Terrible grilled burgers, why?

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Debraj

Assistant Cook
Joined
Nov 12, 2010
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21
Location
Colorado
They actually tasted very good, but they were more like meat balls.
I have this problem every time I use fresh ground beef as aposed to the pre foarmed patties.I used 80% beef as well as a herbed butter slice imbedded in the middle of each patty as sugested by steven Reichlin in one of his bbq books.I weighed each patty at 1/4 lb raw and used a burger press to insure consistincy.They were all perfict meat balls after I cooked them.I have heard to never press the patty as it cooks because it will dry it out.Should I weigh them down when They first go on the grill to help keep the shape or am I missing the addition of an ingrediant that will keep them from shrinking?This is an ongoing problem and any advice would be great.
 

Andy M.

Certified Pretend Chef
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Sep 1, 2004
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Massachusetts
Plain burger bulge in the middle when cooked. A burger with butter in the middle will bulge more.

Many burger-making instructions include pressing a depression into the middle of the patty when forming it so the end result will be flat when cooked.
 
Joined
May 6, 2011
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Location
Toronto
Not sure about this, but could it be your meat is too fatty or too chunky? Also, what the heck is the other 20% of your product?
 

DaveSoMD

Master Chef
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Maryland
As the burgers cook the meat shrinks and pulls together forming bulge or ball. Make the patty the size you want then press an indentation into the middle of of it, like a deep thumbprint. That will stop it from bulging up in the middle.
 

Rocklobster

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Nov 10, 2010
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Ottawa Valley, Ontario, Canada
I flatten mine(actually, I do up about 100 a week at work) using two plates and peach paper. I flatten them out very thin so by the time they are done cooking, they have shrunk to the size I want...
 
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pacanis

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Feb 11, 2007
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NW PA
I have been making my beef hamburgers thinner and larger diameter lately. They shrink up just right, slightly larger than the bun I'm using, and no indentation needed. And the other ingredients don't get squished out of the bun if you load it up with tomato, lettuce and other goodies. They aren't as "pretty" as a nice thick burger cooked med/rare, but that's the kick I've been on lately.
 

BigAL

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Jan 3, 2008
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W.KS
Plain burger bulge in the middle when cooked. A burger with butter in the middle will bulge more.

Many burger-making instructions include pressing a depression into the middle of the patty when forming it so the end result will be flat when cooked.

I'll second that. All in favor say "I".
 

Uncle Bob

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Nov 5, 2006
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Small Town Mississippi
"They" say over working the meat.. as well as cooking too fast/hot and for too long makes matters worse ~~ What's the hurry? Slow down and cook with medium hot fires/pans...The thumb print or even a hole will make it mo better also.......
 

deepfryerdan

Senior Cook
Joined
Jun 13, 2011
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114
Location
San Francisco, CA
I agree with some of the earlier posts saying to flatten the patties out more before grilling. Also, your heat is a huge factor. Sounds like your heat is too high. Try a lower heat for a longer time.
 

Chief Longwind Of The North

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I too have conquered the fat burger problem. Until the last couple of years, I didn't know that burgers could be cooked any other way except well done. But even then, over cooking will dry them out and make them more like eating cardboard. to ocmbat this, I've learned to tell when a burger is done "just right, and how to shape it properly (this was taught to me by my DW shortly after we were married).

When I form my burgers, I use either 80/20 ground chuck, or 70/30 ground chuck. Chuck has a great beefy flavor and is less expensive than is ground sirloin or ground round. Though, in my opinion, ground sirloin has the best flavor. I take the about a 1/4 lb. of ground beef and shape it into a ball, as if I were making a snowball, but smaller. I then press it between my palms, but not all the way. At the same time, I use my right thumb to press the side of the burger inwards. I rotate the patty a little and repeat the process. The patty is pressed and turned until it's about the thickness of 2 pencils, with the outer rim of the patty made smooth. The center is slightly thinner than is the outer rim. I place the patty over the heat source, be it cast iron pan, or grill, and cook until the meat juices begin to form on top. I lightly salt the top and flip the burger. I then lightly salt the cooked side and cook until the juices run clear.

Once the burger is cooking, never, ever, ever press it with your spatula, or anything else. All than does is make for a dry burger.

Another trick that will allow you to make your burgers flat across from the get-go, is to add one raw egg to 1 lb. of burger. Mix it in until you can't tell it's there. This will hold in more juices, and reduce shrinkage greatly, making your burger stand out from the rest.

