How to Shape the Perfect Burger

basics burger how-to love food
food stylist
Helena Picone
Hallie Burton
prop stylist
Kiera Coffee
recipe from
our test kitchen

Here are our top-five tips for making your burgers the very best.

Tip 1: Don’t Overwork the Meat

When shaping burger patties, it’s important to handle the ground meat as gently as possible. Ground meat has small pockets of air between the proteins and fats. Preserving those air pockets helps burgers have a tender and juicy texture. If you compress the meat too much, you’ll squeeze out the air and create a dense patty. The proteins will bond together, producing myosin, a protein associated with muscle contraction. Too much myosin will cause your burger to contract into a shrunken puck as it cooks.     

Tip 2: Salt at the Last Minute

Myosin also forms when salt meets beef, so season the burger right before cooking to get the flavor benefits without the unwanted proteins.  

Tip 3: Make a Divot in the Center

To form your patties, grab a handful of beef about the size of a billiards ball. Taking care to not squeeze, gently press it into a flat disc. Then using two fingers, poke a dimple into the middle of the patty. While cooking, the beef will inevitably shrink a bit, and this divot will prevent your burger from doming as it shrinks.  

Tip 4: Try Using Ring Molds 

Many restaurants that specialize in burgers will form their pattes in advance with a ring mold and parchment paper. If you want to give it a try, cut a few pieces of parchment that are just larger than the ring mold you intend to use. We find that a 4-inch ring mold works great with a standard 6-oz patty. Place the mold on top of a cut sheet of parchment, then place your meat into the mold. Using another piece of parchment, gently press the meat down until it’s flat and fills the ring, then remove the mold. Repeat this process, stacking the burgers with parchment between them. For a uniformly flat-topped burger, try pressing a patty in a ring mold with the bottom of a glass.  

Tip 5: Smash ‘Em

Popularized by a new generation of fast food restaurants, the smash technique is the trendy way to fry up a bunch of burgers. The resulting extra-thin, caramelized patties are quick to prep and cook fast. To try this at home, you’ll need a large cast-iron skillet or griddle and a 6-oz scoop. Scoop your meat into balls. Lightly oil the pan and heat until it’s literally smokin’ hot. Place a ball of meat into the pan and smash it down with the back of a large spatula. Press down for a few seconds; then release and season your burger with salt. Cook until you get some nice browning, maybe 1 or 2 minutes, then flip and cook the other side.

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