Rise of the smashburger: How US craze has taken over UK high streets

The rise of the smashburger: How US craze for trendy patties costing up to £15 is taking over British high streets and replacing the humble burger in a bun

If you peruse through the menu of one of the many burger shops on British high streets you might expect to see a quarter pounder – or even a half pounder if you’re feeling particularly peckish.

A big chunky burger has appealed to hungry Brits for decades but now a distinctly flatter bite to eat is cementing itself as one of the UK’s favourites.  

Smashburger patties are made, as the name suggests, by taking a ball of mince, a little salt and pepper, and forcefully smashing it down on a hot griddle with spatula.

Unlike more traditional burgers, which you can have a pink in the middle, a smashburger is cooked fast, hot and all the way through to give a delicious crispy, craggly crust on its whole surface area.

And now the smashburger – which can trace its origins back to the post-depression era in the US – is taking the UK cities including London by storm, with hungry patrons lining up around corners to get their mouths around one.

And experts say it’s here to stay.

TO SMASH OR NOT TO SMASH? Smashburgers, left, are overtaking the popularity of traditional, thicker burgers, right, at the Honest Burgers chain

MEDIUM OR LARGE? Smashburger diners are taking British high streets by storm (Smacks Hamburgers in Tooting left; 10 patty smashburger from Bill or Beak in Camden right)

‘The smashburger is nothing new,’ burger guru Adam Layton told MailOnline. ‘It’s the burger that built America after the great depression.

‘It’s a vehicle for quick sustenance, smash for speed. But now we’ve made it a bit more premium.’

Adam, head of food and drink at Honest Burgers, which has 40 locations across Britain, said there was ‘definitely’ a rise in the popularity of smashburgers in the UK.

‘Since putting smashburgers on the menu a year ago it’s become one of our most successful products. It’s competing for the top spot and is the most popular some weeks.

‘It’s a more affordable burger and it appeals by its nature to as many people as possible, and it’s often simple and straightforward with just American cheese, ketchup and mustard.

‘There’s always been trends in burgers, this is the next wave and there’s a lot of interest from social media.’

Social media has been bombarded with food lovers debating the best smashburger spots in UK cities from London to Manchester as well as TikToks of burger cooks squishing down the beef patties getting millions of views.

Videos of hungry food bloggers chowing down on colossal smashburgers have gone viral, including one of TikToker ‘Eating with Tod’ challenging viewers to ‘smash’ a 10 patty smashburger from Camden eatery Bill or Beak.

A common or garden smashburger is one to four thin and crispy patties which are topped with American cheese and pickles, ketchup and mustard, although Honest Burgers top their smashburgers with their signature brown butter mustard mayo.

When asked why smashburgers are now getting more popular in the UK now Adam, 38, said: ‘I think it’s because it cascades down from America. We saw in California 6-7 years ago a resurgence in smashburgers.’

‘My favourite way to eat a burger’: Adam Layton, head of food and drink at Honest Burgers, which has 40 locations across Britain, said there was ‘definitely’ a rise in the popularity of smashburgers in the UK

He said that YouTube ‘hamburger historian’ George Motz has helped to fuel the popularity of the retro slider, adding that he has met him to discuss their favourite food.

‘There’s this modern wave of looking back at some of the burgers of the past and dialling in on the quality. The thing missing post-depression era America is because it was quick and cheap but now people think the format is good but we can do it with better quality.’

He said that he would not be surprised if more smashburger restaurants pop up but advised food lovers to be wary of dishes that ‘claim to be smashburgers are not hitting the mark, in my opinion’. 

Explaining the science of why smashburgers have become so beloved, the burger boss told MailOnline: ‘It’s about smashing for speed and getting an amazing sear on the burger.

‘You need good fat content on the beef, it’s higher on the smashburgers so even though it’s pressed thin it’s still juicy.

‘The pressure of pressing against the grill so you’re maintaining that surface area. That’s what builds the Maillard reaction which is what develops umami flavour and that addictive bite.

‘It’s my favourite way to eat a burger.’

Because of the wide surface area in contact with the grill, ‘you get an amazing sear and a darker colour’, Adam said. ‘What you sacrifice in not being able to serve it medium rare you gain in all that extra umami from the Maillard reaction.’

And while a smashburger isn’t exactly a healthy treat, in general they are no more unhealthy than a usual burger (unless you indulge in one of the ten-stack monsters seen on TikTok).

Adam said: ‘It’s less calories because it’s less food, buns slightly smaller, patty slightly smaller.

And while the mince mixture has a higher fat content, Adam says that ‘most of that is so you get a really good sear’, adding that ‘not all of it ends in the burger as it stays on the grill when it melts away’.

Smashburger patties being made by chefs at Supernova in Soho, London by taking a ball of mince a little salt and pepper, and forcefully smashing it down on a hot griddle with spatula

Adam thinks the smashburger trend is here to stay, saying: ‘It’s not just hype and we will be opening a restaurant that will exclusively be serving smashburgers. There is huge growth potential.

‘I think we can take on all the big guys and deliver something better quality, more affordable and stick to our principles one British farming.’

Honest Burgers does face growing competition with new smashburger joint Supernova in Soho, London, seeing patrons queue around the block as it opened earlier this month – and food TikToker London Bruncher rating in the ‘best smashed burger in London’.

But burger boss Adam is not worried. ‘We are seeing it now there are new places doing there will be imitators but there is a big difference in quality.

‘A lot of places are calling themselves smashburgers but won’t be really good.’

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