At six two and 270 pounds, chef Ethan Davis has a body built for smashing burger patties. He’s the kitchen manager and burger specialist at Dayne’s Craft Barbecue, in Aledo, just west of Fort Worth. It’s only appropriate that owners Dayne and Ashley Weaver would need a scouting report for folks to wield an aluminum spatula in a town whose identity is so tightly linked to football (Aledo High School has won eleven state championships in the last fifteen years). “Some of our employees can’t get high enough to get the leverage they need to get a good smash on it,” Weaver said, and he knows from experience. “I made the first seven thousand burgers myself.” He debuted the OG Burger in April 2021, and he was happy to relinquish the duties. 

As a pitmaster who steers raw briskets through a painstaking process to barbecue beauty, Weaver’s ego was bruised when the burger’s popularity challenged that of the smoked meats. “They’ve heard about the burger, and they come here thinking we’re a burger place, not knowing we even cook barbecue,” he said of some of his customers. He grinds brisket trim to make the burgers (and the juicy sausages), turning trash to smash. They depend on each other, the brisket and the burger, and can only exist in balance. “I have to sell more brisket if I’m going to give you more burgers,” Weaver explained.

Good thing he’s selling more brisket than ever. Since moving to Aledo in December, Dayne’s has doubled its cooking capacity and daily production. I stopped in on a recent Friday, getting there before opening, or so I thought, to beat the crowds. When I pulled up at 10:30 a.m., the Open sign was already lit. “I don’t know why more joints don’t open then,” Weaver said (most choose to wait until 11 a.m.). I was third in line, and I got the $45 Trinity Platter, with a half pound of sliced brisket, two big pork spareribs, a link of sausage, and two sides. I opted for the jalapeño-cheese sausage and added a link of the weekly special Margherita pizza sausage. Chunks of fresh mozzarella melded with oregano, fennel, and garlic in the all-pork sausage, which gets its deep flavor from sun-dried tomatoes. It was another winner from cook Nate Hernandez, who treats sausage making like an art (the next Dayne’s sausage-making course is in March).

My expectations at Dayne’s are always high, and this trip exceeded them, even though Weaver said going from 9 to 25 employees has been a challenge. His job in the pit room is more about teaching than doing. Thankfully, he has longtime pitmaster Thomas Loven to keep the trainees in line. With all this great barbecue, you wouldn’t expect customers to get so irate when Dayne’s sells out of burgers. “We spent all this other time making all this other awesome stuff,” Weaver tells them with exasperation when the one hundred burgers are gone for the day. Don’t bother asking for one on Sunday—a new barbecue brunch menu will soon take up the griddle space.

Weaver swallowed any annoyance he may have had when I asked for more details on the burger. It starts with a two 4-ounce balls of ground brisket. The lean meat to fat ratio is about seventy to thirty, but Weaver admits they eyeball it. “We smash it on a rip-roaring hot flattop,” he said of the burgers that go on the griddle without any additional fat. A layer of parchment paper between the patty and the spatula keeps the meat from sticking to the metal. “The colder that patty is, the longer you have to hold that pressure,” Weaver said.

From there, Davis took over explaining the process. He smashes in a circular motion he describes as “smearing” the meat onto the griddle. The fat begins to melt almost immediately. The raw side is seasoned, and generously so, with salt and pepper. As it cooks, the beef takes on a lacy look. A little raw egg mixed into the ground beef helps the patty keep its form as the fat melts. When the burger is about 80 percent done, Davis scrapes a spatula under the patty to release the meat. The seared side, which Davis calls the presentation side, should be mahogany in color. “You want it to be almost purple,” Davis explained. He quickly places a slice of white American cheese on one patty and yellow American cheese on the other. The former combo goes atop the latter, and by the time the cheese has melted, the burger is ready for the bun. During a busy lunch rush, toasting the bun is someone else’s responsibility. “You just have time to smash and cheese,” Davis explained. “That’s it.”

After trying many others, Weaver prefers sesame-seed buns from a big-box grocery store. The bun is brushed with garlic butter, then griddled until brown. Davis stressed the importance of a well-toasted bun. “You don’t want it to get soggy, so you have to have that crust to counteract those wet ingredients,” he said. After the bottom bun receives the patties, Davis tops them with thinly sliced raw red onion and Loven Sauce—an orange-hued sauce pitmaster Loven developed for Weaver’s take on a bloomin’ onion that never materialized.

This $11 burger is sturdy. The meat reaches the edge of the bun but doesn’t hang over. There’s not a slip-and-slide layer of a leaf of lettuce, soggy out-of-season tomatoes, and overpowering dill pickles. “I get pretty irritated with some burgers,” Weaver said, especially those that have too many toppings. His burger allows you to taste the beef, the saltiness of the processed cheese, and the umami of the browned butter on the bun. Weaver also doesn’t like thick burgers, where the fat in the middle isn’t warm enough to coat the tongue. “Getting that fat invigorated, and getting it hot enough, makes for a better burger experience,” he argued.

This new location and its ample griddle space make the burger less of an albatross. Still, after three consecutive rounds of burger smashing, the griddle does need to rest for a good five minutes to get back up to the desired searing temperature. So have patience if you ordered a burger during the Saturday lunch rush.

Moving from Fort Worth to Aledo has been a great thing for the Weavers. In the six years since the couple held pop-ups in their front yard, the crew has suffered through four Fort Worth locations, two of which they thought would be permanent. The finishing touches on their Fort Worth restaurant were supposed to be underway at this point, but the property is now the base camp for filming of Taylor Sheridan’s new show, Landman. (Landman is based on Texas Monthly’s Boomtown podcast; TM is an executive producer on the show.)

“We didn’t ever even consider giving up on anything, even when it was really hard, and that’s something I’m really proud of,” Weaver said. Now Aledo has a champion barbecue joint to go along with all those football titles.