How to Shape a Hamburger Patty

For burgers that cook up evenly and are easy to eat (an ideal balance of condiment, bun, and burger), here's your mantra: Don't pack.

  1. Put a touch of olive oil on both hands or wet them. They won't get goopy, and you won't overwork the meat, fish, or poultry. When mixing in flavorings, work gently.
  2. Shape a loose ball and hold it in your fingers. Press gently with the balls of your hands to form a patty. Don't pack. The more you pack, the denser the burger will be, and there's more potential for shrinkage.
  3. With the patty cradled in your fingers, press edges gently with your other hand cupped, turning the burger like a dial. Edges shouldn't be too shaggy, but they don't have to be perfect, either.
  4. Aim for patties a half-inch thick if you're working with meats such as beef, pork, lamb and poultry; fish burgers should be thicker, about 3/4-inch, to ensure juiciness in the center. To make sure you don't overcook the burger, stay by the grill and be sure the fire isn't too high. Turn the burger only once and never press on the patty with the spatula, which forces juices out, resulting in a dry burger.

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