Oklahoma Smashburgers Prove That There's No Such Thing As Too Much Onion

If you're not including onions in your smashburgers, then you are definitely missing out. While onions may just be one of many toppings for typical burgers, it's a vital ingredient when it comes to smashburgers. It's the Oklahoma way, which helped pioneer this particular spin on one of America's favorite sandwiches. So unless you want Oklahomian chefs giving you the side-eye, here's how to properly incorporate the veggie in the dish.

You see, onions enter the picture from the moment you slap that ball of hamburger meat on the grill. While there's some debate whether you should put the onions down first or the ground beef, ultimately the two ingredients will mix together when you smash the hamburger meat down. The onions cook into the meat, imparting their natural richness as a result. 

When it comes to dicing the onions, you want them really thin as this will help them cook faster. Some of the onions may evaporate into the meat but the rest will improve the texture of the smashburger. Due to the Mallard reaction, you'll end up with slightly crisp, caramelized onions throughout your burger, giving it a tangy or sweet crunch. This is a very different mouthfeel than just topping your burger with raw onions and calling it a day. 

An Oklahoma tradition

When choosing the right onions for your Smashburger, most recipes call for yellow or white onions because they're tangier and blend well with ground beef. However, if you want to give your Smashburger a sweeter edge, you can use red or sweet onions instead. The choice is ultimately up to you. While adding onions may have its culinary benefits, it was actually born out of necessity. 

The Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger was created during the Great Depression when both food and money were limited. Many restaurants found themselves on the verge of closing and couldn't afford the exorbitant prices of beef. So to keep costs down, restaurants would mix onions into hamburger meat to stretch their limited resources further. This may also explain the smashburgers thin shape as well. As they say, a little bit goes a long way. 


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The popularity of the burger may be due to its place of origin. Reportedly, the burger has its origins on Route 66 at a small restaurant called Hamburger Inn. The owner of the establishment cut costs by smashing half an onion into 5 cents worth of meat. Given Route 66's status as the crossroads of America, word quickly spread to neighboring restaurants, which began offering their own smashburgers. From there, the rest is history. While the burgers may have been born from cost-saving measures, they quickly found an audience of hungry customers.