Common belief has been, according to Tristan Lutze, a Sydney-based food writer, that a good burger patty should be fat, juicy and pink inside. To cook it perfectly, you need a nicely oiled grill and a careful hand, taking care to never press on the burger and squeeze out those delicious juices.
But there’s something of a burger rebellion happening on America’s east coast, and it’s beginning to spread.
The secret is a technique called “ultra-smashing”, a phrase coined by The Food Lab for a process that’s being used by burger superstars Harlem Shake in NYC, and the obsession-worthy Shake Shack.
With just a couple of pieces of equipment and a small piece of meat, it creates a flavour-packed burger in under a minute. Yes, in less than 60 seconds.
All you need is:
— A stainless steel pan, or BBQ hotplate. Your favourite non-stick pan WON’T work here.
— Any tool that will help you press down on the meat as hard as possible once it’s on the pan. A (new, washed) $10 stainless steel plastering trowel from a hardware store is perfect, and capable of much more pressure than a kitchen spatula.
— A scraper to dislodge the meat from the pan. A steel pastry scraper will work, but a joint knife or scraper from the hardware store is even better.
Heat the unoiled pan to nearly smoking and roll your mince (the fattier the better) into a 5cm diameter ball. Place the meat into the centre of the pan and immediately press down on the patty with the trowel or spatula, applying extra pressure with the scraper if needed.
Keep pushing as hard as you can until the meat is only a few millimetres thick.
Whatever the technique, a tip-sensitive digital thermometer, inserted sideways in this case, is still required.