, and they are dead wrong when it comes to burgers. It’s ground meat, connective tissues, collagen and fats. It’s as tender as it gets. The best part is when you can teach your idiot friend with too much money that Prime Rib refers to the Primal Rib bone classification and NOT the quality of the meat in Canada. You can buy a utility grade Prime Rib, or you can by a ‘AAA’ GRADE (USDA ‘Prime’) GRADE Prime Rib. The word ‘Prime’ does not equal ‘Quality’ in Canada when it comes to meat.
You Need Fat and You need Flavour!
To make a good burger, you need a minimum of a medium fat ground beef. Never lean. You want a minimum of 70:30 ratio of meat to fat. To make a delicious burger, the cut matters. Grocery store ground beef in the cooler is okay (cooked well done) in a pinch, but if they have a fresh counter, that is where you need to be right now. Ask your butcher for Ground Chuck. They may have to take a chuck roast and grind it for you, which will be a little more expensive, but it matters. If you can’t get chuck, ask for a mix of sirloin and brisket. Tougher cuts have more “beefy” flavour. Fresh ground is not only way better for flavour, it’s also safer. Bacteria has time to multiply in the cooler cuts, and you have no way of knowing when it was ground. If you want a medium-cooked pink burger that is safe, you need a fresh ground cut.
Bring the meat home, open the package and make balls of meat. Do not add ANYTHING. Fillers are how your mom made burgers from cheap meat to go farther. A good burger has one initial ingredient. Meat. That’s it. No eggs, breadcrumbs or onions. Just meat! The less you work the meat, the better it is here. You want to lightly roll the meat into 1/3lb balls and place them on a cookie sheet. Right before you’re ready to cook is when you season these.
The Cooking Surface
The best way to make a “Smash” burger is on a seasoned cast iron skillet or pan over screaming high heat. The BBQ is the best place for this because it will smoke, spatter and create a delicious mess. If you don’t have one, it’s not a deal breaker. My suggestion is a well-oiled grate over the highest heat setting or hottest charcoal bed you can produce. Charcoal is obviously the preferred method, but gas will still get you a killer burger. You can get the “Double play” reversible one one pictured here on Amazon for around $60.00. Just make sure you follow the instructions on how to season and care for it! They have endless uses and will change your cooking experience for the better.
It happens fast. It’s going to seem like a lot of prep for a little action (just like your sex life) and you’re right. The least amount of time on this will be actually cooking the burger. You’re looking to reach an internal temperature of about 140°F before resting these. At screaming high temps, once you smash the burger down with either a burger press, or you can caveman this up with a brick wrapped in foil. No shit, it works. Flip at about 2 minutes and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes. After the first flip, if you’re adding cheese do it right away. Don’t cover them to melt the cheese until they’re resting. Remove from the heat and loosely tent with foil for the same amount of time you cooked them. (This is also how you should be resting your steaks, by the way.) Toast up your bun while they rest and dress accordingly. Double up the patties if you want. They are thin and beautiful just like you, baby!
No Skillet Method
Same as above, but you’re just going to form the patty like you normally would before hitting the grill. Don’t smash them on a grill. If you do that, just order a pizza. You’ll need to make them a little thicker than the smash-burgers or they have a tendency to fall apart when you flip. This also means a little longer cooking time. An instant probe is a very inexpensive and worthwhile investment. One flip is crucial to burger cooking to not dry them out. Screaming hot grill, one flip and if they are getting too charred, move them to the side and let them cook indirect for a couple of minutes. Remember: They will keep cooking while resting as well.