I’m a once-a-week vegetarian. My family likes to buy plant-based burger patties—from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat—and fry up great burgers in our skillet. The resulting burgers don't offer 100 percent of the beef cheeseburger experience, but they're about 95 percent as satisfying, and up until now, that’s been a good enough tradeoff for me.
But what’s preventing these burgers from reaching that 100 percent goal? It’s the flavor of plant-based meats, which taste like, well, plant-based meats. They’re made primarily from a pea protein, which gives a lingering aftertaste that signals to your brain: “You’re not really eating a cheeseburger.” Maybe I couldn't achieve absolute perfection, but could I up that 95 percent satisfaction to somewhere around 98 percent?
The answer is yes. Just smash the patties.
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My colleague Joe Gitter developed a fantastic recipe in our Complete Plant-Based Cookbook called Double Smashie Burgers. It’s a way of getting an otherwise thick burger patty into crisp “meaty” disks with savory, lacy edges. From that recipe:
“What impressed tasters most was the exterior of the burgers, which achieved the complex flavors of the Maillard reaction that make up browning in protein. In order to make double the impression, we doubled the number of burgers by making them thinner.”
Not wanting to stop at a double, I decided this week to make a Quadruple Smashed Impossible Burger for dinner. Folks, this is how I’ll be making my plant-based burgers going forward:
You’ll need some extra equipment to achieve that supersmashed effect: a Dutch oven, aluminum foil, and a 1-quart zipper-lock bag with its sides cut out (leaving the bottom seam intact). The Dutch oven helps brown the patties in the skillet faster, before they get overcooked.
- Wrap bottom of Dutch oven with aluminum foil.
- Divide meat into eight 1½-ounce portions, then roll each portion into ball. (Meat will be easier to handle and shape if it is chilled beforehand.) Enclose 1 ball in split bag. Using clear pie plate or baking dish, press ball into even 3½-inch-wide patty. Repeat with remaining meat balls. Season patties on 1 side with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Place 4 patties in skillet and weight with prepared Dutch oven. Cook until well browned on first side, about 1 minute. Remove pot; flip patties; and cook until just cooked through on second side, about 15 seconds. Transfer burgers to bun bottoms. Add remaining 4 patties to fat left in skillet and repeat cooking process.
- Top with your favorite condiments and serve immediately.