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How do you prevent burgers from shrinking? / How to make big burgers?

Ramius May 28, 2011 06:04 AM

I recently bought this Weston Hamburger press.
- http://i20.twenga.com/housewares/burg...
A tool I percieved to be the "default" hamburger tool for homecookers there in the US. Since it is all over Ebay and Amazon.

The size is exactly how big I wanted the burgers to be, but thats not the final outcome! I use a ground meat ratio of 14% fat and the rest meat.

I throw the burgers on high heat, using nothing but freshly ground pepper and salt on both sides. But they shrink so much! I had to actually find "mini" hamburger buns in the store.

I didnt find any bigger hamburger press than the westons. But I´d like them to be atleast twice as big.

I used to handmold the burgers before, but they never became flat enough, and I prefer them to be perfectly round and even sized.

Is there some sort of magic trick here? Like adding potato starch, or an egg or something to the meat mixture?

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  1. d
    DPGood RE: Ramius May 28, 2011 06:18 AM

    Can't prevent shrinkage. If you want them twice as big, use twice the amount of meat. Guess you'll have to go back to doing them by hand.

    Your finished burger will be thicker in the middle. If you don't want that, after you've shaped your bigger, before cooking, press down in the middle, making a big dimple. Your finished burger will then be flatter.


    1 Reply
    1. re: DPGood
      mamachef RE: DPGood May 28, 2011 06:20 AM

      And there it is. I'll only add that a large TB. is what I use to make the dimple because my dimpling thumb's pretty small. :)

    2. c oliver RE: Ramius May 28, 2011 08:13 AM

      The consensus on CH, and I agree, is that burgers are going to suffer from overhandling and using a press would definitely fall into that category. I only hand form mine and they come out fine. I think trying to make them perfectly round and flat is perhaps not a real good goal. BTW, I make 6oz. burgers and they shrink so little that they cover the bun from 'sea to shining sea' :)

      1. n
        Nyleve RE: Ramius May 28, 2011 08:15 AM

        Purists may cringe but I always add about 1/4 cup or so of water to a lb. of ground beef when I make burgers. Besides that, nothing but salt and pepper. I think the water helps the meat stay moist and it doesn't shrink as much. I measure the meat out in a 1/2-cup scoop, then flatten the patties out by hand to a slightly larger disk than what I want to end up with. If you want a bigger burger, use more meat. 1/2 cup of ground beef ends up being about 1/3 lb. which is big enough for us.

        1. alanbarnes RE: Ramius May 28, 2011 12:42 PM

          Agreed that a good hamburger should be hand-formed. But also consider how much you're cooking them. Shrinkage happens throughout the cooking process, so a medium-rare patty will be a lot larger than an otherwise identical patty that's cooked well-done. If you can trust your meat source, try cooking the burgers less.

          1 Reply
          1. re: alanbarnes
            c oliver RE: alanbarnes May 28, 2011 01:02 PM

            Why didn't I think of that? Medium rare is the most done we cook our burgers so, of course, they don't shrink much. They're done in about 6-7 minutes.

          2. ipsedixit RE: Ramius May 28, 2011 12:58 PM

            Meat shrinks when cooked.

            It's just a fact of life.

            I suppose the only way to prevent your burgers from shrinkage is to cook them "sous vide". Eh, but then who wants to eat hermetically sealed boiled ground beef?

            1. i
              Isolda RE: Ramius May 28, 2011 01:06 PM

              All burgers are gonna shrink, but if you use very lean meat, they will shrink less. Of course, they won't taste as good.

              1. saltwater RE: Ramius May 28, 2011 02:42 PM

                I can make them round and flat by hand, but I had to use a different technique than I had been taught. I use 1 lb to make 3 burgers. I use ground meat that is fluffy, separate, and not in any way "packed" (home-ground is great!). I make them on the surface of my counter. I dump the meat on the counter in a scattered manner, and gently nudge the meat into 3 mounds, not in any way compressed, but completely loose. I proceed to work with one mound at a time. I arrange the meat in a slightly larger roundish configuration that I want the burger, and then I hold one hand horizontal to the counter over the mound, with the finger part of my hand over the mound, not the palm portion, and slide the meat under it from all sides with the other to make the burger. That is the basic motion, anyway. Oh, I think I swap hands as needed and also to keep height of the horizontal hand consistent, you can rest the edge of your palm on the counter and stiffen the fingers that are over the meat, making a slight bend in the middle of the hand. I work my way around the burger until it is even and flat and circular. Do press enough so that the thing doesn't crumble into bits. You need some compaction and you don't want big cracks and such. I make it sound long and tedious, but it is quick to do.

