How to Make Hamburger Patties

how to make hamburger patties illustration
Illustration: Theresa Chiechi. © The Spruce, 2019

There are a lot of ways to make a good hamburger patty. You can vary the type of meat, what you mix in with it, and even whether or not you make stuffed patties. Regardless of what is put inside (and simpler is usually better), it all starts with making the perfect patty. Here, we break down each of the steps on how to make a great hamburger patty every time.


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Starting Out

hamburger patties
The Spruce / Leah Maroney

This example will use coarse ground beef, salt, and pepper. A high-fat content in the meat, such as 85/15, will produce great burger flavor that you get if using extremely lean meat. Of course, the higher the fat content, the more shrinkage of the patties will occur. Before getting started, you will need to be aware of a few things:

  • Keep the meat cold as much as possible
  • Do not overwork the meat. Handle it as little as possible
  • Keep your hands and work area clean
  • Wash everything as soon as you are done

What You Need

Dividing the Meat

hamburger patties
The Spruce / Leah Maroney

Start by laying down a layer of waxed paper on which you will be pressing your patties.

The size of the patties should be determined by the size of the bread you will be putting them on. Also, remember that the higher the fat content of the meat the more the patties will shrink as they cook. If you are using 85/15 lean/fat or higher, make the patties larger than the buns, otherwise, the same size as the buns will work best.

Another thing to be aware of is that all the patties should be the same size so they cook at the same rate. If not, you will end up with small overcooked burgers and large undercooked burgers. By taking a ball of the ground meat and holding it in your hand, you will get a feel for the size and be able to make all the burgers the same size.

Shaping the Patties

hamburger patties
The Spruce / Leah Maroney

You have a ball of ground meat in your hand. If you simply press the meat into a patty it will crack and break up around the edges. What you want to do is press down in the middle and in from the sides, turning the burger around in your hand until it is even and uniform. It should be a solid disk of meat that is tightly compacted.

Depressing the Center

hamburger patties
The Spruce / Leah Maroney

When hamburger patties cook, they shrink. As they shrink the edges tend to break apart, causing deep cracks to form in the patty. To combat this, you want the burger patty to be thinner in the middle than it is around the edges.

Place the patty onto the waxed paper. Slightly depress the center of the patty to push a little extra meat towards the edges. This will give you an even patty once it is cooked.

Seasoning the Patties

hamburger patties
The Spruce / Leah Maroney

Now that the patties are formed, it is time to season them the way you would a good steak. Remember that a good burger isn't any different than any other piece of meat you are going to grill. Since the ground meat has fat uniformly spread inside the meat, you don't need to oil the surface like you might with a pork chop.

Season your patties with salt and pepper. You can stop there and your burger will be great. But you can add other herbs and spices if you so desire.

Finished Hamburger Patties

hamburger patties
The Spruce / Leah Maroney

Once the patties are formed and seasoned they are ready for the grill. Some people like to prepare the patties way ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator, but you really don't want your hamburger patties to spend too much time exposed to the air. If you are not going to cook them ​the right way, they need to be wrapped tightly and refrigerated. Otherwise, they should hit the grill right away. Don't allow ground meat sit around at room temperature, growing bacteria.

To wrap burger patties, stack them up with pieces of wax paper between each patty. Wrap tightly in foil and refrigerate.