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Stop Burger Shrinking Once and for All

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  • Tip Bones

So you bought quarter-pound patties and big potato buns, and now you're enjoying a burger that's more bread than meat. Seriously, what the heck happened to your burger, and how do you stop it from becoming food more fit for Barbie dolls than real people? The explanation is simple, and the solution easier than you'd think!

Why Does a Burger Shrink?

The simplest answer for why your patties lose their size is water loss. When you cook a burger, the protein in the meat dries, causing it to shrink as it heats through. The water lost allows the meat to shrivel, making even a large patty lose anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 of its original size, depending on the fat content. Fat too, can be burned off and lost, in the form of drippings, which causes even more size loss. Certain additives, such as salt, might exacerbate the problem.

What Can I Do About it?

The best way to prevent burger shrinkage is to keep them off the grill. That's no fun for summer barbeques, but cooking the burgers in a closed environment-- an oven for instance-- allows them to maintain more moisture content, preventing shrinkage, and possible creating juicer meat, to boot. It also allows lost fat, marinade, or any flavor additive to more easily remain in the meat, resulting in a better burger overall.

If you absolutely don't want to use the oven, you can limit the damage to your burgers in shrinkage with some common sense tips:

  1. Cook on a low-heat setting on your grill.
  2. Flip infrequently.
  3. Do not press the burger down on the grill.

You can also try creating your own patties (if you don't already), and allotting for size loss. As you form the burgers, create a slight indent in the middle of the patty, as though you were making a very shallow bowl. Many argue that this is one way to prevent shrinking and ballooning on the grill.