How to Make Perfect Burger Patties

The trick to shaping juicy, tender burgers with an ideal burger-to-bun ratio!

A stack of burger patties to show how to shape burgers.
Lori Rice

Patting ground beef into a disk shape and throwing it on the grill seems so simple, right? Yet I’ve eaten my share of tough, crumbly, too-small-for-the-bun burgers to know that making a good hamburger starts with properly pressing out the patty.

The goal is to have a tender, juicy burger that stays together and fits within the bun. Here's what to know to get the perfect patty every time!

Temperature Matters

It’s common practice to bring meat to room temperature before cooking, but when making hamburgers, break that habit.

Warm hamburger, combined with warm hands, will make the fat melt too quickly on the grill and leave you with a dry burger.

Keep the ground beef refrigerated right up until it’s time to season and press into patties, then either grill immediately or cover in plastic wrap and put back in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Formed raw burger patties with parchment paper in between

Lori Rice

Handle That Meat Mixture With Care!

Ground beef consists of both lean meat and fat. The goal is for the two parts to stick together once pressed.

If the patties are overworked, the resulting hamburger will be dry and crumbly. The secret to a tender burger is handling the beef as little as possible: place the beef in a large bowl, and then gently fold any seasonings into the ground beef. Don’t spend more than 30-45 seconds mixing.

To tell if the beef is mixed properly, Senior Editor Summer Miller recommends scooping a tablespoon of mixture, pressing it between your palms, and then turning your hand over. If the meat sticks, then it's well mixed and ready to be pressed into patties.

Aim for a Four-Inch Patty

Hamburger patties will shrink a little when cooked, so make the patties one inch thick and one inch larger than the bun. Most buns are around three inches, so a four-inch patty is a good starting point.

If new to patting out burger patties, remove the guesswork by tracing the desired sized circles onto parchment paper before shaping.

How to Shape Burger Patties

Senior Editor Summer Miller created a clever method for shaping burger patties:

Mound of raw ground beef in the middle of a baking sheet lined with parchment paper

Lori Rice

Start with a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Wet your hands to keep the meat from sticking, then place 5-ounce mounds of beef on the parchment paper.

How to shape burger patties using hands and pressing.
Lori Rice

Press each mound gently in the center with the palm of one hand, while the other hand cups the beef and helps shape it into a circle.

Dimpled raw ground beef patty on baking sheet

Lori Rice

The end result should be a depression, or dimple, in the middle of the patty with a 1/2-inch lip around the edge.

Because burgers puff up in the center when grilling (and shrink everywhere else), that indentation ensures the end result will be a perfectly flat hamburger!