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Sometimes there is absolutely nothing we crave more than a delicious homemade burger. The idea of it can be mouthwatering as you think about how perfect and meat the burger will be. Well, that is until you make your burger patty and watch your burgers shrink in size right before your eyes. While cooking burgers on the BBQ or grill, you will be able to actually watch your burger patties shrink in size and it is heartbreaking. Thankfully, there are ways to stop this so that you can continue grilling burgers for as long as you want.
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Why Do Burgers Shrink While Being Cooked?
While the quality of your raw meat certainly does have an effect on the end result, the shrinkage of your burgers is not exclusively linked to the quality of your meat. So, if you have given up all hope and just let your burgers shrink, it is time to stop that and breathe some life back into those burgers of yours.
The main reason that burgers shrink is that the connective tissues in them called collagen, shrink as the juices from your patty start to release. This causes your burger patties to puff up, contract, and shrink. While it is not ideal, it is pretty natural and nothing to be too alarmed about.
A lot of studies show that on average, your meat will shrink in size by about 25%, leaving you with only three-quarters of what you initially had. this means that depending on your burger size, they may not neatly fit in your hamburger buns as you initially planned them to. This can make even the most delicious recipes a bit mediocre as no one wants the first few bites to be nothing but buns. A good burger has a consistent amount of ground meat all over. Beef patties need to be as big as the buns so that every bite has the same amount of beef in it.
How To Stop Burgers Shrinking
As your burgers cook, they will shrink and your cooked burgers will look weird and sad, however, there are some ways that you can prevent this from happening, and ensure that your burgers remain in their current size even throughout the cooking process.
While the name of this method may sound weird, it is easily the simplest and most effective method to avoid the shrinkage of your burger patties. When frying or grilling your burgers, make a small depression in the center of them with your finger. It does not have to be large or deep, just gently pressing down with your thumb will be enough. To be more precise, you only need to push down 5MM, as long as there is a noticeable dimple in the burger, it will work.
After making a depression, you can cook your burger as you normally would. The depression will collect the juice of the burger and will allow for it to be stored there and reduce shrinkage in the entire patty. This will also help you make sure you have a tender burger that is delicious and full of juicy flavors.
Another great way to avoid your burgers shrinking is to make sure that your burger is not incredibly fatty. As mentioned, when the burger juices are dripping through your grill grate, the burger will shrink as the moisture content will be disappearing. While the fat is needed for a lot of the flavor of a burger, you can opt for a leaner type of ground meat. This lean meat will have less fat in it so a lot less of the burger will end up reducing in size.
Depending on the split between fat and meat, I recommend a 70% meat to a 30% fat ratio, you will still have enough fat to render and flavor the delicious burger without it shrinking loads. Meat patties with too much fat can shrink more than lean meat patties so it is best to find a perfect medium where you can enjoy the flavors of the rendered fat without having to experience the caveat of a shrunken burger.
If you are wanting to cook your burgers on a hot grill, you might be tempted to close the grill lid so that you can evenly heat the burgers. While this is a generally good idea, a higher cooking temperature can actually dry out your burger and cause it to shrink.
To achieve both an even cook and a juicy burger, it is best that you use a spatula and flip your burger to evenly cook both sides. This will cook it very evenly and will not end up drying it out.
Additional Burger Tips
While we have covered tips to avoid shrinkage, it is worth mentioning other tips so that you can end up with the best burger patty possible. No one wants a dry burger, so I am here to help you cook the perfect patties for your burgers.
Firstly, while it is good to have a lean burger as it will shrink less, you also do not want it to be too lean. Fat is great for flavoring your burger as well as keeping it juicy and tender. If your burger patty is too lean then it can dry out and also be somewhat flavorless. Find a nice mid-point between fat and lean, and use the dimpling method to ensure it does not shrink too much.
Secondly, while it may be tempting to agitate the burger all the time so that it is perfect in shape and evenly cooked, try not to. Handling the burger too much is likely to harden it. You can still handle it, but be gentle and don’t overdo it by touching it every few seconds. Let the burger sit and rest as much as possible so the juices in the meat are evenly spread throughout.
Another good tip is to buy or make burgers that are slightly bigger than you need. While we can avoid some of the shrinking, it is almost impossible to entirely eliminate the chance of a burger shrinking. While this may be annoying as you want the burger to perfectly fit the bun, there is a workaround you can use to try and have a perfect-sized burger every time. Making a burger that is only slightly too big for the bun is a great counter to the shrinking problem as even if the burger shrinks by 25%, you still should have enough burger to fill out the entire bun. And on the other hand, if your burger ends up not shrinking that much, you will have a bit of patty overflowing your buns, which really is not something to complain about.
Lastly, it is important that you season your burgers at the proper time. A lot of people season them while they are being grilled or cooked, and this is wrong. The seasoning is less likely to be as flavorsome if added halfway through the cooking process. To properly season the burger patties you want to do it either when shaping the ground beef into patties, or before you add them to the grill.
When mixing your ground beef with other ingredients to make your patties, you can add any seasonings of your choice then. You can also add more seasoning to the burgers once they are shaped and are about to be put on the heat. While it is possible to season them too much, do not be afraid to season them twice as they will still be delicious as long as you are moderate.
Is Shrinking A Huge Issue?
While yes, it can be an annoyance to have your burgers shrink, it is not the end of the world. If you are just in the mood to quickly whip up some burgers and eat them for a last-second dinner, then all the preparation and consideration might be a bit over the top. However, if you are wanting to make some perfect burgers for a special occasion or a gathering of some kind, trying your hardest and following all of these tips is quite a good idea. If you are trying this hard to make a perfect burger, you will also want to serve it with the perfect side dishes.
FAQs On Shrinking Burgers
Why do my homemade burgers shrink?
Homemade burgers will shrink while being cooked as the fat in the meat will render and liquidize, eventually spilling out of the burger and either evaporating or collecting in the pan or grill.
How do restaurants keep hamburgers from shrinking?
Restaurants will either use leaner meat so less of the burger shrinks, or they will make a dimple in the center of the patty to help offset the shrinking. Depending on the restaurant, they may also make patties that are intentionally bigger than needed to account for how much meat will shrink. This is usually about 25% of the initial burger size that is lost to shrinkage.
Why do my burgers shrink in the pan?
Your burgers shrink in the pan as when the fat heats up, it will render and liquidize. This will then seep out of the burger and will either evaporate or just pool up in the pan.