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Why are my Burgers Bleeding?

When was the last time you were cooking your burger patty only to see a reddish liquid oozing out of the meat? Or your bottom hamburger bun gets a little soggy with that same red liquid?

It’s something most people experience, and, often enough, it’s also misunderstood.

Do You have a Bleeding Burger?

This apparent ‘bleeding’ that happens is really a natural thing, and there are several ways you can prevent it.

For starters, it may be reassuring to know that it’s usually not real blood.

Most of the time, it’s only water and myoglobin (a protein) that trickles out when you start cooking or grilling the meat.

Can You Prevent “Bloody Burger”?

There are several ways you can lessen it or stop it altogether. Resting your patties at room temperature prior to cooking, evenly cooking both sides, and making thinner patties are a few ways you can prevent this ‘bleeding.

However, understanding why this happens is a good place to start. Then, we can discuss tips on how to stop a burger ‘bleeding’ while cooking.

Why are my Burgers Bleeding?
Beautiful Pink Burgers – Myoglobin

Further Interest: Potato Masher Substitute

Why is my burger ‘bleeding’?

The first thing to clarify is why this bleeding occurs. As already mentioned, it’s normally not blood but a combination of water and myoglobin that you’re seeing.

So, what is myoglobin, anyway?

Myoglobin is a protein that contains heme-iron, and it’s an important part of any red meat. Myoglobin gives any red meat its unmistakable red color.

Myoglobin is the protein that stores oxygen in the animal’s muscle cells. Its cousin protein, hemoglobin, carries oxygen in the creature’s blood cells.

What is really happening

When you cook the meat, the cell structures will start breaking down because of the heat. Meat already has a lot of moisture in it.

So, as the heat passes through, the moisture gets released, and along with it, the myoglobin in the cells.

The resulting liquid that comes out makes it look like the meat is bleeding.

To be clear, these are compounds that are also present in the animal’s blood. So, in one sense, it is bleeding in part. But seeing as blood is mostly water, and we don’t equate water to blood, this line of thinking quickly seems silly.

Any grilling or cooking you’re doing is enough to dispel or ‘cook away’ any trace amounts of blood that may also be present.

So, there’s no reason for worry as far as nutrition and healthy eating goes.

Many people understand exactly what is going on with the myoglobin and still would prefer that it not happen.

Why are my burgers bleeding?
Is my Burger Bloody, or is that Myoglobin?

Related: Baking Soda in Hamburger Patties

Should you let Burgers Rest Before Cooking?

Resting Allows Excess Moisture to Escape

Leaving your patties out at room temperature, uncovered, for a few minutes before cooking can help decrease the ‘bleeding’ when cooking.

How Long to let Burgers Rest?

It’s usually a good idea to let them sit for 5 minutes. As the meat warms, some excess moisture escapes.

Resting Exposes Myoglobin to Oxygen

When myoglobin is exposed to Oxygen, the Iron in the myoglobin “rusts”, releasing the Oxygen in the Myoglobin and turning the meat more brown than red.

Therefore there will be less myoglobin when you start to cook the meat, and also when you are done cooking the meat.

Remember, your burger patties need to be uncovered during the resting period.

Make an Indentation in the Middle of the Patty

Do you ever notice that while cooking a nice, thick burger that the center starts to bulge?

Then sometimes that liquid comes out of the burger as you flip the burger in the pan?

This center area fills with Myoglobin rich liquid, which will likely still be there when you serve your burger. As the burger cools on its bun, this liquid will come out and be quite noticeable.

A great way to prevent this entirely is to make an indentation right in the middle of the top of the patty when you set it on the grill or in the skillet. Use your thumb or the back of a spoon.

By making this area thinner than the rest of the burger, any liquid that ends up there will cook away easier, and the moisture and myoglobin will be more evenly distributed throughout the burger instead of trapped in a bubble at the center.

Make your patties thinner

A common mistake that most burger enthusiasts make is preparing patties that are too thick. Yes, they look awesome, but it can lead to uneven cooking.

The outer parts will get cooked first, but you can end up with inner layers slightly raw. And the water and myoglobin at the center will start spilling out because they’re not cooked.

An easy fix here is to prepare the patties thinner. That way, you don’t have bulging patties that burn on the outside while the insides remain undercooked.

The result is that you see much less ‘bleeding’ because all the parts get cooked evenly.

Even if you make thinner patties, you still don’t want them to shrink.

Cook both sides for an equal duration

It’s easy to get distracted with company or conversations when cooking and grilling burgers. You end up overcooking one side while the other side doesn’t get as much heat.

The undercooked side will release more moisture and myoglobin while cooking.

To fix this, just make sure you’re flipping the patties evenly. If each side gets an equal degree of heat and cooking, you’ll see less of the ‘bleeding’ too.

Let burgers rest after cooking

Allow your burgers to sit at room temperature for a minute even after they’re done. Yes, we all enjoy munching in immediately after the burger is ready.

But letting it sit for a minute (or even half a minute) will give it time to settle down.

A good trick here is to place the sizzling patties on paper towels.

If there are trace amounts of myoglobin remaining, the paper towel will soak them up.

That way, you don’t have to see the reddish liquid oozing out when you’re digging in.

Further Reading: Hamburger vs Burger

Final Note

Burgers are a common meal loved all over the world. But the sight of red liquid flowing out when cooking or eating can be unsightly for many people.

Here’s a summary of how to prevent this ‘bleeding.’

  • While preparing patties, avoid making them too thick.
  • Before cooking, let the patties sit at room temperature for a few minutes.
  • Ensure that the middle of the patties don’t bulge. Use a finger to press it in if you think it’s too thick at the center.
  • Ensure even cooking on both sides.
  • After cooking, let the burgers sit for a minute on paper towels to soak up additional myoglobin and moisture.

The next time you think “why are my burgers bleeding?”, you can answer yourself “its just excess moisture and myoglobin; I know how to prevent this in the future.”