Whether you’re cooking them outdoors on a grill or indoors in a skillet or under the broiler, hamburgers are a perennial meal favorite. They’re easy to assemble, cook quickly and please kids as well as adults. This doesn’t mean that assembling a hamburger patty is always easy, however. Sometimes you’ll find that your burger falls apart as you cook it. Learn how to prevent this cooking catastrophe with a little attention to detail.
You Need Fat
The most common culprit of a burger falling apart while being cooked is the fat content of the patty — or, rather, the lack thereof. Too little fat and your patty won’t bind properly. Use ground beef with at least 15 percent fat included; 20 percent is better. If your ground beef is too lean, you can add bacon fat to the meat mixture to help reach the proper proportion of fat to meat. The bacon drippings also add a welcome smoked flavor note to the finished burger. You could also use lard, suet or even butter to increase the fat profile instead of bacon drippings, though those options don’t enhance the taste in the same way.
Don’t Overwork It
Don’t overwork your meat mixture or your burger will lose its stickiness. It also helps to use a coarse grind of meat; too fine and the meat might simply fall apart when you try to cook it. Keep the meat cold when forming the patties. Frozen beef can also sometimes fail to hold together after thawing; forming your patties before freezing can help with this issue.
Put an Egg in It
A hamburger can be made successfully with nothing more than ground beef, salt and pepper, but you can also add other seasonings, fillers and binders. If you’re having trouble forming your patties and wish to use a simple binder, crack a raw egg into the mix. The egg proteins help hold hamburger patties together.
If you are adding seasonings to your ground beef, make sure they’re not too liquid. Too much and your burgers will be loose and prone to falling apart. Limit the use of seasonings such as Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. If you find your burger mix is too loose and liquid to hold together, you can add breadcrumbs to absorb some of the excess and help bind your patties .
Overhandling your patties while cooking can also cause them to fall apart, so limit handling while cooking. Cook your burgers on medium heat. When cooking burgers, flip gently and only once — cook the first side until you can see browning along the sides of the patty. If you’re grilling your burgers, spray a little nonstick spray on the grill prior to heating to avoid sticking. Also avoid pressing or mashing the patty with your spatula while grilling; this can also cause the burger to stick to the grill and possibly fall apart. Plus, it squeezes all the juices out of your patty and leaves your meat dry.
References and ResourcesYes You Can Grill: Grilled Hamburgers Troubleshooting Guide
BBC Good Food: How to Make Burgers
Epicurious: Burger Recipes and Tips
Michael Ruhlman: How to Make the Best Burger