Why do my burgers shrink on the grill?

burgers shrink on the grill

Why do burgers shrink on the grill?

We all know the shrinking feeling. You form these large hamburger patties, begin cooking them, and the next thing you know they’re half the size of the bun. Wait, what? The patties looked so perfect before they hit the grill, what happened?

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.

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 yep, you guessed it, the burgers shrink on the grill.

Look for high-quality meat that doesn’t have added water and salt. Certified Angus is our favorite type of burger meat. 

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.

The higher the cooking temperature, the greater the shrinkage.

Cooking your hamburger at medium 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.

Want to learn more? Check out another of our features on burgers.