Burger Toppings Week: The Smashed Reuben Burger

Smashed Reuben Burger
Half Reuben sandwich, half burger, totally insane...in a good way. Vicky Wasik

During my recent exploits developing ideas for Burger Toppings Week, I've gotten myself into a bit of a mashup routine. First, there was the Cemita Burger, half Mexican cemita sandwich, half massive eight-ounce hamburger patty. Today, I've gone and mashed some stuff up again. This time, it's the lovechild of a Reuben sandwich and a slider.

I came to the idea as I was thinking about how to bring the Reuben's flavors—melted Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, rye bread, sauerkraut—to a burger. It occurred to me that the shreds of kraut aren't unlike the thinly sliced onions that are set atop a smashed patty of beef when making a slider. Once that clicked, the rest was pretty obvious.

Here's how to make it.

burger patties in cast iron skillet

I started with small 4-ounce balls of beef. Because these patties are smashed thin and cooked until well done, a high fat-percentage beef is essential. Here, I used 80-percent lean freshly ground chuck.

smashing burger patties to flatten

I seasoned the balls generously and set them in a rippin' hot skillet. Then I took a sturdy spatula and smashed them down. Not familiar with this method? Read more of what Kenji's written about smashed burgers.

adding kraut to smashed burger patties

I sprinkled each smashed patty with some ground coriander seed, just to give a hint of the corned beef you'd find in a classic Reuben. Then I let them sizzle like that for a couple minutes: That contact time is what gives you that lacy, crispy crust on each patty. Next, I put a small mound of kraut on top of each patty, just like the onions in a classic slider.

flipping burger patties

I scraped each patty up, using a very sturdy, thin piece of metal—the best way to get all the delicious crust off the skillet. The spatula I'm using in the photo works well, as would a bench scraper or even a wide putty knife (preferably one that hasn't been used to spackle holes in walls).

smashed burger patty for reuben sliders

Then I flipped them over so that the kraut was on the bottom. When it hits the surface, it steams and cooks the underside of the patty from below.

swiss cheese on top of burger patties

This is when you want to top each patty with a thin slice of Swiss cheese.

reuben burger with Swiss cheese

The cheese should be just melted when it's time for the patties to come off. Also, you'll notice that this recipe makes four burgers, but the skillet in the photo only has three in it. That's because you don't want to overcrowd the pan, which could reduce the strong sear you need for each patty. Instead, you may need to cook the fourth in a separate skillet (or do two patties in two skillets, whatever works for the pans you have). You can also use a larger cast-iron griddle that fits over two burners, which will comfortably fit all four.

reuben burgers

Meanwhile, I had spread my rye bread with butter and toasted it until slightly crispy. Then, I'd taken half of the pieces of bread and melted additional slices of Swiss cheese on top in the oven. This way, each sandwich gets two slices of cheese (the one that melted on the patty plus the one that melted on the bread), and you're guaranteed that both are fully melted and fused to both the bread and the burger.

I set each of those pieces of cheese-covered bread on top of the patties.

Russian dressing spread on bread for reuben burger

And then I spread homemade Russian dressing on the remaining bottom bread halves.

Russian dressing on bread for reuben burger
reuben burger

At this point, it's just a matter of sliding the kraut/patty/top-bread construction out of the skillet and onto the dressed, bottom slice of rye.

reuben burger

Yeah, that's about right.

reuben burger cut in half