In the world of burgers, there’s a culinary trend that’s taken the food scene by storm and captured the hearts and taste buds of burger enthusiasts everywhere: the smash burger. This seemingly simple creation (invented in the middle of the 20th century but gaining huge popularity during the early 2000s) has transformed the way we think about hamburgers, elevating them from fast-food fare to, often, a gourmet experience that celebrates the art of the patty. Read on explore the what makes the smash burger so special and why it’s become a culinary sensation.

Characterized by its thin, crispy edges and juicy interior, the smash burger is the result of an ingenious technique: pressing a ball of ground beef onto a hot griddle and smashing it with a spatula, creating maximum contact with the cooking surface. This method not only ensures a rapid and even sear, but also locks in the natural juices of the beef, producing a patty that’s simultaneously crispy, tender, and bursting with flavor.

One of the smash burger’s key attributes is its simplicity. The patty itself is typically made from high-quality ground beef—often a blend of different cuts to achieve the ideal fat-to-lean ratio. This combination of fats and lean meat creates a juicy, flavorful, and texturally diverse burger. The art of shaping and smashing the patty is where the magic happens. As the patty meets the hot griddle, it begins to caramelize, forming a beautiful crust that provides a satisfying crunch with each bite.

Part of the smash burger’s appeal lies in its adaptability. While traditionalists might opt for the classic cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion toppings, modern variations have given rise to myriad creative combinations. From artisanal cheeses to unconventional toppings like avocado, fried eggs, caramelized onions, and specialty sauces, the smash burger has become a canvas for culinary innovation, allowing chefs and home cooks alike to experiment with bold flavors and unexpected pairings.

The science behind the smash burger is just as captivating as its taste. The Maillard reaction, which occurs when amino acids and reducing sugars react under high heat, is responsible for the delectable aroma and complex flavors of the crust. The intense searing achieved through the smash technique not only enhances the flavor but also contributes to the satisfyingly crunchy texture.

Although modern food trends often veer towards complexity, the smash burgerserves as a reminder that culinary brilliance can arise from simplicity. This unassuming yet utterly irresistible creation has redefined the burger landscape, proving that the perfect balance of technique, quality ingredients, and creativity can yield a masterpiece.

The next time you find yourself craving a truly sensational burger experience, Pittsburgh offers a multitude of delectable local options.  With locations in Lawrenceville, Zelionople, and the South Side, Burgh’ers Brewing showcases a wide array of burgers – many named after popular Pittsburgh neighborhoods. A CityScene favorite, the Shadyside, features swiss cheese, bacon, sauteed mushrooms, carmelized onions, and mayo. Another popular but unconventional choice is the Mexican War burger, with cheddar cheese, roasted chiles, tomato,  cilantro, and Burgh’ers sauce. Guests can also  build their own burger from an extensive list of meats, toppings, and sauces to create their own mouthwatering masterpiece.

Another local favorite, Moonlit Burgers offers a truly mouthwatering experience in their retro-inspired diner. Moonlit’s menu offers a variety of classic smashburger options with single, double, and triple patties made of Black Angus beef on Martin’s potato rolls. Opt for the Moon sauce (an animal-style sauce made by mixing gojuchang – a fermented Korean condiment, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Sriracha, white vinegar, sesame, and pickles) for an out-of-this world flavor combination.

With both a brick-and-mortar location inside Strange Roots Millvale Taproom and a popular food truck traveling around the city, Pittsburgh Sandwich Society offers a rotating selection of smash burgers and other delicious eats. Be sure to try the In-N-Aht Burger, their Pittsburgh-themed homage to the famous chain with (almost) the same name. It features two beef patties, American cheese, onion jam, spring mix, tomato, and pickles on a butter toasted bun. For a glimpse at the full menu and to check out their food truck schedule, visit

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