This Oklahoma Staple Is the Original Smash Burger
It'll likely become your new summer grilling fave.
By now, everyone has probably had at least one smash burger before—whether that be a homemade one or even one of the famous restaurant chain’s burgers. But, while most people associate the trendy smash burger with In-N-Out, it’s been around for much longer than the West Coast hot spot has been flipping burgers.
On a recent episode of First We Feast’s “Burger Bucket List,” actress Elizabeth Olsen was led through a burger masterclass with chef Alvin Cailan and his sous-chef Christian Alquiza. Olsen said she didn’t know much about burgers beyond that she likes In-N-Out burgers—so Cailan and Alquiza decided to make her a smash burger inspired by In-N-Out but “with a little bit of history.” That's why they made her an Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger.
What Is an Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger?
The Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger is one of the “oldest, classic burgers in the world,” according to Cailan. It was created in Oklahoma (obviously) during the Great Depression when meat was expensive but onions were cheap—so making smash burgers meant they could use less of the expensive meat and more of the cheap veggie.
The OG Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger was just meat, onion, and bun, but nowadays some burger joints add cheese, pickles, mustard, or other toppings.
How to Make an Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger
Making an Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger is incredibly simple—especially if you follow Sarah’s Oklahoma Onion Burger recipe from Allrecipes. You’ll just need the ground meat of your choice (seasoned to your liking), onions that are thinly sliced (almost translucent), and your burger bun of choice. You can add additional toppings, if you like, like cheese, condiments, pickles, or veggies.
To make the burger, scoop a ball of hamburger meat onto a hot skillet or outdoor grill. Then top the ball with a heaping pile of sliced onions. Smash the burger down with a spatula, then let the burger cook on both sides (carefully flipping the burger to keep the onions in place). If you’re adding cheese, add it to the side without the onions so they have more time to cook and caramelize.
What Makes the Oklahoma Onion Fried Burger So Good?
The main reason the Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger remains a popular burger in the Sooner State and throughout the U.S. is because it’s so simple, yet so delicious. It’s made with typical household ingredients and there aren’t any bells and whistles—but the technique takes those basic ingredients to a new flavor level.
Frying the onions on the grill gives them a caramelized taste and slightly crispy texture while smashing the burgers allows the Maillard reaction to take effect. The Maillard reaction browns the meat and gives it a deep savory flavor that is good enough to eat on its own without any condiments.
So, if you typically put onions on your burger anyway, next time you’re grilling try adding them directly to the smash burger itself—you might never go back to your old burger recipe again.