The fast-casual better-burger business is thriving, as companies like Shake Shack, Five Guys, and Smashburger expand across the US. But to succeed in the burger industry in 2016, you need to have a special something.
With locations in 32 states and seven countries, Smashburger is preparing to take over the burger business from coast to coast. The one thing that sets Smashburger apart from the competition: the smashing process that allows the chain to make a hamburger completely different than anything else on the market.
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The company uses what Smashburger founder and McGriddle creator Tom Ryan calls an "old, archaic technique on modern equipment." Instead of just grilling a prepackaged patty, the company uses a smashing technique that has been around for more than a century.
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At a recent event in a New York City Smashburger location, Ryan took Business Insider behind the scenes to see exactly how the chain creates the burger that sets the chain apart:
Smashburger starts with a loosely packed ball of Angus beef, prepared earlier in the day. The company takes pride in the fact that the meat is never frozen or from preformed patties.
The hot — 385-degree — grill top is coated with unsalted butter, so the burger won't stick to the grill.
Now for the key moment: the smash. Smashburger uses a specialized "smasher" to smash the burger into the grill for exactly 10 seconds, searing the bottom into a caramelized shell that seals in the juices.
After the smashing is complete, the burger is seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and some secret spices.
When the grease begins bubbling pancake-style, the burger is ready to be flipped, revealing the caramelized bottom.
After about 2 minutes 45 seconds, the burger is ready. The smashing allows for a speedier process that lets the chain make burgers fresh and at a faster pace than much of the competition.
The burger can be topped in any number of ways. Smashburger prides itself on offering a wide variety of options, with variations like the buffalo and blue-cheese burger.
Ryan says that he founded Smashburger in part because of the limitations he faced while developing the menu at McDonald's. Here, he says, he has the chance to develop what he considers the "burger for the next generation," all while looking to the past for insight on how to craft the perfect hamburger.