How to Keep Burgers Flat While Cooking

When cooking hamburgers, the juices in the ground beef expand, causing the top of the burger to become domed. Those in the know have a simple secret to keeping burger patties flat during the cooking process, which not only ensures even cooking throughout the burger, but lets you pile on the toppings without fear of them sliding off the patty and onto your lap.

A grilled hamburger patty topped with mushrooms on a bed of rice. (Image: acrylik/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Preheat the grill to high heat.

Step 2

Place the ground beef in a bowl and season it to taste with salt and pepper. Lightly fold the meat to incorporate the seasonings without make the mixture dense.

Step 3

Shape the ground burger into a patty slightly larger than the bun and no more than 3/4 inch thick. Use your fingers to press in on the sides so that the patty is an even height from the center to the edges. Then, use your thumb or knuckles to make a deep indentation in the center of the patty.

Step 4

Place the burger on the grill directly over the flame, and grill it for three to four minutes, or until the burger has developed a nicely seared crust. Flip the burger, and cook it for an additional three to four minutes or until it is cooked as desired.

Things You'll Need

  • Ground beef

  • Kosher or sea salt

  • Coarsely ground black pepper

Tip

Chef, author and Burger Bar owner Hubert Keller recommends using ground beef that is no more than 85 percent lean to ensure that your burgers are juicy. If you choose to use leaner beef, keep it as moist as possible by adding sauteed mushrooms or onions or a bit of olive oil or mayonnaise.

Warning

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay cautions that you should only flip your burgers once during the cooking process. Flipping them too many times can cause the burger to fall apart and dry out. He also warns that you should never press down on your burger with a spatula, as this will cause the juices to run out, resulting in a dry burger.

Beef can carry a variety of bacteria, such as E. coli, salmonella, campylobacter and listeria. These bacteria usually live on the surface of the meat, but the grinding process distributes them throughout the meat, making it critical that you thoroughly cook your burgers. While you might be tempted to eat them rare, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends that you only serve hamburgers cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, or to a medium doneness.

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