                I don't need to dimple this meat. It does not balloon up in the middle since I only cook to medium rare. This method perfectly fills the average bun from an 8 pack to the edge, ordinary supermarket brand like pepperidge farm, not anything gourmet.

                1. lilmsmuffin RE: Ramius May 28, 2011 07:54 PM

                  Here is what I do:

                  I form a tight ball with a large handful of ground beef which I then spread out thinly on a large round plate using a fork or spatula. I do have trouble keeping it from crumbling apart at the edges, so I press it together and down flat as much as I can, then use a bowl that has an edge circumference that it a bit larger than I want my patties. I turn the bowl face down, and press it down on the plate right in the center of my large "sheet" flattened ground beef which covers my plate. I press firmly enough that it cuts off the part which is under the bowl into a perfectly round circle, I remove the outter cut off ground beef that is outside the bowl and set aside, then lift up the bowl and ta-da! A perfectly flat, circular patty that is going to shrink just barely and be the perfect size and not crumble apart. I take my set aside beef from around the bowl, add that to more of my ground beef, press firmly into a ball, and start all over again for each patty. It really isnt that long and turns out great. You just need to use quite a largish bowl if you really want big flat patties.

                  Gah, that was hard to describe. Hope it came across okay. So maybe give that a shot?

                  1. c
                    CyndiA RE: Ramius May 28, 2011 08:30 PM

                    If you want perfectly round level burgers, then I would suggest buying pre-formed patties and also allowing for shrinkage.

                    If you want tasty burgers, then hand pat them and expect some variation in terms of shape and size. Tightly compressed meat for burgers will tend to shrink and to taste dry.

                    Throwing raw meat on high heat, then you are going to get a lot of shrinkage.

                    If the meat is 14% fat, then I've never seen that ratio. That is 86% lean versus the meat is 87%. That one percent would not be a biggie though.

                    There is no magic secret. A loose hand pat over a lower heat is going to give you better tasting burgers. If you want a standard shape/size and a quick cook/grill, then you'll be better off just buying pre-formed burgers.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: CyndiA
                      Ramius RE: CyndiA May 29, 2011 05:11 AM

                      But how do the stores "preform" the patties then? I thought they used the hamburger press I bought, but they must have a big version of this.

                      1. re: Ramius
                        ROCKLES RE: Ramius Jun 9, 2011 02:29 PM

                        They use cookie cutters (ring molds as listed below by scoobado97) in restaurants mostly

                    2. j
                      janniecooks RE: Ramius May 29, 2011 04:37 AM

                      Just wanted to make a comment on the hamburger press. Despite the impression given by Ebay and Amazon that the Weston hamburger press is the "default" hamburger tool here in the US, as the other posters have pointed out, most people use their hands. I've never known anyone to use a press and none of the other responses to your thread suggest using a press. It's very possible to make round patties using just your hands. I flatten the ground meat on the palm of my hand, lightly, and holding the other hand palm down over the patty, use my thumb to gently press in the sides to make them even and give a round edge as I rotate the meat patty. Toss the hamburger press, it's useless.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: janniecooks
                        c oliver RE: janniecooks May 29, 2011 07:35 AM

                        It's hard to describe, isn't it? That's basically what I do. And I make about 10# of burgers at a time (Bob helps) and it takes hardly any time.

                      2. wekick RE: Ramius May 29, 2011 06:40 AM

                        Another thread on burgers-

                        1. scubadoo97 RE: Ramius May 29, 2011 06:42 AM

                          One way to mold your burgers if you are dead set on having them uniformly round is to use a ring mold http://www.jbprince.com/professional-.... You can find these in many sizes. Unlike the press you fill and press by hand so very little pressure needs to be applied. The meat can stay pretty loose. If you can find an appropriate sized tin can that works too.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: scubadoo97
                            Ramius RE: scubadoo97 May 30, 2011 03:43 AM

                            Scubado I can´t believe this tincan thing didnt cross my mind before. This would be a perfect way to get the same burger every time, and should in theory work quite well. Just press the meat out towards the edges. Hopefully it comes out well. (Maybe one should rub it in with some neutral oil?)

