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juicy hamburgers

how do you make a juicy hamburger. i like my medium rare. when i make mine they are dry. help

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  1. Use ground meat with sufficient fat; don't overwork the meat when mixing in ingredients; don't use too much pressure when forming the patties; don't make them too thick or too thin; grill or pan fry or whatever over moderately high heat; don't press on the patties while cooking; turn only once.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      Amen! Even when I go to a fast food place, I special order my hamburger with instructions that they NOT press down on the meat while cooking! Takes longer, but I don't end up with a beef jerky burger.

    2. What type of meat are you using? At a minimum you should use ground chuck that is 80% lean, any leaner and you will have the potential for a dry burger. Loosely form the patties. I also find that is helps to refrigerate the patties after forming them. This allows the fat to refirm and not just totally melt away while cooking. Only flip once.

      1. Whip up some herbed butter (butter, a splash of oil, your choice of herbs and spices) in the food processor or by hand; press a pad into the middle of each patty while forming them. It will all but ensure juicy, flavor country.

        (And follow all the great advice above, too!)

        1. I agree wholeheartedly with what Sam Fujisaka had to offer. I would re-emphasize avoiding packing the ground meet too tightly. Compressing ground meat reduces the number and size of voids inside the patty and limits the area in which the juices might otherwise collect internally.

          1. Water. Add at least 1/4 cup per pound of meat - more maybe. I go by feel. You don't think it's going to work, but it does. Add all the usual other seasonings - salt, pepper, whatever - and cook to your preferred degree of doneness. I swear this works.

            13 Replies
            1. re: Nyleve

              In my view adding water does not seem like 'good eats' to quote Alton Brown - to get moisture in I have used finely diced onions and as a recommendation from this board finely dice cabbage - cooks down to nothing and a wealth of moisture not mention a nice flavor

              1. re: weinstein5

                I was raised on "hamburgers" made by my mother that contained all sorts of extraneous ingredients - onion, garlic, bread, tomato, rice, you name it - and perhaps, as a result, I like a burger that tastes mainly of beef. As much as I love flavour combinations in other dishes, when I have a hamburger I really don't want to find any other bits in it - no onion, no nothing. This, I realize, is intensely personal. Oh, sure, I'll eat a messed-with burger, but I'd prefer it not to be messed-with. The water, while it may not seem like "good eats" does exactly what I want it to do and nothing else. It adds moisture so that the meat can cook without drying out. You don't taste anything but meat. I use salt and pepper and usually a splash of soy sauce (dark if I have it) but that's all. I have had people ask me what my secret ingredient is and they can't believe it when I tell them.

                1. re: Nyleve

                  It might be the soy that people are asking about. Even a little bit boosts the flavor of beef quite a lot. I've heard of putting ice in the center of a burger to keep it from overcooking when you want a nice outer char but a pink interior.

                  1. re: Nyleve

                    Some butcher shops add water. No reason you can't. But have you ever tried beef stock instead? I'm with you when it comes to adding other things. I want to taste the beef! If I wanted meatloaf, I'd make meatloaf. '-)

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      I have considered using beef stock instead but I don't usually have homemade beef stock and I don't love the taste of the canned or tetra-pack stuff. And it's one thing for me to add water, but if I found out that my butcher was doing that I'd have a fit.

                      1. re: Nyleve

                        Nyleve, I can back you up on the adding water to the burger. It truly does work. The burger doesn't taste watery. It's just juicy, as if it's the moisture from the beef. I even use a much lower fat content than people are suggesting and still get good results (and I'm no health nut, so that's saying something).

                        It sounds like our burgers are very similar. I got the "water trick" from a FN personality I won't name (so I don't get anything started). The soy sauce addition was from a friend, who cooked us burgers he said were from his grandfather's recipe. Soy sauce and Cavender's seasoning. And salt and pepper. I may try the broth addition one day, but I'm not sure that's the flavor I'm going for. Oh, and have the same horrors about onions and other bits being added to my burger. I like the flavor of beef. Anything else is meatloaf on a bun (which I've done before, but I called it by it's proper name).

                        1. re: stephanieh

                          Thank you. I'm not insane! I feel much better now.

                          1. re: Nyleve

                            This ws the subject of a thread a while ago and jfood is a FIRM believer in adding water to burgers to make them moist and juicy. Depending on the fat content will lead you to how much water to add.

                      2. re: Caroline1

                        Butcher shops add water so they can sell water at $2.50/lb.

                        1. re: ricepad

                          Yeah, but chances are it's healthier for you than the old fashioned butcher's thumb !

                          1. re: ricepad

                            jfood has a hard time believing that for the following reason. Have you ever tried to work the water into the beef? It totally changes the texture. Instead of looking like "spaghetti" it becomes more like a meat loaf mix.

                            If you see the long "strands" chances are no water has been added. It's the pre-pressed burgers that may have the "water thumb" already in the mix.

