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I routinely hear that breadcrumbs are added to burgers and meatballs to bind them. For example, see the answers to this question: how to stop meatballs falling apart. On the other hand, I have heard professional chefs say that the bread does not bind the meat. The egg is added to bind, the bread is added as filler.

I have never put bread or breadcrumbs in my meatballs or burgers and I don't have problems with them falling apart. I do however, put an egg yolk in and work them long enough that they don't break when pressure is applied.

So which is it? Filler, binder or both? If it's a binder, by what mechanism does it bind the meat?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Actually it is neither filler nor binder, but moisture retainer. Breadcrumbs in your ground meat will absorb much of the natural juices during cooking and then will release that moisture back into the meat as it rests resulting in a 'juicier' burger, meatball or meatloaf.

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Breadcrumbs should never be referred to as a binder. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I like to add breadcrumbs (or rice) when I want meat to fall apart more easily.

This is especially useful in meat loafs. No one wants cut into a meatloaf that is really a square shaped burger. The bread does absorb flavor but primarily serves as a way to soften up the loaf so that it is easy to cut into.

Egg yolk is the only real binder as it is typically added to bind non bonding particles together (such as meat and veggies).

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Actually, it's the proteins in the egg whites that bind... –  DrRandy Jun 29 at 19:43
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