What You're Eating When You Order Smashburger's Classic Smash

An innovative approach to your traditional-styled burger, the Classic Smash burger is all in the technique, one based on a misconception that burger patties ought not to be pressed down when cooking. What's so special about a burger that's been gently but intentionally pushed down by a flat spatula or masher, with only a thin layer of parchment paper lying in between the two? Well, from the intensification of a burger's flavor profile to an increased amount of crust power as well as juice and fat retention, there are many ways the smashed burger is a step up from your everyday patty. 

The restaurant company Smashburger is one place whose entire food-making technique relies on the smash method of cooking this age-old American favorite, promising a "delicious crispiness on every burger's edges." Unlike but in a similar vein to the fast food industry, Smashburger deems itself fast casual, with over 30 locations across U.S. states, and some in Canada. Originating in Denver, Colorado by founder Tom Ryan, Smashburger has been changing the game for 15 years.

So, what's in the Classic Smash?

The Classic Smash burger is largely made up of ingredients found in your everyday, traditional burger. Using Certified Angus Beef as the restaurant's choice of meat with American cheese, and topping the rest of the burger with tomatoes, lettuce, red onions, pickles, ketchup, and its Smash Sauce, the meal is contained in a toasted bun, as seen via the Smashburger website.

If you decide to sink your teeth into its classic signature burger with a single patty that is, you'll be ingesting a total of 640 calories, 38 of those calories from its fat according to the company website. This is on the lower side of calories and fat compared to burgers on the menu featuring additional toppings like bacon. If you're feeling up for it, the classic burger also contains 110 mg of cholesterol (hey though, it's alright to indulge from time to time) along with a whopping 1,640 mg of sodium. Boasting 30 grams for protein, the burger is made up of 41 grams of carbohydrates and 14 grams of total fat.

The Classic Smash burger is the basis of Smashburger's other top items

The Classic Smash burger is just the beginning of the Smashburger menu. Via its website, the menu features some more in-depth burgers with additional ingredients added to an otherwise classic smash, such as the Smoked Bacon Brisket Burger, featuring, you guessed it — applewood smoked bacon, brisket, cheddar, and bbq sauce.

Given that most items on the menu are meat-based, the company has included vegetarian options, as well as keto-friendly and gluten free dishes. And don't be fooled, it's not just one measly, hardly-seasoned veggie burger that you'll find on their menu, but six options for a hefty black bean burger, with four of them using the same bun as the Classic Smash. The other two vegetarian options use a toasted mutli-grain bun. Sides like the Smash Tots and Smash Fries are both seasoned with olive oil, rosemary and garlic, and options without these dressings are available on their menu too. Chicken and turkey burgers are also available items for those seeking fewer calorie options.

Smashburger aims to use local ingredients

The Smashburger company prides itself on the quality of its ingredients. Self-described as a company that uses "fresh, never frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef burgers," Smashburger has a mission it's aiming to keep up with. With the goal of maintaining fresh products, the chain uses locally sourced ingredients wherever feasible, as reported on Uncover Colorado.

Paying special attention to the region in which a Smashburger location is in, the restaurant presents foods specific to that area. For instance, a Boston location has a version of the Classic Smash dubbed "the New Englander" with cranberry chutney. According to The Daily Meal, cherry compote makes up the barbecue sauce on Smashburger's Michigan menu, their sauce in Florida features orange juice as an ingredient, Tennessee's has its own regional barbecue sauce known as Jack Daniels, while Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce appears in Chicago.

Bread is also a part of the aim to keep things regionally accurate, such as pretzel buns in Chicago, brioche buns in New York, onion rolls being a part of Minnesota's menu, and torta rolls available in Mexico and California.

Smashburger never uses frozen beef

Smashburger's Classic Smash patties are, courtesy of the website "fresh, never frozen." Priding itself on flavor, Smashburger has reason to choose fresh meat over frozen. We learn from Premier Meat Company that meat that hasn't been subject to freezing is less likely to lose its flavor. When meat is frozen, ice crystals form within its cells. When that meat is later thawed, those crystals are responsible for breaking the meat's cell walls, affecting the texture while tampering with its juices. Bigger and fewer crystals will form if meat is frozen slowly, whereas more crystals will form smaller in size if frozen at a faster pace. 

As a fast-paced restaurant with multiple locations, Smashburger's use of fresh beef also saves cooks time when grilling the burgers and allows the cooks the ability to really smash those burger patties into the grill. Frozen patties need time to thaw, and it's more effective for Smashburger to cut that step out. 

