10 Things You Didn’t Know About Smashburger
March 31, 2016
This upstart burger chain is on a path to dominance
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Smashburger
If you’ve ever dined at Smashburger, the Denver-based burger chain with more than 350 locations worldwide, you’ve probably noticed that it’s unlike any other chain out there. But did you know that its founder also happens to be one of the most legendary figures in fast food history? We’re unloading 10 facts you most likely didn’t know about this fast-growing chain.
Its Founder Invented Some of Fast Food’s Most Legendary Offerings
While at Pizza Hut, Ryan was the brains behind The Lover’s Line (Meat Lover’s, etc), breadsticks, chicken wings, Sicilian pizza, and most famously, Stuffed Crust Pizza. At McDonald’s, he brought McFlurries, McGriddles, and the Dollar Menu to the market. And at Quiznos, menu items he took lead on included the Steakhouse Beef Dip and the Prime Rib Sub, two of its biggest-ever releases. That’s quite a resumé!
Tom Ryan’s PhD in Flavor and Fragrance Chemistry Is His Secret Weapon
Ryan became interested in marketing and consumer research while studying for his doctorate in flavor and fragrance chemistry at Michigan State. A passion for connecting with audiences as well as a deep knowledge of the complex art and science of making things taste good make him a force to be reckoned with, and one of the most in-demand and renowned players in the industry.
Every Burger Is Made According to a Precise Formula
The process behind making Smashburger’s burgers is one that puts Ryan’s Flavor and Fragrance Chemistry degree to good use, and every burger served is made exactly the same: Never-frozen Certified Angus chuck and steak trim is ground via a process that more closely resembles being cut with knives versus extruded (“so it holds onto its juices and the fat stays in,” according to Ryan), and it hits the butter-brushed 385-degree F griddle as a meatball before being smashed down for 10 seconds. “The smashing creates a deep caramelization, and it sets up a loose and tender texture that forces juices to bubble up through the burger,” he says. After 90 seconds the burgers are scraped off the griddle and flipped with a spatula that’s sharpened every morning, and they’re finished cooking after three minutes.
The Seasoning Mix Is a Top-Secret Scientific Marvel
When it hits the griddle, every patty gets a sprinkle of seasoning mix that, according to Ryan, contains salt, pepper, garlic, and all-natural beef flavor. What’s in that beef flavor? It’s where Ryan gets a little cagey, and where his advanced degree comes into play. “It’s similar to bouillon, but not cooked to death,” was all he revealed.” The actual formula is locked in a vault.
Almost Every Market Has a Special Local Burger Offering
Smashburger serves 49 different regionally-localized burgers, each custom-tailored to take advantage of what makes that part of the country unique. For example, in Las Vegas (where breakfast can be dinner, and vice versa) Smashburger serves a burger topped with a fried egg, bacon, American cheese, grilled onions, haystack onions, and Smash Sauce; in Michigan it resurrected the local specialty the oliveburger (topped with chopped olives); and in Boston (where Ocean Spray is based), they’ve created a burger topped with cranberry stilton, grilled onions, and cranberry sauce.
Barbecue Sauces and Bread Are Localized Across the Country
Like the burgers, barbecue sauces and bread are also regionally-inspired. Michigan’s barbecue sauce contains cherry compote, Sweet Baby Ray’s is served in Chicago, Jack Daniels BBQ sauce is served in Tennessee, Florida’s sauce contains orange juice, New Orleans’ is made with Barq’s root beer syrup, and in Utah (The Beehive State) it’s honey barbecue.
As for specialty bread options, sourdough is available in San Francisco, telera (torta) rolls are found in California and Mexico, there are pretzel buns in Chicago, onion rolls in Minnesota and New Jersey, and brioche in New York.
It Partnered With Local Craft Breweries
Most locations either serve beer on tap or in bottles, and 15 to 20 percent of all orders include beer, according to Ryan. Beers served can vary from location to location; some serve a variety of different beers from different brewers, and about 15 locations serve beer from a local brewery that’s partnered with the company to pair beers with specific items on the core menu. In Dallas, for example, Smashburger is pairing Deep Ellum’s Dallas Blonde with the classic burger, the Double Brown Stout with the mushroom and Swiss burger, and the Rye Pils with its BBQ, bacon, and Cheddar burger.
There Are Three “Secret Menu” Items
Yes, there’s a Smashburger secret menu, available at every location: Order the Sin City Burger and you’ll get the regional Vegas burger (topped with a fried egg, bacon, American cheese, grilled onions, haystack onions, and Smash Sauce); ask for a PB&J Shake and your vanilla shake will be blended with Nutter Butter cookies and strawberry syrup; and sweet potato Smashfries come topped with the smash fry seasoning, which contains rosemary, olive oil, and garlic.