Backyard barbecues are a very special event. There’s something magical about getting together with friends and family and enjoying some delicious grilled food that’s prepared right in front of you. One of my favorite dishes is a well-made burger, with a delicious homemade patty and plenty of toppings and condiments.
While it’s pretty hard to screw up lettuce or ketchup, it’s surprisingly easy to screw up a burger. I’ve been at many a barbecue where someone’s lost a patty when it broke apart and fell right between the grates of their grill.
While this isn’t likely to happen with frozen patties, they’re nowhere near as tasty as handmade ground beef with just a hint of seasoning.
Here are some tips for making sure that your custom patties don’t fall through the cracks.
1. Keep Things Cold
The reason frozen patties don’t fall apart is simple. They’re really cold. The colder your meat is, the more likely it is to stay together. You don’t need to freeze your patties to achieve this effect. What you should do, however, is throw them in the fridge up until you’re totally ready to cook them.
This means that you’ll have to take your ground beef out of the fridge, mix and shape it by hand, and then place the patties on some wax paper and place them in the refrigerator. While it might not seem like your beef gets very warm, your hands actually transfer a lot of heat to the patties while you shape them.
By refrigerating them afterward, you’ll make them hold together much better.
2. Avoid Fiddling With Things
Most chefs recommend handling your patties as little as possible. Add any seasonings to your ground beef (I like mine with just a touch of pepper and a decent amount of salt) and then given the mix a quick stir.
It’s okay if things are a bit uneven.
When you’re shaping the patties themselves, don’t go crazy. All you need to do is form a vague burger shape, which shouldn’t take more than a couple of motions. Afterwards, remember to throw everything back in the fridge to make sure it’s nice and cold for the grill.
3. Flip As Little As Possible
When your burger is cold, it’ll hold together pretty well. When it’s cooked, it’ll be solid and firm. When it’s in between, however, it’s pretty liable to fall apart. In order to combat this, don’t flip your burger very often!
Once is enough!
This way, you’ll fully cook the bottom before you flip it over, meaning that there’ll be plenty of solid, cooked burger holding everything together.
4. Add Egg If Necessary
If you’re totally paranoid, try mixing some egg into your patties. This will make the patties stickier when they’re cold. As the egg cooks, it’ll work as an additional binding agent and hold the burger together.
A lot of chefs don’t think this is necessary (myself included), so we’re keen to skip this step. If you want to add some egg to your burgers, however, go for it! It’s your grill. You can do things the way you want.
5. Skip The Grill
You can always cook your burgers in a pan to completely alleviate any worry. On a skillet, the only time your burger can break apart is while you flip it. The rest of the time, it’s completely still. Even if it decides to become totally mushy, the solid bottom of the skillet will hold it in place.
This obviously won’t work if you’re at a barbecue, but if you’re cooking a smaller number of burgers at home, it’s totally fine to use your range.
6. Avoid Liquid Ingredients
Worcestershire sauce might be tasty, but if you add it to your hamburger patties they’re going to get a lot more liquid. Be sure to avoid liquid flavorings and stick with solid ones.
Try spice blends instead or simply add the sauce after you’re done cooking. You’ll still get a flavorful burger, but it’ll stay together as you cook it.
Patties That Don’t Fall Apart
You don’t have to worry about things like fat content or weird additives to keep your hamburgers together, Instead, keep things cold, avoid liquid additives, and handle your burgers as little as possible.
When you cook them, flip them once and consider using a skillet instead of a grill if you’re still worried. Finally, consider adding an egg to act as a binding agent and keep everything together.