Besides the downfall of having to wait for frozen patties to thaw, some people swear, however, that there isn't a significant difference in the quality of a fresh versus frozen patty, especially when it's simply grilling ground beef, according to RecordOnline. Though meat is typically frozen to extend its shelf life, it's also more cost-effective for your wallet.   

Angus beef is the preferred choice for Smashburger's patties

Smashburger uses a brand known as Certified Angus Beef. This brand came to prominence in the late 1970s, courtesy of ranchers living in the Midwest with the goal of creating a certification system for makers of Angus beef (via Butcherbox). Based on flavor profile, textural tenderness and marbling of the cut of meat, Certified Angus Beef earned a strong reputation.

This beef is created by carefully making sure cows are hormone, and antibiotic-free, and are grass-fed. What sets Angus beef apart from any other cattle meat? When cattle were first bred for the purpose of creating Angus beef, their diets consisted mainly of grass, via Steak School. Fast forward a bit in time and ingredients like corn and grains became mainstream for growing larger animals, also incorporating more flavor into these cuts of meat. This hornless animal also gave an advantage to ranchers raising them, needing not to dispense energy dehorning them.

Similar to wagyu beef, an umbrella term for specific Japanese breeds of cattle, Angus beef is prized for its marbling. Marbling makes for a more flavorful cut of meat due to an increased level of meat tenderness, making it an overall stronger choice for maximum Smashburger flavor.

Smashburger uses butter-toasted egg buns

If you're a burger foodie, you probably pay attention to how the whole thing is constructed in the first place, namely the bread holding the entire burger affair together. At Smashburger, the restaurant makes it known that its buns are artisan made. With 6 grams of fat in total, 2 of which are saturated, the bun contains 7 grams of protein and 510 milligrams of sodium, courtesy of My Food Diary

With a complete 210 calories, the bun is butter toasted in a revolving toaster before nestling on top and under the smash patty. According to food blogger Julie Blanner's website, there are a few reasons why using a butter-toasted bun is a good idea. Firstly, it elevates a burger with just a bit more depth of flavor and buttery richness. Secondly, toasting a burger bun will provide for a crispness that couldn't otherwise happen if using a cold bun, and thirdly, a bun with a toasty texture will discourage it from becoming soggy from the juices in the burger meat.

The Classic Smash has tough competition

Competition-wise, the restaurant is up against other popular burger joints including In-N-Out Burger, Freddy's Frozen Custard, Good Times Restaurants, and Steak n Shake, as reported by Comparably. Although it's safe to assume prices may vary by state and country, the estimated price of a Classic Smash costs $5.29 for a single patty, and add another dollar to that if you'd like a double smash patty, according to Fast Food Menu Prices at the time of this writing.

At Freddy's Frozen Custard, despite the brand's items never exceeding 10 dollars, their Original Double burger costs $7.59, nearly a full two dollars over Smashburger's classic single-patty burger. Good Time Restaurants, also known as Good Times Burgers and Frozen Custard, showcases a Deluxe Burger for $5.50, just a little over Smashburger's cost.

As for Steak n Shake, its single steakburger with cheese will cost you an average of $4.99, their priciest item a total of $6.49, and that's for a limited-time Bacon Lovers Steakburger, though that price can also get you a Frisco Melt. Compared to In-N-Out Burger, with the cheapest pricing of all four chains, where the standard burger costs $2.46 in California, their combo deal which includes one drink and fries, will total $6.26 at checkout.

The Classic Smash uses a special seasoning

How does the founder of Smashburger Tom Ryan explain the flavors behind his smash patties? Well, Ryan has a special seasoning that goes on every single patty made at Smashburger, and we know of all ingredients composed of it besides one. In a YouTube video of Ryan explaining the process of sizzling a patty, he lets us in on a little info about what goes into this top-secret mix — salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.

He tells his audience that there is one more "top secret" ingredient and it is difficult to tell what it could be based on the spice shaker he holds in his hand in the Youtube bit. Based on context clues that Ryan gives us, this secret ingredient he deems "a little bit of magic," one viewer commented that this classified information might simply be MSG known for enhancing already-existing savory notes in foods, much like salt does.

The man behind the Classic Smash is a food science expert

Founder Tom Ryan is a veteran when it comes to working in the fast food industry, his background far exceeding his current work at Smashburger. Also CEO of the company, Ryan holds a doctoral degree in flavor and fragrance chemistry from Michigan State University and is not playing around with flavor combinations, The Daily Meal tells us.