                            I´ve found a tincan topcover that is the perfect size.

                          2. iL Divo RE: Ramius May 30, 2011 02:34 PM

                            I have Tupperware hamburger presses and no longer use them.
                            These days I load em up with so much stuff that I try to be gingerly in handling.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: iL Divo
                              scubadoo97 RE: iL Divo May 30, 2011 04:39 PM

                              You can gingerly form a patty in a ring mold and the meat will stay as loose as you want.

                            2. iL Divo RE: Ramius May 30, 2011 02:40 PM

                              I recently made meatballs with our 5 yr old little girl. I found and measured the ingreds but she put the stuff in and then I handed her the very small ice cream scoop. I said to grad that much and out in her tiny hand and close your hands (only) around the meat.
                              Most tender meatballs we've ever had cause of using a spoon to mix but no handling the meat.

                              16 Replies
                              1. re: iL Divo
                                iL Divo RE: iL Divo May 30, 2011 02:58 PM

                                "grad that much and out"

                                "Grab that much and put in your tiny hand"
                                Uff da, I'm going back to proofreading school :(

                                1. re: iL Divo
                                  Ramius RE: iL Divo May 31, 2011 05:06 AM

                                  I fail to see how you making meatballs relates to this...

                                  Anyway, I think you guys are overhyping, and creating a myth around how losely or firmly the meat is handled.

                                  I don´t think it matters much. I´ve made it both ways, and it has minimal impact on texture. None in taste.

                                  The heat of the grill will either way change the molecylar structure of the meat in the same way, and the meat will contract the same. No matter if it is losely packed or firmly packed. The shape is what matters.

                                  1. re: Ramius
                                    alanbarnes RE: Ramius May 31, 2011 05:41 AM

                                    You're either doing something wrong (eg, overcooking), using substandard materials, or not paying attention. When properly prepared, the difference between a good burger that's been properly formed and one that's been overworked and squeezed to within an inch of its life is HUGE.

                                    1. re: alanbarnes
                                      CyndiA RE: alanbarnes May 31, 2011 05:19 PM

                                      Abolutely. Playing with the meat and having it packed tight is like overworking biscuit dough. The end result is heavy and lacking in flavor.

                                      1. re: CyndiA
                                        ipsedixit RE: CyndiA May 31, 2011 07:57 PM

                                        Abolutely. Playing with the meat and having it packed tight is like overworking biscuit dough. The end result is heavy and lacking in flavor.

                                        Or, like pie dough.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                          Ramius RE: ipsedixit Jun 2, 2011 10:21 AM

                                          I just made burgers for the family with the new method, and they turned out great.
                                          I sawed off the bottom of my old proteinshake box, and smeared it in with a little neutral oil.

                                          Then I pressed the burgers out with the palm of my hand, worked out the edges with my fingertips, and they were done! PERFECT SIZE.

                                          And once I got them flat enough, I found out that they don´t contract towards becoming balls at all. They stay flat! And they are much easier to grill, because once the sides are seared, they are grilled through. No red meat in the middle.

                                          I should have taken a picture! But two of these burgers per person was enough. I predict they were around 220 grams per burger. .

                                          Now I can´t wait to make more burgers, and start making my own buns again!.

                                          1. re: Ramius
                                            c oliver RE: Ramius Jun 2, 2011 10:52 AM

                                            Wow. That's close to 8oz. or 1/2 a #. And each person had TWO??? I make 6oz. burgers and they're so big I can rarely eat all the bun. You folks have large appetites :) But glad they turned out. Please take pix the next time. I'm having a little trouble visually searing the sides.

                                            1. re: Ramius
                                              saltwater RE: Ramius Jun 2, 2011 11:33 AM

                                              Great! Glad it worked out. I agree that if they are completely flat and well formed, the appearance of the sides of the burger can help you with judging how done they are in the middle.

                                              Post a photo next time you grill, maybe?

                                              1. re: saltwater
                                                Ramius RE: saltwater Jun 2, 2011 11:42 AM

                                                Sure will.
                                                And C. Oliver, yes we had two! Don´t you know we norwegians are big people ;-)

                                                Anyway, since the fat melts away in some degree, and the meat shrinks, maybe it is safe to assume the weight is slightly reduced. The original ball of ground meat was around 220, and maybe the final outcome was around 190-200 grams. But they were BIG indeed. So big you become very happy just by seing them.

