A perfectly shaped patty isn’t too moist, dry, or sloping to the side. But, as I’ve learned, it’s easier said than done.
As a dedicated carnivore and a perfectionist, I spent months trying different bun-shaping methods and talked with the chef at my favorite burger place to get expert tips.
After experimenting with different techniques, I’m finally confident to share the best ways to make perfect burger patties.
- You can shape a burger patty in several ways, using tools or your hands.
- You shouldn’t touch the ground beef with your hands for too long or risk the meat heating and fat starting to melt.
- Make sure to season the hamburgers with salt and pepper, or experiment with other ingredients for more flavor.
4 Methods for Shaping Hamburger Patties
Here’s a rundown of the most efficient methods to shape a patty.
1. Hamburger Press
A hamburger press is an official way to get perfect burger patties. They aren’t too expensive and are easy to use, so this is a good investment if you make a lot of burgers.
Here’s how to use a hamburger press:
- Roll the meat - Put the meat into a mixing bowl, add spices or fillings for a tender burger, and form into balls approximately the same shape.
- Take out the burger press - Prepare your hamburger press by putting parchment paper over the side the burger will go on.
- Place the meat on the press - Put meatballs on the press and press down all the way. Remove the patty and repeat with the rest of the balls.
2. A Lid Jar
Another easy way to make perfect burger patties is to use lid jars. The trick is to find a jar that’s just slightly larger than the size of the hamburger bun.
Here’s how to use a lid jar:
- Season the hamburger meat with spices.
- Cover the lid in plastic wrap or wax paper so it’s easy to remove the hamburger patties after they are shaped.
- Put hamburger meat inside the lid and press the meat down into it. Remove any excess meat or add more if needed.
- Flip out the hamburger patty and repeat.
You can use a different-sized lid to make regular or mini burgers.
Pro tip: Another alternative is to use two small deli container lids. You can make a gentle press without getting your hands dirty.
Plus, the heat from the hands can melt the fat in the beef. Use two lids with a 4-inch diameter and 1/4-inch depth for perfect hamburger patties.
“Using a hamburger patty press is easy to do. Simply take your meat, ball it up, set it in, push down, and you have a perfectly shaped hamburger patty every time.”
- Matt Davis, Chef for H-E-B, Youtube Channel
Spatula smashing isn’t as effective as the first two methods. It’s more difficult to get all the patties the same size, but it’s a good option if you’re out of lids.
It’s also great for making hamburger patties last minute on the grill.
Here’s how shaping burger patties with a spatula works:
- Place the ground beef in a bowl, and add spices and other ingredients you like.
- Shape the meat into similarly-sized balls.
- Preheat the grill.
- Put the ground beef balls on the grill one by one and flatten them with the spatula’s back end. Make sure not to press too hard, or you won’t have a juicy burger. Ideally, the burger patty should be flat and have some thickness.
- Wait about a minute so the burger cooks, and then flip.
4. Making an Indentation
Making an indentation in ground beef is also a way to shape patties and make them cook more evenly.
There are several ways to make an indentation when making burgers:
- Use a knife - Shape the ground beef into 1/2-inch thick and 3-inch wide patties. Then use a butter knife and dock the top part of the patty. This prevents the shrinking of the ground beef, and you’ll have better cooking results.
- Press with your thumb - This method works similarly to using a knife to make perfect hamburger patties. Start by making patties as usual and press into the center with your thumb to make an indentation. This is a faster method than using a knife for shaping hamburger patties. A small indentation with a thumb gives the burger just enough leeway to shrink and prevent a ball-shaped patty.
Overall, making a deep indentation in the center of the ground beef patty ensures it’s cooked evenly and doesn’t have a bulbous shape when cooked.
Make a thick patty shaped like a disc, and create a deep indentation.
The indentation fills up as the burger cooks, so you have perfectly flat patties. These uniform patties are great for topping with cheese.
5 Tips on Shaping Hamburger Patties
The best burgers have patties made from quality ground beef with minimal shaping.
If you press on the beef too much, even to ensure it shrinks evenly, you risk ending up with a dry and tough burger.
You can try to add more fat to the ground beef patty, but this only helps if you have dry meat.
Here’s what to keep in mind when shaping burger patties:
- Take your time - Making perfect hamburger patties takes time. Plan ahead, and if you’re cooking for many people, make patties a few hours in advance.
- Keep the patties cool - Ground beef is delicate. The warmer it gets, the faster the fat starts to render, and the patties lose their shape. Keep them in the fridge until your pan or grill are hot to ensure the patties keep formation. Also, never leave patties at room temperature for over two hours, or you risk bacteria developing .
- Season - Add your favorite seasonings to the ground beef, or at least salt and pepper.
- Use fatty ground beef - Patties need meat and fat to adhere as they cook. You can grate the cold butter into the meat if you have dry ground beef. It’ll melt once you put the patty on a hot grill and fry it.
- Don’t press too hard - Don’t overwork the patties. Roll the ground beef into a ball and press once with the method you like. Even if you don’t have a perfect patty on the first try, it’s better to cook it as is or try to reshape it.
How Do You Make Hamburger Patties Flatter?
You make hamburger patties flatter by pressing them with a hamburger press, spatula, or jar lid.
How Do You Make Burger Patties that Don't Fall Apart?
You make burger patties that don’t fall apart by adding egg yolk per pound of burgers. You can also add canned and drained crushed black beans or chickpeas. These bind the meat and add a richer flavor.
How Do Restaurants Keep Burgers Flat?
Restaurants keep burgers flat by making an indentation in the center on both sides of burgers to make a dimpled burger.
How Should You Shape Your Hamburger Patties?
You can shape your hamburger patties in several ways. Use jar lids or a spatula if you aren’t ready to invest in a hamburger press.
Or, make an indentation in the center so the patty cooks evenly during grilling and keeps its shape.
No matter which patty shaping option you go for, you need quality beef to get the best results.
ButcherBox is a great place to start if you’re looking for an online meat delivery service that sells high-quality beef, and if you want to read our ButcherBox review, you can click here.
Their animals are grass-fed and grass-finished. The cattle are grown responsibly without any hormones, which results in delicious ground beef.