5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Burgers

updated Dec 13, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

It doesn’t matter if you’re cooking them on the grill or on the stovetop — tender, juicy burgers are a summer dinner staple. There’s nothing worse than having your sights set on a really good, juicy burger, only to bite into something that’s tough, dry, crumbly, and just lacking that rich, meaty flavor you expect.

Make sure you’re on the ball with cooking the best, memorable burgers this summer, and avoid some of these common mistakes.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

1. Using meat that’s too lean.

There’s a time and place for lean meat, and it’s not when you’re making burgers. One of the hallmarks of a really good burger is one that’s super juicy when you bite into it, and you just don’t get that by using lean meat. Using meat that’s too lean results in burgers that are lacking in both flavor and texture, and easily end up dry and crumbly.

→ Follow this tip: A good-tasting, juicy burger needs to be made using ground beef with a high fat content. The fat is important for adding flavor and holding the patty together. The ideal ground beef for burgers is 80% lean and 20% fat.

2. Handling the meat too much.

How the meat is handled has a direct impact on the texture of the burger. It can be the difference between a loosely packed, tender, juicy burger, and a tough, dry puck. It’s best to keep the handling to a minimum.

→ Follow this tip: When forming the patties, handle the meat as little as possible. You’ll be rewarded with a more tender burger. They might look nice, but resist the temptation to make the patties look neat and tidy. Instead, use fist-sized chunks of the ground beef and press them into rough patties against your work surface with the palm of your hand.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

3. Not making a dimple in the burger.

Have you ever cooked burgers that shrink to almost half their size or dome up in the middle? I bet those burgers didn’t have a dimple in the middle. Making dimples in the meat before it’s cooked is what sets apart a good-sized, flat-topped burger from the rest of the pack.

→ Follow this tip: I learned this tip last year and it completely changed the way I make burgers! Pressing a shallow “dimple” in the patty is the best way to avoid shrinking and domed burgers. Use your fingers to press down the center of the patty so it’s about a quarter-inch thinner that the outer edge.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

4. Not seasoning your burger at the right time.

Failing to season the meat before cooking not only does a disservice to the flavor of your burger, but also the texture. Salting the meat is a small step, but plays a big role in making a really good burger.

→ Follow this tip: Seasoning the meat just before cooking is essential to making a good burger. Not only does it give you a burger that’s full of flavor, but it also creates a loose patty with better texture.

5. Flattening your burger with a spatula.

There’s something about cooking burgers that makes people feel like they need to push down on the burger with the back of a spatula. Why? This doesn’t give the burger better char marks, and it doesn’t make it cook faster. This is the opposite of what your burger really needs.

→ Follow this tip: Whether you’re cooking your burger on the grill or on the stovetop, minimal handling and flipping is the name of the game. Avoid using a spatula (or any other tool) to flatten the burger. This pushes those fantastic juices out of the burger, which are always better when enjoyed with your meal.

What are your best tips for making burgers?

Try these burger recipes!