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Sometimes when cooking a burger I have had it completely fall apart for no apparent reason. Is this due to using a ground meat that is too lean? I don't add anything to the meat and don't spend too much time working the meat in forming the patty.

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See also: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/143/… for general homemade-burger preparation. –  Eclipse Jul 9 '10 at 23:08
    
I've also had burgers fall apart when using ground beef that had been frozen, then thawed. –  anon Sep 24 '11 at 1:16
    
Do you have a photo? The most likely cause is that your meat is too lean. Fat is required to help hamburger hold together. –  SAJ14SAJ Apr 29 at 11:36
    
@SAJ14SAJ, no I don't have a photo. If I add there for example olive oil, will it help? –  coubeatczech Apr 29 at 12:35
    
Oil will not work you want saturated fat, typically beef. –  SAJ14SAJ Apr 29 at 12:43

7 Answers 7

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In addition to the fat content, making sure the meat is cold while forming can help.

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I generally find that you need a binding agent in the pattie to ensure it stays together - either egg or breadcrumbs work well.

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I second the breadcrumbs +1 –  Darko Z Jul 10 '10 at 0:25
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I find additions like breadcrumbs and egg detract from the texture and flavour of a good burger. –  PaulS Jul 16 '10 at 14:43
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@PaulS - I understand how maybe breadcrumbs could, but not sure how egg would dramatically change the texture and flavour. –  LeopardSkinPillBoxHat Jul 16 '10 at 23:12

I always use a patty press when I make my burgers since it compacts them really well and helps them stick together.

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Freezing patties before cooking them keeps them much more solid on the grill until they're cooked enough to hold together and reduces the amount of sticking to the grill.

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Your guess is correct. Sometimes it also sticks to the grill and gets damaged while turning it . You can use a bit of vegetable oil to make the grill surface less sticky.

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Try refrigerating the patties uncovered for an hour after forming. This will give the proteins time to cement together and can give seasonings time to meld. Handle gently while cooking as jwiley suggests.

Alternately you could a finer chop or work it with your hands or a mixer. The more it's worked the stickier it gets. But that kind of texture might not be what you are shooting for.

Cheers

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How long into the process are you turning it over? In my experience I try to only flip the burger once, after the side it is first cooking on is done (you can see browning on the edge of the patty). If you try to flip it too soon before the meat has had a chance to fully cook on one side, the meat won't be done enough on that side to hold the rest of the patty together, and it will fall apart much easier.

Oil isn't going to help keep the beef together, the high saturated fats in the meat should be enough to handle this. I'd suggest either using a spatula large enough to fit under the size of the patty you're making, or letting it cook longer before trying to flip.

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