If cooking on the grill (Webber 22 inch kettle), I place the burgers over a solid bed of coals, lightly salt, and cover them with the lid. This increases the internal temperature of the grill, and cooks the burgers faster. It also traps smoke, giving the burgers that char flavor that we love from the grill. Cook on each side for about four minutes. Again, look for clear-running juices.

For burgers that are to be served medium, or even rare, cook them until you are satisfied with how done they are, using the same techniques as above. Make them a bit thicker though. I never make a burger that is more than 1/2 inch thick. And they are always larger in diameter than the palm of my hand.

I wish you success in your future burgers.

Goodweed of the North
 

Timothy

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Jul 12, 2011
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St. Augustine, Florida
Another trick that will allow you to make your burgers flat across from the get-go, is to add one raw egg to 1 lb. of burger. Mix it in until you can't tell it's there. This will hold in more juices, and reduce shrinkage greatly, making your burger stand out from the rest.

Neat trick! I've always used egg in my meatloaf mix, but that's because it's the way I learned how to make meatloaf. I never really knew that it would help with shrinkage.

People who like their meat less than well done need to remember that the outside of the meat when it's intact, has bacteria on it. All meat does.

This isn't a problem when the meat is well done on the outside while it's intact. However, when one grinds the meat into burger, the bacteria that was on the outside is now all through the meat.

Eating it other than well done is a risk. By using a BBQ thermometer, you can observe the inside temperature of the meat while cooking it and if you take it off the grill at 150F and serve it, it will reach 160F just as it's plated. This will ensure that it has no bacterial problem.

Eating it underdone is like a bet in a casino. Some win, most don't. Bacterial infection can be as mild as slight stomach upset to as severe as death. Heck of a bet!:chef:
 

Chief Longwind Of The North

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Neat trick! I've always used egg in my meatloaf mix, but that's because it's the way I learned how to make meatloaf. I never really knew that it would help with shrinkage.

People who like their meat less than well done need to remember that the outside of the meat when it's intact, has bacteria on it. All meat does.

This isn't a problem when the meat is well done on the outside while it's intact. However, when one grinds the meat into burger, the bacteria that was on the outside is now all through the meat.

Eating it other than well done is a risk. By using a BBQ thermometer, you can observe the inside temperature of the meat while cooking it and if you take it off the grill at 150F and serve it, it will reach 160F just as it's plated. This will ensure that it has no bacterial problem.

Eating it underdone is like a bet in a casino. Some win, most don't. Bacterial infection can be as mild as slight stomach upset to as severe as death. Heck of a bet!:chef:

Hit it with gamma rays. That will sterilize the meat inside and out.:LOL:

Seriously though, if you purchase a suitable chuck roast, wash it completely with water, and then slice and grind it yourself (yes, I sometimes do such things), and cook immediately, you minimize the chances of any bacteriological contamination. I know that there are upscale restaurants that serve steak burgers served medium. Also, a favored European dish (Germanic origin) is called Luca Augen, and consists of a half-pound of ground beef, topped with a raw egg, and a tsp. of caviar. Would I eat it? Probably not. But many people do. The meat simply needs to be handled with care.

Beef that is carefully butchered is pretty safe stuff. When the colon is perforated, and the contents allowed to touch the meat, that's when the nasties come into play.

It is very good beef that is used to make raw beef dishes, such as carpacio. The meat source is known. And the meat is butchered properly.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
 

dcSaute

Sous Chef
Joined
Apr 24, 2011
Messages
957
e-coli doesn't die until several minutes at 160'F - so if you're going to go safe at all costs, you'll need to jack up the time and temp for really crunchy&dry perfectly safe burgers.
 

vagriller

Head Chef
Joined
Jul 11, 2006
Messages
1,984
Location
Orlando, FL
Whatever you do, don't smash the burgers. Generally speaking the less you fool with it the better, while preparing it and then when it's on the grill. Grab as much beef as you need, pat it into a patty. Then when it's on the grill you should really only need to touch it twice. Once to flip it, and then to take it off.
 

barbieq

Assistant Cook
Joined
Sep 5, 2011
Messages
33
Location
South Florida
The key to great burgers that don't shrink down to hockey pucks or meatballs is to start with ground chuck, with about 20% fat. Don't worry, much of the fat will render out as you grill.
Form your patties, handling the meat as little as possible. Once formed, make an indentation in each one using your thumb. This will keep the meat from bulking up in the middle as it cooks.
Season each patty with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on both sides just before you put them on the grill.
Then grill according to your usual taste.
Hope you enjoy!
 

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