I’m a self-proclaimed burger addict. I’ve cooked countless pounds of burgers over the last decade, and I know firsthand how frustrating it is to see your beautifully shaped patties fall apart during cooking.
I’ve consulted fellow burger cooks and experimented with different methods and ingredients to find out what works best for keeping a burger whole.
Here are all the ways to keep your burger patties intact and perfectly shaped.
- There are many reasons why burgers may fall apart.
- Some methods to prevent a burger from falling apart are keeping it cold, not flipping it too often, choosing the correct ground beef, and more.
- Don’t cook frozen patties, or you risk overcooking one side and having a bad burger texture.
9 Ways to Keep Burgers from Falling Apart
Here is a list of nine essential factors to bear in mind.
1. Cool the Meat in the Fridge
My biggest tip for preventing hamburger meat from breaking down is to cool it in the fridge. Cooler meat is more likely to stay together.
Ground beef absorbs heat from your hands, the room, and even other ingredients you put in the patties.
The heat makes the patties break apart more easily, but chilled ground meat keeps the meat more stable. This is why it’s best to place burger meat in the fridge so it cools down before tossing it on the grill.
Pro tip: Put patties on wax paper before placing them in the fridge. You don’t need to keep the hamburger patties in the fridge for hours. Half an hour is enough.
2. Proper Handling
I know firsthand how tempting it is to keep shaping the patties until you have a perfectly symmetrical shape. However, too much manhandling means you’ll break the meat into smaller pieces.
I noticed my hamburger patties aren’t breaking down nearly as much since I started making crude burger shapes with the least amount of touching as possible.
Here’s why too much meat handling results in crumbing patties: the center evaporates the juices. This results in steam, which tries to come out. If the patty is too tight, too much steam breaks it apart.
Pro tip: In case you don’t want to give up on perfectly shaped patties, use a burger press. This way, you’ll have perfect burgers without too much meat handling.
Don’t knead and squeeze the meat unnecessarily. This also heats the patties, and you need cold meat for the best results.
3. Don’t Overflip
Another reason why your frozen patties are breaking down is over-flipping. It’s best to flip only once when cooking on the grill.
This way, the bottom will be cooked before you flip the patty, so there’s solid, cooked meat that holds the patty together.
Plus, you need to leave the patty on the grill grates long enough to develop those nice grill marks.
Here’s how to know when it’s time to flip the burger:
- You see a brown layer on the patty.
- The steam is coming from the bottom of the patty, which means it’s cooked.
- Enough time has passed for the patty to be cooked.
4. Add Eggs
You can also mix eggs into your patties. Eggs act as binders as they cook and help the patty stick together during the cooking process .
Note: The lower the fat content, the higher the chance the patty will fall apart. This is why adding an egg is especially helpful if you like lean ground beef.
“The proteins in egg products, specifically in the whites, assist with adhesion and ingredient binding. When they are heated or exposed to acid, they coagulate, causing the egg product to change from a liquid to a semisolid or sold.”
- American Egg Board (AEB)
5. Use Solids, not Liquids
Liquid ingredients make your patties more watery, which means it’s more likely to fall apart on the grill. Use dry seasonings instead, such as spice blends. Or, add the sauce after the patty is done cooking.
Here are some liquids to avoid:
- BBQ sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
6. Don’t Grill
Cooking burgers on the grill is the most popular method. However, this could be why your patties are breaking down. Instead of cooking on a grill, try a cast iron skillet.
There’s minimum flipping required in a skillet. Plus, the skillet’s solid bottom keeps patties in place, which helps even if the texture is bad.
Pro tip: Add a little water or oil to the pan, heat it on high heat, and only flip burgers once for best results.
7. Make the Right Shape
I said a vague burger shape is good enough, and I’m not going back on my word — you don’t need a perfect burger patty.
However, even if vague, the shape of the patties has to be right, especially the thickness and size. For example, flattening out the patties too much causes steam and juice to escape, and you have a dry burger.
Also, your patties shouldn’t be too large, as big patties are difficult to cook evenly. Stick to four to six ounces.
Here’s how I create a patty that doesn’t break down: make a ball with ground beef and sculpt it into a disc. Finally, I flatten the sides without pressing all the way down into the patty.
Pro tip: Make an indentation in the middle to regulate the moisture and help steam dissipate.
Also Read: How to Shape Hamburger Patties
8. Buy Quality Meat
Ground beef can be the major factor in why your patties are breaking down. Ground beef is made up of different parts of the cow, each of which has a different cooking time, which can make grilling more difficult.
Also, some ground beef has a lot of ingredients. But, too many ingredients can add too much moisture and make the patty crumble.
When making your own patties, buy fresh ground beef chuck or short ribs.
They have a high lean-to-fat ratio. 80% lean and 20% fat is the best choice because high lean amount locks in the moisture.
Choose coarse grind because it has a chunkier texture and keeps the patty stable. On the other hand, fine ground beef has too small meat particles. This means the proteins mash up, and you have sticky meat that shrinks.
9. Cook at the Correct Temperature
If your cooking temperature is too low, you’ll have burgers falling apart.
Also, a low temperature means you’re thawing a frozen burger, or sweating it, which pulls the moisture out but doesn’t start cooking.
Cook the burger at high heat for three to four minutes per side. This leads to Maillard Reaction.
In other words, a chemical change happens, where your meat develops aromas due to proteins and sugars in it .a
How Do You Keep Burgers from Falling Apart Without Eggs?
You keep burgers from falling apart without eggs by using other binders, such as bread crumbs, oats, and chia seeds.
How Do Restaurants Keep Burgers Flat?
Restaurants keep burgers flat by making an indentation in the center of the patty. This prevents the burger from puffing up and bulging.
Should You Press Down on Burgers?
No, you shouldn’t press down on burgers. Pressing down on burgers forces out all the juices and flavors, and the burger will fall apart.
How to Make Sure Your Burger Won’t Fall Apart
Experiment with your patties, and use the methods I mentioned above so your burger cooks evenly. It’s important to keep the meat cold, don’t touch it or flip it too often. If all else fails, try different binding ingredients, such as eggs.
Most importantly, buy quality ground beef, and don’t hesitate to order it from reputable meat delivery companies like ButcherBox. ButcherBox has a wide selection of beef, including ground beef.
You can choose between different lean-to-fat ratios, including 80% to 20%, which I found worked the best. Make sure to check out our ButcherBox meat selection review to see why everyone is raving about this company.