Ina Garten's Tangy Secret Ingredient For Next-Level Smash Burgers

Ina Garten is known for creating sophisticated meals while embracing simplicity. From brightening up mashed potatoes with lemon zest to jazzing up apple cider with peppercorns, Garten has no shortage of secret ingredients up her sleeve to take a dish from average to amazing. So, it stands to reason that the Barefoot Contessa's smashed burgers get a little elevation, too.

Garten's burgers benefit from the use of high-quality beef with 20% fat so that they're juicy and chock-full of flavor — so much so that outside of salt and pepper, there's only one other seasoning she uses: ground mustard. She gently mixes the spices right into the ground beef, careful not to compress the meat and lose its texture.

"I use dry mustard because it has, like, a real sharpness about it," Garten explains [via YouTube].

Mustard is at the top of The Barefoot Contessa's list of ingredients she loves to use, in general. When it comes to jarred versions, she's been known to express enthusiasm for Maille Whole Grain Dijon Mustard and Grey Poupon, which she lists among her go-to ingredients on her site. So, it's not a leap that Garten would use mustard powder in her cooking as well. But what is it about dry mustard that gives burgers their wow factor?

What powdered mustard is and how to use it

Dry mustard, also called powdered mustard, is exactly what it sounds like — an ingredient that comes from grinding mustard seeds. It's both spicy and tangy, as well as a bit bitter, too. Just like other varieties of mustard, it helps to build a more rich and complex flavor profile.

The fact that the granules are so fine makes it fairly easy to mix dry mustard into nearly any other ingredient. It can be used as part of a seasoning blend like Ina Garten uses in her smashed burgers, or it can be a component of a rub or marinade for other meats (Garten also uses it in her popular recipe for herb-roasted turkey breast).

While ground mustard can be a great way to enhance your meats, there are lots of other ways to use the yellow spice. Sprinkle some into soups, stews, or homemade dressings to give them a bit of a kick, or toss your veggies in it before roasting. And don't sleep on mixing it into your best mac and cheese recipe to take it up a notch, or stir it into your deviled egg filling for even more mustardy flavor.

More tips for the best smashed burgers

The key to crafting the perfect smashed burger is to create a flavorful crust. To do that, you'll want to use a spatula to smash the meat so that it makes the most possible contact with the surface of your skillet. While some suggest otherwise, be sure not to grease the pan — that will help to create a crunchy crust, too, by ensuring the beef comes fully into contact with your skillet or griddle.

Also, using a smaller amount of meat than you might typically use for a burger will help to make a thin burger with a good crust. One way to do this is to simply split the typical amount you would use in half and make two patties that you can stack. For the best, juiciest results? You need to chill your beef before you put it into a ripping hot pan. That way, the cold fat is held in place as the meat cooks — rather than immediately liquifying and leaking out all over your pan.

Lastly, it's important to note that this method is best employed on the stovetop, and not on a grill. Since the texture of a true smashed burger relies on its crust, there is not enough contact between the surface of the burger and the grill grates to achieve the same result. Instead, just whip out your stainless steel pan — or take The Barefoot Contessa's advice and use a cast iron skillet.