The Trick To Forming Ground Beef Patties Into Tender Burgers

Forming ground beef into patties can be a more difficult task than you might initially realize. Form them together too loosely, and they'll fall apart. Pack the patties too tight, and you won't have a very tender burger. The trick is to form the patties loosely without squishing them or pressing them down. When you refrain from compacting your patties, you'll get tender burgers. 


As you form your patties with your hands, pay attention to how the patty is coming together. Once you can feel that it's sticking together in the shape you want, stop manipulating the meat. This will prevent it from getting overworked, which can lead to the meat getting tough as it cooks. 

And if you really want to make sure your burgers are tender and juicy, make sure you're using the right type of beef, too. Meat that is 80% lean beef and 20% fat usually does the trick.

How to form ground beef hamburger patties

For every pound of ground beef you have, you can make four ¼ pound hamburger patties. First, determine how many patties you'll make based on the amount of ground beef you have. For precisely sized patties, you can use a food scale to create accurate portions. This will help you cook your patties evenly, preventing smaller ones from getting burnt and larger ones from being undercooked. Otherwise, simply break the meat up into even sections. Take care to form each patty just enough that it stays together so that the hamburger is tender and loose.


Your patty should be about 4 inches across and ¾ inches thick, and shaped like a hockey puck. Use your fingers to put a divot in the center of one side of the patty, about 2 inches in diameter. This will help your hamburger patty retain its shape as it cooks. Another trick that can help your loose patty retain its shape and not fall apart is to add an egg or two to your ground beef before forming patties, as you'll find in Gordon Ramsay's burger recipe.

Other tricks to keep ground beef patties tender

Another trick to keep your patties tender: Don't handle the meat too much. If you overhandle the meat, it could get warm as you're working it, which could make the meat toughen up a bit. It can also cause the fat to break down, which can lead to a dry burger. This works well with the loose packing tip, as you only need to handle the meat very briefly to form a loose patty. It's also a good idea to wait to add salt or seasonings until you're ready to cook your patties or even once they're already cooked. If you add salt too soon, it can dry out your meat, resulting in a tougher burger.


The same rule of not compressing the meat applies once you're grilling the burger as well. Though it is common practice to press burgers down with a spatula, it's certainly not best practice. Pressing down on your burger can make it more dry and tough. It can also cause juices to drip down into your grill, which can cause dangerous flare-ups. This is all good news: It means you can spend less time fussing over the cooking process and more time preparing sides or enjoying company as you cook.