Why Does My Burger Patty Shrink?

Burgers are the most popular fast food in the world not only because of its amazing taste but also because it is easy and enjoyable to make. BBQ party remains incomplete without grilling some juicy burgers with your friends for many. But this wonderful cooking experience can get ruined if your burger patty shrinks too much.

Burger patties normally shrink because the water in the meat evaporates as it gets cooked. This process is inevitable and the burger patty will shrink a little no matter the process. But by following some simple tricks, you can reduce this shrinkage.

The last thing you want to do is fill the burger buns with patties that are smaller than them. This ruins the aesthetics of your burgers and less meat means less flavor in the burger as well. So follow these methods described in the following passages to make sure you fill your burger buns with enough meat every time.

Why Does My Burger Patty Shrink?

Burger patties do not only contain meat and fat but they also contain a lot of water in it as well. This water is deep inside the protein fiber and the fat tissue of the meat. When heat is applied to the meat patties, this water evaporates and the protein fibers start to get firmer. This process releases the water as vapor and shrinks the burger patties.

How much the burger patties will shrink depends on various factors such as the fat content, meat quality, thickness of the patties, cooking time, cooking temperature, and so on. A regular burger pattie can shrink up to 30% when it is cooked. The methods that I have described below will keep the shrinkage to 20-25%.

How to Keep Burgers From Shrinking? 6 Ways

Although the burger patty will shrink no matter what method you follow because it is the natural way in which the meat in the burger patties cooks, you can follow some procedures to make sure that the burger patties do not shrink too much. These are described below in detail.

1. Do Not Over-Handle the Meat

Kneading the meat too much will damage the meat fibers and they will release too much water as they get cooked. This water will evaporate and that will shrink the burger patties. Kneading the ground meat for too long will cause the burger patties to shrink a lot.

This is why I suggest that you only knead the ground meat if you are making thin patties. Thick pattie’s ground meat does not need to be kneaded at all. You can start forming the balls and shaping them to be patties after you bring out the frozen ground meat from the freezer. Handle the beef patties gently and try to knead as little as possible.

2. Do Not Tightly Compress the Patties

Compressing the burger patties too tightly will also result in the burger patties shrinking too much. Compressing the patties will make it easier for the water molecules to evaporate more quickly and this in turn will shrink the burger patties.

I recommend that you give the ground meat a light touch while forming the patties. Refrain from pressing the ground meat too hard in between your palms or with a burger press. 

3. Make a Dimple in the Pattie

The connective tissues of the meat which are called collagen shrink as the meat gets cooked. This will cause the sides and the bottom of the patty to shrink and tighten. This process also puffs up the middle of the burger. Add a ¼-inch deep dimple in the middle of the burger patty to resolve this issue.

Adding a dimple in the middle will not only reduce shrinkage but it will also keep the burger patty uniform as it gets cooked. The water vapor will get released from the middle and the dimple will rise to make the burger patty uniform again. So it is highly recommended that you put a dimple on your burger patty before you put it on the grill.

4. Use Ground Meat With a High Fat Content

Lean meat loses more water vapor as it gets cooked than meat with a higher fat content. Fat helps the burger to cook properly and keeps moisture inside the burger patties. It is recommended that you use at least 20% fat with 80% meat to prepare your ground meat from which you will shape your burger patties.

5. Chill the Patties

You should always chill the patties for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours in the freezer before you start cooking them. Chilling the patties helps to keep the moisture inside the burger and the cold temperature prevents the heat from reaching the middle too early. So chilling the patties before you start the cooking process is a very useful method to make sure that your burger patties do not shrink too much.

6. Cook on Medium or Medium-High Heat

Temperature is also another factor that determines how much the burger patty will shrink. The burger patties will shrink too much if you put them on high heat. The water molecules will evaporate too quickly and the burger patties will shrink. I cook the burgers on medium to medium-high heat to make sure that they do not shrink as much.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Type of Ground Beef Shrinks Less?

Leaner meat will shrink less because leaner cuts of meat lose less water than fattier cuts. But less than 15% of fat makes the burger too chewy and rubbery. I highly recommend that you aim for 15-20% fat content in your burger patties.

Does Overcooking Make Burger Patties Shrink More?

Yes, overcooking the burger patties makes them lose more water and this in turn shrinks the burger patties even more. I usually take the burger patties down from the grill before they reach 160 F because the burger patties cook by themselves after you take them out from the heat.

Do Burger Patty Dimples Help Prevent Shrinkage?

Yes, burger patty dimples help the water molecules to escape properly and they also ensure that the burger patty can shrink properly and uniformly as it cooks. I always put a small dimple in the center of the patty before I put it on the grill.

Should I Use a Burger Press to Prevent Shrinkage?

Burger press will not completely prevent shrinkage of the burger patties but it will help to keep the shape of the burger patties more uniform which will prevent too much shrinkage.

Is It Important to Let the Patties Rest After Cooking?

Yes, it is important to let the burger patties rest after cooking because it allows the burger patties to cook properly as the heat gets transformed to all parts of the meat uniformly.


Burger patties will shrink normally because the connective tissues in the meat will lose water as it evaporates but by following the methods stated above, you can minimize this and make sure that your burgers do not shrink more than regular.

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