Why do my hamburger patties shrink when cooking?

shrunken-burger.jpegThe truth behind meat-shrinkage and how you can fix it We all know the feeling. You form these large hamburger patties, begin cooking them, and the next thing you know they’re half the size of the bun! No one wants that… We want a big juicy burger that most definitely fits the entire size of the bun! So why does this happen?

Generally, beef, poultry and fish shrink about 25 percent when cooked. The amount of shrinkage will depend on its fat, moisture content, and the temperature at which the meat is cooked. But, there are a few things you can do to try to prevent this from happening.

Rule of thumb: Always choose meats without added water.

Since meat is sold by weight, many grocery stores have been adding water and salt to their ground beef, chicken, and turkey which increases overall profits of the food. When cooking, this water evaporates and therefore causes the meat to shrink.

Since the Certified Angus Beef BrandTM does not add water and salt to their ground meat, you’ll notice a huge difference when cooking with the Certified Angus Beef Brand. In fact, none of Five Star’s meats contain any added water or salt – because we like our products just the way they are!


Rule of thumb: The leaner the cut, the less the meat will shrink.

Meats of different types and cuts shrink at different rates, but generally a leaner cut will result in less shrinkage. Ground beef containing a higher percentage of fat yields slightly less because the fat will cook and drain away.


Rule of thumb: the higher the cooking temperature, the greater the shrinkage.

Cooking your hamburger at a moderate temperature will not only reduce shrinkage, but it will also help retain the flavor in the meat. Shrinkage happens throughout the cooking process, so a medium-rare patty will retain a larger size than the same sized patty that’s cooked well-done.

When burgers are cooked on the grill with the lid closed, the burger may reach a higher temperature too quickly. Just like your favorite restaurant, burgers tend to retain their size and flavor when cooked over an open flame.

Patty Size/Shape

Rule of thumb: Form the patties wider than you’d like them to be with a small dimple in the center.

If you’ve been forming your patty the way you want your final product to be, you’re doing it all wrong. Your patty should be wider than you’d like them to be, with a small dimple in the center that is smaller than the outside. When the patties are properly formed like this, the bun should fit perfectly and the burger should lay completely flat.

cheesy-burger.jpgCheck out this step by step guide to forming the perfect patty by Serious Eats.< Quick tips to prevent shrinkage when cooking burgers:

  • Choose leaner meats with no added water.
  • Cook it slow, on a low temperature.
  • If you’re cooking burgers on the grill, don’t close the lid. This could cause the temperature of the burgers to get too high, too quick.
  • Form the patties wider than you’d like them to be, and create a small dimple in the center by pressing down with your fingers.

Forming the perfect patty that stays big and juicy might take some time to perfect, but with these tips, you’re one step closer to being the next king of the grill! Now start grilling!

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