A lot of cooks take pains to obtain top-notch hamburger meat, toppings, condiments, and buns only to relegate the crucial step of making the patties to an afterthought. There’s an art to preparing a hamburger patty. Fortunately, it’s one that can be reduced to a few straightforward guidelines.
1. A pat of cold butter enclosed in the center of the patty bastes and flavors the meat while it cooks. Be sure to seal the butter pat in completely.
2. Don’t pack the meat too much: overworking it can cause the burger to become mealy and overly dense. Gather the meat into a loose ball and set it on a work surface. Curl the palms of your hands around the sides of the patty and work it back and forth in a rotating motion so that the sides of the patty flatten slightly. Then gently press down on the top of the patty with the flat of your hand. (A note on size: thick is good, but there’s a limit; any burger patty weighing more than eight ounces when raw will overwhelm your average bun.)
3. We found that an ice cream scoop gave us a loosely packed portion perfectly sized for being squashed into a thin, old-school skillet burger.
4. Thick burger patties tend to puff up in the middle while they cook. Making a depression in the top of the patty using the back of a measuring spoon, or just your thumb, helps a burger hold its shape.