Before one can enjoy a burger at a backyard bbq first one must face the decision tree. Are you going hamburger or hot dog? Hamburger. Do you want cheese? Obviously. Which cheese? Ok, we don’t have time for this fight but that’s usually the end of the process. But a critical question remains, smash burger or a pub style burger?
Don’t know the difference? Let’s get into it.
Smash burgers are officially in the zeitgeist thanks to Shake Shack, Five Guys, and other burger institutions. Smash burgers are characterized by their crispy exterior and gooey melty cheese and are often served on potato rolls.
To make them, take two balls of ground beef and place them on a smoking hot flat surface. Our carbon steel frying pans are perfect for this. Add salt and pepper, and using a spatula or a steak weight, apply pressure to the meat until they’re completely flat and let them develop a perfect crust on one side. Flip them, top with American cheese (the only option), and then let them cook just until the cheese is melted. Stack the two burgers and place them on a toasted bun. You can add tomatoes, lettuce, onions, or special sauce. We love a spread of mayo, some ketchup, and pickles for some acidity to cut the richness.
Pub Style Burgers
Pub style burgers differ from smash burgers as they are larger and take a bit longer to cook. Commonly around 8 ounces in weight, a pub style burger is thicker and popular in old-timey, classic restaurants like J.G. Melon, Minetta Tavern, and P.J. Clarke’s. Please excuse the N.Y. bias.
To make these burgers, follow the same initial steps. Get a carbon steel frying pan nice and hot, and add some oil. Form your ground beef by shaping it into a burger shape, around half a pound and a bit larger in diameter than the bun you’ll be using. Season generously with salt and pepper and place it in the pan. Cook on one side until you get a beautiful crust and the meat starts to cook along the edges, around 3 minutes. Flip the burger and let the other side cook for 3 minutes.
We’re going to go ahead and say American cheese is the only cheese right for smash burgers, but when it comes to pub style burgers, you can have some variety. Cheddar is definitely a favorite, and we also swiss, brie, or goat if you’re feeling fancy.
Top your burgers with anything from the classic lettuce, tomato, and onion, to sauteed mushrooms or onions. Even sliced avocado and a nice arugula salad would work!
Other Burger Styles
The burger world is vast beyond pub style and smash burgers. You have steakhouse burgers, which are very similar to pub style burgers but feature dry-aged trimmings. There are patty melts, similar to a grilled cheese but with a burger in the middle with caramelized onions and swiss cheese, and then there is the Minneapolis famous Juicy Lucy. Two burgers stuffed with American cheese and served on a bun. So simple, so amazing.
Which One is Best for Me?
There is no definitive “or” when it comes to smash burgers vs. pub style burgers. Both are fantastic, but sometimes you have to make a choice.
If you’re looking for a burger that you can dress up and is meatier, then the pub-style is the one for you. If you’re looking for amazing textural contrasts and a burger that can be made quickly, smash burgers are for you.
When making burgers, use the freshest ingredients you can find and tools that will give you perfectly cooked meat. Our Carbon Steel Frying Pan can get super hot and is ideal for delivering that sought-after sear that makes burgers so delicious. Try them both and master your burger technique at home.