Burger Mistakes You Might Be Making

Words: Jess Spiro

Making a great burger has become an art form. There are lots of different techniques and people seem prepared to die on the sword for their coveted secrets. There are, however, a few basics though that make a good burger really great, so read on to find out what burger mistakes you might be guilty of. Make your next batch the best ever.

Burger mistakes You Might Be Making

Don’t Make these Burger Mistakes!

Meat-to-Fat Ratio

Essentially, you can make a burger patty with any meat you like, but the important thing to remember here is juiciness. For that ideal moisture factor, make sure that you use at least a 20:80 fat-to-meat ratio. This really is the first important step to making sure that you don’t end up with a hockey puck where your burger patty should be.


The cardinal sin of burger mistakes! Be gentle with the meat when putting your patties together; treat it with love. Firstly, you want to work quickly, keeping the meat cold to ensure that the all-important fat stays emulsified. You also want to keep all handling to a minimum so that you don’t overwork the proteins, which leads to a tough, sad burger. Squashing the meat together like play dough should be avoided at all costs!

Seasoning incorrectly

Yes, it’s always a good idea to season your food as you’re preparing it and not just at the end of cooking, but when it comes to burgers you want to wait for as long as possible before adding that salt. The best time to season up your patties is just before you cook them. Salt added too soon breaks down the proteins on the surface of the meat, causing it to be tough and dense. So once you’ve fired up the braai or your pan, generously season your patties on both sides and get cooking.

Not making a slight indentation

Do your burgers puff up? Trying to fit a rounded burger between your buns is not fun, so when (delicately) shaping your patties, press down slightly on the meat with your thumb to form a little indentation/divot. This not only prevents it from puffing up, but also stops it shrinking too much.

Weird add-ins

Burgers are very personal and everyone has a recipe that they trust – sometimes they can be guilty of having all sorts of things added to them. Here is where we pause and think of the classic Eddie Murphy skit about his mother’s hamburgers, with chunks of green peppers and onions poking out of them. Don’t be like Eddie’s mom, keep your mix simple – they don’t need egg, breadcrumbs, onions or ridiculous spices. Whatever your mix of meat is, just keep it like that. Let your patty do the talking.

Cooking heat too low

Similar to a piece of steak, you want a good sear on that patty. So give your pan or braai a good amount of time to heat up before you pop that patty on the heat. You want caramelisation, not stewing action.

Touching the burgers too much as they cook

Ok, so you’ve got the perfect fat:meat ratio, you’ve lovingly put the patties together, your pan or grill is nice and hot, and your burgers have been seasoned at the right time – don’t let it all fall apart at the last minute by cooking it incorrectly. Do you love to press down on your burger with your spatula, just to hear it sizzle? Yeah, don’t do that, that sizzle you’re hearing is all that moisture escaping, moisture you’ve worked so hard to retain. Just leave the burgers for about 4 or 5 minutes on one side before flipping it for another 2 minutes, using your spatula only to lift the burgers off the grill.

Cutting into the patty to check doneness

We’re pretty sure that you’ve grasped the importance of retaining moisture in your burger. Cutting into your burger releases all that juiciness. Just don’t do it.

Eating it too soon

We know, we know, it’s going to be the best burger ever but you need to have patience. As with all meat, allowing your burger to rest before eating it will allow the protein to relax and the juices to settle, meaning your burger won’t leak out all over your buns as soon as you bite into it.

Not serving on a proper hamburger roll

This is not the time for anything other than a hamburger roll. Keep your ciabattas, pita bread or, heaven forbid, white sandwich bread for another day.

What? No Fries?

Salads, potato wedges, vegetable chips, or alternative root crisps are not welcome here. You’re after chips, preferably erring on the slimmer, more frite-like side, with tomato sauce and mayonnaise if you’re feeling European. Here’s how to make the perfect French fries.

Test Your Burger-Making Skills

Awesome, you’ve nailed the format, no burger mistakes for you… be inspired by these recipes and create your burger masterpiece. Try our Pork Burger with Bourbon BBQ Sauce, Bacon & Cheese or these Cheesy Pretzel Roll Sliders with Wagyu Beef.

Want more? Check out our droolworthy round up of Ultimate Burger Recipes.

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