Burger experts: how do I make a "smooth" burger?

I just finished making and eating burgers for dinner, using Costco’s ground beef. I could tell when I bought it that it had been ground too warm, because the fat was all smeared, so I wasn’t surprised when the fat rendered too quickly and left my burgers a bit dry.

However, this got me thinking of the last great burger I had, the lamb burger at the Breslin. I noticed when it was served that it was formed into an extremely smooth, thick patty, no crags. This seemed to form almost a “skin” on the burger that held in the fatty juices. The burger overall had a really nice texture, too - dense but tender, with a nice toothsome chew from that smooth exterior.

According to this Serious Eats article, the Breslin uses preformed patties straight from Pat LaFrieda: https://aht.seriouseats.com/2012/06/behind-the-scenes-burger-tour-with-pat-lafrieda-part-4-lamb-burger-at-the-breslin-slideshow.html

Anyway, I have had burgers with this smooth surface at other restaurants and they always seem to be excellent. However, I don’t know how to achieve that type of surface without kneading or otherwise working the meat, which by all accounts is a no-no. So, what gives? Is the smooth surface a restaurant trick, a result of mechanical pre-forming, something else? And does it actually contribute to a fabulous juicy texture or is that all in my head? Thanks in advance for your input!

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Other burgers with this surface that come to mind are the Minetta Tavern burger and the foie gras stuffed burger from DB Bistro Moderne. For some reason I can’t share pics from my device right now or I would post some!

Interesting question. I don’t know if I have an answer, but what kind of of meat blend did you have, what percentage of fat and how did you cook them? There are a ton of variables when cooking burgers and everyone has their preferences, as you know. I like talking burgers so hopefully we get some burger chefs to chime in. I’m kind of lost when you say “skin” so I’ll try to help if I can.

I don’t cook lamb burgers so I can’t help there.

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All i do know is that pat la frieda supplies custom burger blends to about anyone in nyc with a fancy burger on the menu.
Is their website helpful…? The various options for burgers list an idea of content but (obviously) not the exact proportions

Do you have a grinder that grinding your own is an option? Obvs more labor intensive but maybe you can do in batches and freeze (? Dunno if this affects texture or quality for ground meat)

We grind our own meat and it’s almost always pork shoulder. We make 4 oz. patties that we handle as little as possible. Oh, we use the coarser grinding attachment. We do the same when getting ready to cook. They’re never dry unless they’re over cooked. The top isn’t smooth. FWIW.

Here’s a picture of what I’m talking about with the smooth sides or “skin:”

See how smooth the sides are? Or this one:

Contrasted to this, for instance:


For tonight’s burgers, I just used Costco’s crap, so no stats available. When I grind my own, I usually use a blend of chuck, flap, skirt and/or brisket, aiming for 20-25% fat. I look for the most marbled pieces I can find. However, even when I grind my own, I have never achieved that smooth, shiny exterior, no matter how I shape or cook them (I usually do them on a griddle).

Yes, I’m sure La Frieda is the supplier for all of the burgers I’m referring to. I don’t think the blend is the answer, though, since they all use a different blend. I do frequently grind my own meat and while that makes a great burger, I still can’t get that exterior texture that all of these places have. Given that the Breslin’s burgers are pre-formed (per Serious Eats), I have a feeling that there is something about the way they mold them that creates that smoothness. The question is, what? :rofl:

And ours look like that last one cause we handle them so little. And cook up perfectly.

Yeah, mine tend to look like the last one too - and I too handle the meat as little as possible. Mine are always enjoyable, but there is something about the texture of the smoother type that I really like and would love to be able to duplicate. I am guessing it has something to do with the way the meat is handled/compressed during the pre-forming process.

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Or ground more finely and handled more?

I looked at a bunch of my burgers and this is a typical one :slight_smile:!

So you can see that ours don’t have a lot of finesse LOL.

I think the more finely chopped meat is going to give you your desired results. The meat is packed tighter and should tighten up better, thus creating a better crust, than a more coarsely ground burger. This is my theory lol. I like to cook over wood so I prefer a coarser blend with a lot of fat so it can soak in the smoke, not get dry, and fat will render out. Griddle cooking vs grilling/smoking is a different game. Nonetheless, I love all burgers. If I had to guess, I think you want a finer grind and your local butcher shop can probably grind it finer. I think they can take it down to to 3/8th or so for you and you may get your desired results. They should not charge you anymore to grind it a second time. Maybe even grind it again for an even denser patty. This is why I like to support our local butchers. They will generally work with you.


Possibly a finer grind - I usually just do mine once with the coarse die, but many experts recommend the double grind. And of course La Frieda uses a much more powerful, faster grinder than I have, and who knows how many grind size choices they have. I did get a new heavier grinder attachment for Christmas this year, so perhaps I’ll experiment with the grind next time.


You may be right - I will experiment with this the next time I break out my grinder and report back!

Oh, I’d forgotten about a second grind. I’m so happy with what we do that I’m not tempted to mess around.

I have no inside information but my 2 cents - I imagine that “skin” is a result of the mechanical forming of the patty. I imagine the ground meat moving down a tube before being sliced into patties - and the exterior meat sliding along that surface becoming smooth.

I also don’t think that has anything to do with the texture and moisture left in the burger.

I think that is more a result of fat content, grind size, and cooking method.

PS - I have never liked Costco meat for burgers. I love that they test the meat in the store before grinding (especially when an E. coli outbreak spouts up) but something about their grind always results in a chunky texture to me.

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Yeah, Costco’s hamburger is pretty lackluster - I usually cook it for taco meat or spaghetti sauce, but rarely make it into burgers due to the poor texture. DH wanted burgers tonight so I told him I would make them but not be held responsible for the results!

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Good points.

I’m the farthest thing from a germophobe but I really don’t like some of what’s done with ground meat. It’s not WHY we started grinding ours but it’s a factor. I know exactly what’s going in there. But that’s a subject for another day, huh?

Nice. What kind of grinder do you use?

I often grind my own. I have my own grinder:

However, I am also very fond of the ‘Custom Blend’ at Restaurant Depot. It’s an 80/20 blend.

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