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How do you make burger patties stay flat?

Making burger patties that hold their shape and stay flat while cooking can be tricky. The patties often end up puffing up in the middle or shrinking down into hockey pucks. However, with a few tips and tricks, you can easily make juicy burger patties that retain their shape on the grill or in the pan.

Why Do Burger Patties Puff Up?

There are a couple of reasons why burger patties tend to puff up and lose their flat shape during cooking:

  • Overworking the meat when forming patties
  • Not pressing a indentation in the center of the patty
  • Having too high heat under the patties
  • Not having enough fat content in the burger mix

Overworking the ground meat by kneading it too much develops the proteins in the meat which causes it to firm up when exposed to heat. This makes the patty contract and puff up. Pressing a thumbprint in the middle gives a spot for the patty to swell into instead of puffing up. High heat causes the exterior of the meat to stiffen and seal before the inside has finished cooking which traps steam and forces the patty to expand. Having enough fat, usually 15-20%, creates a tender, juicy burger that won’t toughen up and swell.

Tips for Making Flat Patties

Follow these tips when forming burger patties to help them retain their shape on the grill or in the pan:

  1. Use freshly ground beef with 15-20% fat content. Chuck roast or brisket are great choices.
  2. Handle the meat gently when forming patties to avoid overworking it.
  3. Make an indentation in the center of each patty with your thumb.
  4. Make the patties wider rather than taller, at least 4 inches wide.
  5. Chill the patties after forming to help the fat firm up.
  6. Cook over medium heat rather than high to avoid the exterior cooking too fast.

Use Freshly Ground Beef

It’s best to grind your own beef or have your butcher freshly grind it rather than using pre-packaged ground beef. This lets you control the fat content and ensures the meat hasn’t been overworked already. Shoot for 15-20% fat content. Chuck roast and brisket are good cuts to use for juicy burgers.

Handle the Meat Gently

When forming the patties, handle the meat as gently as possible. Just bring the meat together without kneading and compressing it much. Overworking develops the proteins leading to puffing. Shape it only as much as needed to form a cohesive patty.

Make an Indentation in the Center

Press your thumb into the middle of each patty to make a shallow indentation. This gives the patty room to swell as it cooks without puffing up. It also helps the burger cook more evenly, preventing a puffy football shape.

Make Patties Wide

Rather than making tall, thick patties, form wider thinner patties. They should be at least 4 inches wide and 3/4 inch tall. The wider surface area prevents both puffing and shriveling up.

Chill the Patties

After forming the patties, place them on a sheet pan or plate, separate them with parchment paper, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Chilling helps firm up the fat in the burger mix so the patties hold their shape better during cooking.

Don’t Use High Heat

Cooking over high heat can overcook the exterior of the patties before the inside is done, trapping steam and causing puffing. Use medium heat on the grill or in the pan instead. This allows the patties to cook more slowly and evenly all the way through.

Seasoning Tips

In addition to getting the texture right, seasoning is also key for flavorful burgers that hold together on the grill. Follow these seasoning tips:

  • Season just before cooking. Salt early can cause meat proteins to break down.
  • Use coarse sea salt rather than fine table salt for better texture.
  • Pepper the patties after cooking for more flavor.
  • Gently mix in other herbs and spices like garlic powder and oregano.
  • Brush patties with oil or melted butter before cooking to keep them moist.

Recipe for Perfectly Flat Patties

This recipe uses the techniques above to create juicy, flavorful burgers with a flat shape:


  • 2 lbs ground beef (80/20 or 85/15)
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil or melted butter, for brushing


  1. Gently mix together ground beef, Worcestershire, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper until just combined. Handle as lightly as possible.
  2. Divide beef into 8 portions and gently shape into 4-inch wide patties about 3/4 inch tall. Press a divot into the center of each patty with your thumb.
  3. Place patties on a plate, separate with parchment paper, and refrigerate for 30-60 mins to chill.
  4. Brush chilled patties lightly with olive oil or melted butter.
  5. Cook on lightly oiled grill or pan over medium heat for 4-5 minutes per side until cooked to your desired doneness.
  6. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.


If you are still having issues with puffy patties, here are some tips to troubleshoot:

Issue Solution
Patties still puffing up Use meat with higher fat content. Reduce cooking heat. Press indentation deeper before chilling.
Patties shrink into hockey pucks Use meat with lower fat content. Don’t overwork meat when shaping. Cook at higher heat.
Patties fall apart on grill Be sure meat is very cold before grilling. Use higher fat content. Mix in egg or breadcrumbs if needed.
Burgers taste bland Use more seasoning. Let salt interact with meat longer before cooking. Top with cheese and favorite burger toppings.


Making juicy, flavorful burgers that hold their shape starts with using the right meat, gently handling when shaping, pressing an indentation in the center, and cooking over medium heat. Chilling the patties before grilling also firms them up so they retain their flat shape better. With a few simple tricks and the proper technique, you’ll be flipping beautiful flat burgers in no time.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can start experimenting with different meat blends, seasoning mixes, and juicy toppings until you’ve crafted that perfect burger. Grilling burgers that look and taste amazing doesn’t have to be difficult if you follow the right steps. Before you know it, you’ll have a reputation for the best burgers in town.