Why Smashburger Sucks More Than It Has To

Categories: Complaint Desk

Smash! 005.jpg
Gratuitous macro depicting maximum crustiness.
Late last year, Forbes named Smashburger America's most promising company. The article describes an American population as burger-obsessed and compares the Denver-based smashers to other chains, including Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Jack in the Box and Hardees. (Shake Shack, the undisputed fast food burger champion of the world, was somehow not mentioned).

So what makes Smashburger so special, according to Forbes?

It begins with a ball of raw Angus beef, which a grill cook "smashes" with a handheld steel mold onto a butter-brushed grill for ten seconds, giving the patty a caramelized sear to lock in the juices.

You might wonder how this chain is taking over the world (Smashburger has plans to open stores in Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia) when it's branding is built counter to the tenet that cooks should never press their burgers, as it robs them of their delicious juices. But the cook's mantra about never putting pressure on cooking meat doesn't hold true until juices have begun to render. Smash does it's smashing earlier.

According to David La Flash, a Dallas-based GM, Smash only smashes for the first ten seconds of cooking, in order to increase the contact of the meat with the grill and promote browning. That crust actually seals in the juices, he says.

Here's the problem: It doesn't. According to Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, widely considered the bible of food prep, the phrase "searing meat to seal in juices" was coined by Justus von Liebig, a German chemist who came up with the idea sometime in the 1850's. But the notion was disproved some 30 years later. Juices escape throughout the entire cooking process -- that's why meat sizzles the entire time it's on the grill. And that's why meat cooked to cooler temperatures will always be more juicy than meat cooked to higher temperatures.

But the practice (and the verbiage) still lives on, in part because searing is still a good idea. It adds flavor. Not, as Forbes argued, through caramelization, which relies on browning sugar, but through something called Maillard reactions -- a chemical reaction by carbohydrates and amino acids that produces rich and meaty flavors.

Smash leverages this reaction on the first side of the burger, using a thin veneer of butter to draw heat from the pan to the patty. But the reaction can only be achieved on one side of the patty. Smashing the second side, once the cooking process is half way done, would wring the burger out like a dish sponge.

The resultant one-sided crust is delicious, but from there the burger goes down hill. Three burgers sampled last week wept more oil than juice, if they wept anything at all. To create a truly juicy burger, Smashburger would have to stop cooking their meat so much. The chain shoots for an internal temperature of 155 for every burger, according to La Flash. That's woefully over done.

A thicker patty would allow the central temperature to stay closer to 140 degrees, the juicy sweet spot for a burger. But this, of course, will never happen, because this temperature is under-done according to the USDA and that means liability. And avoiding liability is a big driver for any national chain.

Instead, Smashburger focuses on buzzy phrases like "high quality Angus beef" and "sizzle" and "sear" and "savor." They tell customers their burgers are juicy, and enough customers believe them to warrant the opening of 450 additional locations. But the burgers they're serving just aren't.

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38 comments
NONE
NONE

I favor Muslim Porkburger Smashed Heads, wrapped in a linen turban cloth with strong tea.

NONE
NONE

Midway Point and 1st & 10 Bar.....REAL MEN SERIOUS HAMBURGERS not part of some cheesy franchise of flakey ownership.....

CrackerDaddy
CrackerDaddy

Smashburger sooooooooooooo totally sucks.

PORK
PORK

Ye Olde Butcher Shop still has a most delicious burger--without all the hype and certainly not a waiter--pfffft.  Do yourself a favor-go to Mooyah.  Watch the gloved grill guy put your raw patty on...then grab your bun and dress it...without washing his hands, changing gloves, or giving a damn.  (The first two times I called the manager over and he chucked it all.  The third time I called the health department).  "You want E-coli with that?"

Matt Decuir
Matt Decuir

Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe is my favorite. 

Chuck G.
Chuck G.

Twisted Root is extremely overrated. Average burger.

PORK
PORK

You forgot overpriced!

Phelps
Phelps

The service at teh one in Addison sucks too.

Mwcook
Mwcook

I like smash Burger better than in n out.

Nataliec17
Nataliec17

I LOVE THEMMMMMMMM- YOU GUYS ARE CRAZY!

Brian
Brian

Love Shack is the best burger in DFW if not the world. Tim Love can dallas have a love shack? like in deep ellum?

Matt Decuir
Matt Decuir

There are lotsa burgers in Deep Ellum.But I had Love Shack in Denton for the first time on New Years, and it was great.

PORK
PORK

All real burgers should be a ball that is flattened with a steak weight--that is just how it is done.  Preformed patty?  You can pick your pay check up in the dumpster out back.

PORK
PORK

And they should be ashamed of the prices also.  

cp
cp

My dad liked Smashburger too until I found him the Minnesota equivalent (kinda, mostly) to Whataburger. I don't like Smashburger because their logo looks like Game Stop's. Just doesn't "feel" like a burger joint. 

Matt Decuir
Matt Decuir

Gamestop AND AlphaGraphics. Though, I feel like AlphaGraphics may have the colors reversed.

Chris
Chris

Oh please god, tell me what the Minnesota equivalent to Whataburger is? I moved from Texas to Duluth in June, and I'm fiending pretty hard.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

thats it, you figured it out, the GameStop sign comparison in exact.  wondered where I had seen that sign before

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Burger tales from the West: Stopped by my new favorite house o burger again today, Chophouse burger, had the blackened blue...still drinking tea cause of the seasoning.  Good, but not nearly as high quality eating of the standard Chophouse.  Next time I'm getting the mexicana, and then I'm quite sure I'll go back to the normal old Chophouse..which has the best tasting patty I've ever had.

Audi 5000 jackwagons! 

Nic Rodriguez
Nic Rodriguez

Watch out for those Mexicanas, man. They'll mess you up.

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

I'm surprised nobody is commenting on that crust. It's the crustiest burger I've ever encountered. If they could keep things pink and juicy I think it would make for decent eating.

cp
cp

At first I thought it was bacon bits... or something? Are you sure that mess is a burger? 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

thats the problem, its too crusty for the burger.  You are right though, if they could keep any sort of juice or pinkness to the burger itd be perfect, but I think a 12  year old could grill a better burger

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Like Shake Shack? The perfect balance of crust, juice, and flavor.

You just had to mention that fast bood burger mecca and distract me from ever thinking of dropping by Smashburger.

And I want to smack anyone upside the head who still throws around the "sealing in the juices" line this day and age. It's almost as bad as advertisers who STILL won't tape their commercials in HD. The Jumbaco commercial would be much better in glorious 720p.

Nic Rodriguez
Nic Rodriguez

Smashburger: Good burgers for people who don't know good burgers.

cockadoodledoooo
cockadoodledoooo

Smashburger is tasty to me. They even have outdoor patios for the doucherinos(i'm looking at you, Uptowners)...so come on down, grab a table and don't forget to wear your Ed Hardy!

YourSistersCunt
YourSistersCunt

Haven't seen Ed Hardy in Uptown in a few years.  It's a tired cliche.

PORK
PORK

You had me at my sister's cunt

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

smashburger sucks balls, the only flavor I tasted was from the mound of melted cheese that was smothered on the burger

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

Smashburger sucks. Right above Steak n Shake IMO.And why do I need a waiter again? Overthought and overhead.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Scott,    Great article sir!  That picture is making me hungry.....I'm off to Whataburger, for a doub;e meat, loaded, grilled peno's.

Brian
Brian

did i ever mention that whataburger is bad and makes me sick? so greasy and so gross.

Beda
Beda

tenanttenet

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

got it, thanks

Guest
Guest

Doesn't it feel good that we have our own grammar and spelling police, here.

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