How to Get Hamburger to Stick Together

Summer is hamburger season. Thrill your friends and family by learning how to make the most put-together hamburgers possible. 

Fact: Americans eat a total of 50 billion hamburgers each year, which equates to approximately 3 burgers per week per person.  Many of these burgers come from fast food places, but now that grilling season is here, surely you will contribute to the overall hamburger cause. But like many people who make up their own patties, you may be struggling with one of the great challenges of home-grown hamburgers: how to make burger patties stick together.

Behind pizza and steak, hamburgers are one of the most beloved foods of Americans. Especially in summer, you surely crave the smell, sight, and taste of a burger off your backyard grill.  But what can you do to have the perfect burger experience? Besides cooking it just the way you like, it simply must be a hamburger that stays in one piece. Read on to solve your dilemma of how to get hamburger to stick together.

What Makes Hamburgers Fall Apart?

Believe it or not, making successful hamburgers is more of a science than an art, although both surely apply. What you need to understand and apply are the aspects of beef quality, recipe, ingredients, binding elements, and cooking temperature.

Here’s more detail on how to make beef patties stick together.

Beef

For the true stick-to-itiveness of your hamburger patties, fat is good! Plus, fat is the secret to especially tasty hamburgers. When shopping for your ground beef, look for beef that is 80 to 85 percent lean. Some people purchase leaner meat, but that causes the final hamburger to become dry and fall apart. The fat in the 80 to 85 percent ground chuck, especially when combined with a small amount of ground sirloin, ends up with a burger that is delicious and stays together.

Meat Temperature Before Cooking

It’s true! The temperature of your hamburger meat before cooking is as important as its cooking temperature. A big no-no is to take a burger right out of the freezer and put it on the grill. Rather, let the meat come up to room temperature before cooking it.

Handling the Meat Too Much

Here’s where some real science comes in. Spending too much time handling and mixing the hamburger meat, especially after adding salt to it, causes the release of a protein that can cause the final burger to become chewy, dense, and crumbly. In addition, it causes some of the moisture in the center of the meat to be released, also causing the final burger texture to fall apart.

Grill Temperature

Hamburgers being cooked on an outside grill
Hamburgers on the grill

The higher the heat, the better. Once you put the burgers on the grill, leave them until you see their juices bubbling from the top, and when you do, it’s time to flip. If you are cooking your hamburgers inside, use a cast-iron pan, which will give you the same effect.

Patty Thickness

One of the factors of how to get hamburgers to stick together is the thickness of your burgers. Moderation is best when crafting your hamburger patties. Too thick and you’ll have a burger that is cool on the inside and charred on the outside. Too thin, and your hamburgers are likely to fall apart on the grill. Your best bet is to make patties that are ¾ – 1 inch thick for a more even and consolidated result.  

Hamburger Toppings

Cheese, tomato, onion, relish – whatever your favorite topping is, can cause your hamburger to be more susceptible to falling apart, especially if the meat is dry to begin with. In addition, they will also mask the flavor of what will surely be the most delicious “together” burgers you have ever made!

So, now that you have an idea of what causes burgers to fall apart, how do you go about becoming a master hamburger chef? Read on.

How to Make Burger Patties Stick Together, Ending with the Perfect, All-together Hamburger

Thawing the Meat

Raw ground beef ready to be made into hamburgers
Raw ground beef

If your ground beef is frozen, it’s best to thaw it in the refrigerator. Avoid using the microwave to defrost it because this will reduce the most-desired fat content of the meat.

Mixing in Additions to the Meat

You may want to add ingredients to your ground meat before forming your patties. Some people like to add cheese, onion, baking soda, or meat enhancers. When you add the extra ingredients, make sure your hands are cold and wet. It’s important to avoid warming the meat at this stage. However, your best bet is to forgo making any additions to the meat before it is cooked, except perhaps a binder, which is addressed below.

Forming the Patties

First, as already mentioned, you want to handle the beef with cold, wet hands. Next, form individual balls of meat, and then flatten into patties that are as thick as you desire. Make sure the thickness is even throughout the patty.

Adding Salt

The best time to add salt to the homburgs is right before putting them on the grill. Salt added too much earlier in the process will coax the juice out from the meat, drying it out and causing the burger to crumble.

Grilling

With your grill all fired up, put the patties on the hottest area. Keep a close eye on them and cook until they form a crust on the outside. Then move the patties to a less hot part on the grill to cook the inner part of the burger. When you turn the burgers with your spatula, be sure not to press down on them. This will cause the juices to drain, drying out the meat.

Using Things to Bind the Meat

In addition to following the steps above, you can always add different substances to bind the meat together.

Butter is one such ingredient. Try putting a pat of butter in the middle of your raw and rounded patties. This will help keep the burger moist, which will prevent it from drying out and breaking apart.

Many people use raw eggs as a meat binder because the eggs are high in protein, which helps the means to retain moisture. Eggs also contain fat which does the same.

Raw eggs are a good way for how to make burger patties stick together
Raw egg

Be careful when you add additional substances to the meat. Avoid liquid ingredients as they can cause the burgers to fall apart. If you want to add additional flavors, go for ingredients with low moisture or else add something like breadcrumbs to absorb an excess.

Despite all of the precautions you’ve taken, and you want to absolutely ensure your burgers don’t fall apart, you can add any of the following binder materials.

  • Eggs – see above
  • Flax seeds: Instead of an egg, take 1 tablespoon of flax seeds and mix them with 3 tablespoons of water. Mix this in with the meat to hold your patties together.
  • Breadcrumbs: If you don’t have breadcrumbs in your pantry, instead, take a piece or two of bread and grind it up in your food processor. Add and mix in with the hamburger.
  • Bacon grease: It is the high concentration of fat in bacon grease that causes hamburger to adhere together better. Since it is so high in fat, it might be a good idea to use a leaner mixture of ground beef for your patties.
  • Dried milk: For people who like their burgers on the more well-done side, a dry binder like dried milk will work to bind the patties.
  • Oats: Once thought of as a common binder, the real function of oats mixed in with hamburger meat was to extend the amount of available food for large numbers of people. 

Now that the secrets about making the best possible hamburgers that stay put together are revealed, you are ready to fire up your grill, don your chef’s hat, and wow the crowds with your finesse and cooking talent.