[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]
Note: For best results, ask your butcher to freshly grind beef for you, or do it yourself at home. This post shows three different methods, while this one will show you how to buy, use, and care for a meat grinder. You can use straight ground chuck, or for better flavor, use a blend of short rib, brisket, and chuck or oxtail meat. Patties can also be cooked one or two at a time using a smaller skillet.
- 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 16 to 20 ounces ground beef, divided into four 4-ounce portions (see note)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cheese slices if desired)
- Toppings and condiments as desired
- Four toasted burger buns
Add oil to a 12-inch stainless steel or cast iron skillet and wipe around with a paper towel. Set skillet over medium heat and allow to preheat for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, gently form each portion of ground beef into a cylindrical puck about 2 inches tall, pressing together just until meat holds its shape without falling apart. Season generously on all sides with salt and pepper.
Increase heat to high until skillet is smoking. Add pucks to skillet and using a firm, stiff metal spatula, press down on each one until they’re roughly 4 to 4 1/2-inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick. It helps to use a second spatula to apply downward pressure to the first if you are having trouble smashing them hard enough.
Cook without moving until a golden brown crust develops, about 1 1/2 minutes. Use the edge of the spatula to carefully scrape up and flip the patties one at a time, making sure to get all browned bits removed from the skillet. If using cheese, add now.
Continue to cook until patties are cooked to desired doneness—about 30 seconds longer for medium rare. Top buns or patties as desired, transfer patties to buns, close burgers, and serve.
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