                        2. re: weinstein5

                          I have a favorite Mexican meatball recipe that calls for adding a fair amount of shredded zucchini to the meat. When they're done you would never know it's in there, it just adds a certain lightness and moistness to the meat. I haven't tried it, but I'd think this could work on hamburger as well.

                      3. the recipe for "original drive-in burgers" in the newest cook's illustrated is FANTASTIC. i highly suggest you seek out the recipe. i made them just a few days ago, and it was the juiciest, most tender burger i've ever eaten without question. kenji alt hit it out of the park with that one.

                        1. We recently had an interesting hamburger discussion at my house. I just started eating burgers about a year ago and I really enjoy the ones my husband makes, and we've been getting only 5% fat, the lowest there is, at our natural foods store where it's grass fed, hormone free, blah blah - the are really flavorful and juicy (as long as we don't overcook them) - he puts Worcestire sauce, garlic, Hawaiian sea salt, makes them relatively thin and puts the thumbprint in the middle, I think that came from Cook's Illustrated.
                          Anyway, this is turning into a long story. My husband the other night bought hamburger meat, 10%, from a local meat store, cooked it the same way, and it was not good. Less juicy, different flavor and we were both disappointed. We think maybe it was because we are so used to the grass fed that maybe the corn fed just didn't taste the same or perform the same.

                          Has anyone else had this experience? I've heard people say there are differences and people have preferences, but this was a new one for us.

                          All this to say, we still make juicy hamburgers with 5% grass fed beef - maybe it's the Worcestire, definitely not handling it much, the thumbprint in the middle, and watching the cooking time.

                          Wow, sorry for the ramble!

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: ScarletB

                            Scarlet, I'll bet it's a different blend of meat that you're getting in the 10% stuff. Unless the thumb print is bigger than the burger ;-}

                            1. re: todao

                              Todao, I'm not sure I understand what you mean - that the 10% isn't all beef, or what do you mean by blend? And that would explain the difference in taste/texture? Interesting....

                            2. re: ScarletB

                              What do you mean about the "thumbprint"?

                              1. re: Nyleve

                                The thumbprint idea is from Cooks Illustrated. You make a fairly deep indentation in the middle, on one side of the burger. Cook it on the flat side first. This keeps the burger from shrinking into a round ball.

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    Yep, normally burgers will poof up in the middle, so they're fat in the middle and thin on the edges. The thumbprint helps stave this off a bit so that the burger ends up evenly thick all the way around.

                              2. Add a bit of ground pork

                                1. One of my current home-cooking obsessions is enchillada sauce. I've tried mixing some into ground beef (and even ground turkey) before frying up my burgers. Not exactly traditional, but they didn't end up dry at all.

                                  1. Gotta use 80/20 chuck. We made some really yummy burgers last week that included roasted red peppers, canned mushrooms and chopped kalamata olives. All the ingredients were chopped small. These were really tender and yummy. Put a couple of slices of avocado on top!

                                    1. When Jacques Pepin and Julia Child made dueling hamburgers on their cooking show, one of the provocative things Pepin did was to hold off on salting the burgers until they were cooked, for the specific purpose of allowing the burgers to retain moisture. I highly recommend this technique.

                                      Also - try buying a cut of beef and "grinding" it at home, in your food processor. I do this whenever making burgers, meatloaf or chili. You can control the texture of your grind this way and ascertain the quality of your meat. It's fun to experiment with different cuts and combinations of beef, from chuck to sirloin to ribeye.

                                      1. 1. 80% lean chuck. Chuck is the very best choice...regardless what is said about
                                        using any other cuts of meats!
                                        2. A *coarse grind* is important. If the butcher is doing the grinding, ask that it be
                                        put through only once. Makes for a more flavorful result.
                                        3. Only additive, salt and pepper. Mix as lightly as possible...do not pack with any
                                        pressure. Especially when forming the meatballs.
                                        4. When cooking...hot heat and only three minutes on each side. Do not press down
                                        on the meat pattie - you will be squeezing out all the juices - making for a dry,
                                        rubbery burger.
                                        5. For a cheeseburger I use Cooper Sharp. Lay slice of cheese (any kind of your
                                        choice) on burger during the last minute or so before the burger is ready to be
                                        removed. I cover with a domed pot lid to nicely melt the slice of cheese.
                                        6. Serve on a toasted bun with anything else desired added, such as lettuce, sliced
                                        tomato, olives, pickles, ketchup, ranch dressing, etc.

                                        I always like mine with carmalized onions and roasted peppers.

                                        1. Grilled buffalo burgers last night. I finely chopped one jalapeno and mixed it into one pound of meat. Salt and pepper on the outside. Loosely packed and flipped once. Juicy and delicious with grilled onion, guacamole and tomato on a baguette.

                                          1. i make mine with good quality ground sirloin. i use a cast iron pan, add olive oil/butter, and a reasonably thick patty (thicker than the pre-formed burgers). heat the olive oil on medium. cook the hamburger on one side until well browned, add salt and pepper and flip. cover the pan and turn the heat to medium-low until desired doneness. always comes out very juicy.