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Having an amazing grill and being able to cook from your own home is great, especially during the warm spring and summer months. However, constantly having burgers that are falling apart is annoying and embarrassing when you are trying to serve your burgers to guests.
There are some general tips and tools you can follow to keep your burgers from falling apart and keep them looking tasty and juicy.
Chill Your Burgers Before Cooking
Slightly chilled meat will crumble less and stay together better while cooking. They only need to be chilled for about 20 minutes before you begin cooking, so you don’t need too much additional time to prepare. It should be firm when you begin cooking.
Try not to grill patties that are completely frozen (but if you are stuck with frozen patties, we have a guide on how to handle this right here). The ice can make the meat crumble as you grill it. Make sure all your meat is thawed before you begin cooking it.
Create the Right Shape
If you are shaping or molding your own patties, the right shape is key to making sure it doesn’t fall apart. Some people like to flatten out their patties too much. This will cause steam and juice to escape from the center leaving your burger dry.
It’s also important not to make the burgers too large. Large patties can be harder to cook evenly. You only need about 4-6 ounces to make an average size beef patty. Create a ball with the meat and sculpt it into a disc shape by flattening the sides. Don’t press completely down on the patty.
Leave the middle of the patty concaved in. This helps less steam come out and will lock in more moisture. The right amount of moisture is key because too much or too little can cause crumbling.
Don’t Eat the Burger Right Away
After all the time cooking and preparing, you’re probably ready to get eating right away. However, diving straight into the burger can cause it to crumble. Just like letting steak rest, letting the burger rest for about 5-10 minutes will seal all the proteins and juices. It’s also not enough time to get the burger cold, so don’t worry about that.
Allowing the burgers a few minutes to rest will also make them firmer and much easier to eat.
Resist the Urge to Flip
I know, I know, it’s hard to not open your grill lid and engage with the cooking process by flipping your burger every 30 seconds. But flipping the patty too many times can cause the patty to break very easily.
Not to mention, your burger can only build up those beautiful grill marks if they are on the grates long enough to sear. You only need to flip the burger a few times to get the perfect grilled patty on both sides.
Make Sure to Use the Correct Temperature
The temperature and heat you put into the patty can decide whether it will break or not.
The patty should be slightly bouncy yet firm when you touch it. Remember that it will be very hot, so only tap the patty to see if it’s bouncy or not. Each side of the burger usually needs about 3-4 minutes of cooking on each side to get a medium-cooked burger.
Leave it on the grill slightly longer or slightly shorter if you prefer but remember that overcooking the patty can make it too firm. You should always start cooking the burger on high heat, then after the recommended 3-4 minutes on each side, turn the heat to low.
Do not cook the burgers on low heat the entire time. Cooking on low heat is not really cooking the meat, but rather just thawing it. This will pull out most of the moisture and cause the patty to start crumbling before it’s done cooking. It will also make a huge mess once you put it on the bun and try to start eating it.
Use Better Quality Ground Meat
The meat is the most important ingredient in the burger because it will determine how well your burger will taste. Low-quality meat is cheaper, but unfortunately will be more likely to fall apart as you are grilling.
Some people also think that hamburger meat has to be ground. However, ground beef can often cause major cooking problems even though forming the patty might be easier. Ground meat uses several different parts and muscles of the cow, each with a different cooking time. This can cause grilling the patty to be difficult because some parts of the patty will be done cooking way before others.
Some people also buy patties with fancy ingredient lists or they add many of their own. While this may seem like a good idea, sometimes the simpler is the better. Having too many ingredients cause add too much moisture to the patty and makes it crumble.
Try to only use a few extra ingredients and don’t use too much of them. This goes for soy, liquid seasonings such as Worcestershire sauce, salt, and breadcrumbs.
When buying meat, go with fresh ground beef chuck or short ribs. These choices are the best because they have a higher lean-to-fat ratio. Short ribs are more expensive, so if it’s your first time grilling, maybe start with the ground beef chuck.
If getting ground meat, go with a coarse grind. This is usually 80% lean and 20% fat. The coarse grind will help keep the patty together and the higher lean amount will keep the moisture locked in.
If you want to add seasonings, add dry herbs and powders rather than liquids. If you aren’t sure what seasonings to add, buy a pre-made dry rub or just add salt and pepper.
Still Not Having Luck? Add an Egg
If you prefer a leaner ground beef for your burgers, then adding an egg to your mixture will usually do the trick to keep your burgers from falling apart. The egg acts as a binder and will definitely help to keep your patties together. We like to add the whole egg, but even just adding an egg white can make a difference.
If you use meat that is at least 80/20 lean to fat, you won’t need to add any binders like eggs to keep the burger from crumbling. The fat in the meat will naturally keep the burger together. It will also make your meal much healthier without any additives.
Chilling the meat is also key. Don’t make it completely frozen, but make sure it is nice and cold. Shape your burgers with a small concave shape in the middle and don’t overwork them. It can cause them to fall apart much easier if you overhandle them.
Overall, following these few simple tips can give you the perfect burger every time.