Having worked with popular food brands like Mcdonald's, he was instrumental in the fast food chain's hugely successful Dollar Menu and bringing the McFlurry to the masses (via Michigan Live). The Prime Rib sub and Steakhouse Beef Dip were ideas courtesy of Ryan as well, while employed on a team for Quiznos. He also brought to fruition the Lover's Line menu choices featured at Pizza Hut. Mainly creating their Meat Lover's items, he also came up with the Stuffed Crust Pizza, chicken wings, and breadsticks. And today, he hides his current Smashburger recipes in a vault, because again, he's not playing around.

A customized masher is used at Smashburger

Meant to fit perfectly with the size of a beef ball soon-to-be burger, Ryan designed his very own smasher, according to Fast Casual. A flat grill, seasoned and buttered, traps the patty as a final — be it sizzling hot — resting place before the burger ends up platted. To achieve a concealed flavor and keep those delicious fats in place, their smasher is applied to the meat for a full 10 seconds before moving on with the rest of the cooking process.

Complete with a patent and in a rounded shape, the metal tool presses only one raw patty at a time, and with the fast-casual vibe that the company is going for, there's no way one smasher can pick up all the slack of a busy international chain. As a solution, the company developed its own multi-smasher. Practically designed in the same way as their signature tool, this Classic Smash-perfecting instrument works similarly, though with the capability of making four burgers at a time (via Kitchen Encounters). As a result of the shared heat transferred from four patties as opposed to a single one, patties subject to the multi-smasher are able to cook in half the time of a regular, two-minute Classic Smash burger.

The founder has a specific smashing and flipping method

Ryan's use of his customized smasher caramelizes the outside layer of his patties, and he claims in a Youtube video via CafeteriaCreative, that's where most of the flavor lies. The smasher and hot griddle sandwich the patty, "metal to metal," he calls it, then releasing the smasher to allow the flavorful juices to travel upwards on the patty, in the form of bubbles. The goal in this, Ryan explains, is to "cook a burger very quickly and uniformly that you can taste in every bite."

Comparing the way his burgers cook to that of how pancakes cook, seasoning a Classic Smash is the last step before the flip, with your standard salt, pepper, and garlic, along with that secret ingredient. An essential last part of ensuring the Classic Smash retains its flavor, is to quickly but swiftly scoop up the patty using a flat burger spatula at an angle, so that the seared beef isn't left stuck to the grill. And yes- making sure the spatial has been thoroughly sharpened is important, Ryan stressed that his spatulas are sharpened on a daily basis.

Don't overwork the protein of a potentially yummy burger

Contrary to the misconception that pressing a cooking burger down lets all of the flavors and juices escape a patty, the Classic Smash is proof that using such a method actually retains much of its flavor, according to Wonder How To. Hence the term "smash," the burger undergoes particular benefits when being flattened instead of perfectly contained into a ball. So how is this achieved for a smash burger with minimal overworking of the patty? 

The answer lies in food science — a chemical reaction known as the Maillard reaction is key to making the Classic Smash what it is. While this is happening, the surface area of the patty is extended through the flattening down of it. As a result of coming into contact with a heated surface, smashing the burger, therefore making it larger, allows this reaction to have more space to work its magic. 

According to Our Modern Kitchen, heat is the main factor that contributes to an increase in the caramelized flavor of the meat's goodness. This heat, forcefully coming into contact with raw meat once pressure is applied via a smasher, releases with it natural sugars and amino acids. These then combine to create a glossy crust packing and help retain the juices of the burger. The fat has much to do with this process, as it cannot escape yet only remain within the boundaries of the patty, quite literally forcing the flavors to stick around. In turn, the burger is being prepared in its own fat, and simmering in its own juices. 

The crust of a Classic Smash is not to be overlooked

Typically, maintaining a loose consistency for a burger patty is the goal, if cooking a traditional burger is in mind. There's a myth involving the application of pressure against a burger, and that this method is ineffective, according to Serious Eats. On the contrary, this is the ultimate way of achieving a perfectly brown crust entrenched in fat and flavor.

Adding an extra patty to your Classic Smash may just be the best upgrade possible, and there's a reason for that. Serious Eats suggests that two 2-ounce patties are more beneficial than one larger, say 4-ouncer, and it's all in the crust. With two, thinner smashed patties that have undergone the Maillard reaction, there is the potential for more crust in each bite since it's two patties. The goal with Smashburger is to get as much crust action as possible, and this is where that sharp spatula really comes into play, lifting up every morsel of that tasty crust. The result is a burger well encrusted with brown, caramelized flavors and seasoning.