Why You May Not Want Too Many Extras In Your Burger Meat Mix

Cook mixing ground beef
Cook mixing ground beef - Steve_gadomski/Getty Images

Bobby Flay, J. Kenji López-Alt, and the fry cooks at Shake Shack agree: Nothing but beef belongs in your burger patty. You can sprinkle salt and pepper on top, but you can't mix in any extras — not if you want the best possible burger bite. Why do experts like Flay skip the extra ingredients when seasoning burgers? Partly because they're burger purists; a patty with onions, eggs, and breadcrumbs is no longer a burger, Flay told Today Food: "That is meatloaf."

But there's another, more objective reason you should stick to beef in your burger mix: Every touch makes it tougher. Over-handling your meat results in a dense, spongey texture. It's difficult to avoid this when you add ingredients like eggs and breadcrumbs, which require vigorous mixing to become thoroughly incorporated.

If you truly love a meatloaf-like burger, don't let a couple of celebrity chefs stop you. But if you'd rather eat a copycat Shake Shack Burger, skip the extra ingredients. Beef, salt, and pepper are all you need on your patty.

Read more: 15 Tips For Making The Best Meatloaf

Why Mix-Ins Can Mess With Your Meat

Bowl of ground meat
Bowl of ground meat - Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

To understand why adding extra ingredients can worsen your burger's texture, take a good long look at your beef. Whether you bought it in a pack at the store, asked your butcher to grind it, or chopped it into fine pieces yourself, it should be relatively loose and varied in texture, with flecks of white fat throughout.

Now grab a handful and squeeze it several times (actually, don't — this would be a waste of good meat). That textural variation would disappear. You would be left holding a puck of homogenous, pink meat. Then, if you were to cook it up, its texture would be dense and springy — think hot dog, not burger.

When you mix some egg into your ground beef, you're probably not squeezing with all of your strength, but all the same, it's difficult to avoid the hot dog effect. When you use your hands to incorporate extras, you melt fat and compress muscle, resulting in a tougher, denser patty.

How To Add Extras To Your Burger Mix Without Sacrificing Texture

Burger with toppings
Burger with toppings - Zoranm/Getty Images

Don't let culinary best practices stop you from eating the burger of your dreams — if you love breadcrumbs, add them; if you want to play with seasoning, go ahead. Just follow these tips to keep those customizations from ruining burger night.

Consider adding your favorite extra ingredient as a topping instead of a mix-in. Incorporating raw onion into your ground beef evenly without overmixing is difficult, but it's super easy to put onion on top of a cooked patty along with ketchup and mustard. Feel free to sprinkle seasoning on top of your patty, too; that way, you can add your favorite flavor without doing any additional mixing. In addition to the obligatory salt and pepper, you could try cumin, five spice, or curry mix.

You can also coat your patty in breadcrumbs. You won't end up with the meatball-like texture of ground meat with mixed-in breadcrumbs. Instead, you'll end up with something more fun: A crispy, crunchy patty à la chicken-fried steak.

All that said, the heart wants what it wants — and sometimes that's a burger with eggs, breadcrumbs, and onions mixed in. If you decide to stick to the recipe you're used to, chock-full of add-ins, go ahead. But be gentle — and don't tell Bobby Flay.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.