                                                1. re: Ramius
                                                  c oliver RE: Ramius Jun 2, 2011 02:37 PM

                                                  Gotta keep strong for those winters :) Love your final sentence.

                                              2. re: Ramius
                                                scubadoo97 RE: Ramius Jun 2, 2011 02:39 PM

                                                Glad it worked for you

                                                1. re: scubadoo97
                                                  Ramius RE: scubadoo97 Jun 9, 2011 12:44 PM

                                                  Here is the picture I promised you all.

                                                  1. re: Ramius
                                                    saltwater RE: Ramius Jun 9, 2011 12:51 PM

                                                    Very round! Beautifully flat!

                                                    You look set for much burger happiness. :-)

                                                    1. re: Ramius
                                                      scubadoo97 RE: Ramius Jun 9, 2011 01:06 PM


                                                      1. re: scubadoo97
                                                        Ramius RE: scubadoo97 Jun 9, 2011 02:49 PM

                                                        Yes they were. Todays dinner!
                                                        Actually I´d go as far as to say this new technique is easier than using the fancy hamburger press It takes around 20-30 seconds and the burger is ready!

                                                        And you all see the burgers are slightly bigger than the bread. They shrink of course, but the shrinkage varies depending on the brand of ground meat i use. Fat content, and such, even though they in theory should all be the same.

                                                        I know you americans prefer ratios of 80/20, but we dont get that here, but if I did, they would probably shrink to fit these storebought buns perfectly. A few days ago I made buns myself though, and they were big enough.

                                                        1. re: Ramius
                                                          joonjoon RE: Ramius Jun 14, 2011 11:17 AM

                                                          Ramius, it looks like your burger making has come a long way! Congrats!

                                    2. bagelman01 RE: Ramius May 31, 2011 05:28 PM

                                      Magic trick, no. You can reduce shrinkage by using leaner meat. (My wife prefers a 93% lean grind), and cook only rare or medium rare.

                                      When I make up quantity of burgers for a backyard party, I use 85% lean, add 1/2 cup fat free italian dressing and 1/2 cup unflavored bread crumbs to each three pounds of beef. I make ten burgers from this and they tend not to shrink much.
                                      I find it helps to start the burgers on the hot spot of my grill, then flip and move to a cooler spot to cook. This sears in the juices and doesn't dry them out and shrink them up.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: bagelman01
                                        alanbarnes RE: bagelman01 May 31, 2011 05:53 PM

                                        The old wives' tale that searing seals in juices has been conclusively debunked.

                                      2. b
                                        BigE RE: Ramius Jun 2, 2011 11:03 AM

                                        The two most important notes for me:

                                        1) Grind the beef yourself - I have become an absolute junkie for this, for multiple reasons. Other than knowing and controlling exactly what goes in the grind, the meat itself comes out much more fluffy, not packed to a meatloaf consistency like what you get at the store. To me, that makes a huge difference. When you grind, make sure everything is ice cold - I put my all parts of my grinder (base aside) in the freezer for ~30 minutes prior to grinding. The meat also goes in for at least that long, which allows for easier cutting prior to grinding.

                                        2) Forming - Two things to consider with grinding; first, your hands need to be just as cold as the beef, or it will start to get mushy as it starts to cook. I put my hands under ice cold water for 5-10 seconds to make sure (if I'm making a big batch, I keep a bowl of ice water next to me). At that point, I dump the meat onto a board and handle it as little as possible. Having perfectly shaped and uniform burgers is of no importance. And as others have said, the dimple in the middle is key.

                                        I say get rid of the press, get your hands dirty, and enjoy :)

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: BigE
                                          c oliver RE: BigE Jun 2, 2011 11:08 AM

                                          It always interests me that people can have SUCH diverse techniques and yet the results are great. I don't chill anything. The meat comes out of the fridge and I start grinding. And I don't chill my hands when forming the burgers. I do weigh them to get in the nabe of 6oz. cause when I'm doing 10# I can get pretty far off from that without realizing it. I keep it simple and love the results.

                                          1. re: c oliver
                                            BigE RE: c oliver Jun 2, 2011 11:37 AM

                                            The whole method looks a little more involved than it is, to be honest. The main help in that bunch is the quick freezer shot for the meat, to help me cut down the roasts into usable size. The rest of the freezing probably isn't necessary, but I do it any way.

                                            The cold hands deal, I have to do. Too many greasy hands/mushy meat burger making endeavors for me.

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