This Fast and Easy Burger Hack Guarantees the Juiciest Patties Ever
Skip the ice cube and go for this better burger hack for the juiciest bite ever
Aah … summertime, and the grilling is easy. And yes, it really is easy to fire up the grill and get made-to-perfection hot dogs and hamburgers. Sure, you can overcook your burgers if you’re not careful or are clueless about how long to grill burgers. But you’re not doomed to dry, tasteless beef without an ounce of juiciness to it. With the right burger hack, you can get the perfect flame-licked patty.
You might have heard about a clever trick that involves putting an ice cube on a burger. But we’ve got an even better burger hack for you. It guarantees you’ll bite into a juicy hamburger every time. Not only is it a genius way to ensure better burgers, it’s also super simple. Read on for the clever burger hack from the author of more than 50 cookbooks. But first, a little science lesson.
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What’s the deal with ice cubes in a burger?
By all accounts, the concept of cooking with ice in a burger originated with MasterChef judge Graham Elliot, who shared the burger-grilling tip with Fox News in 2006. The trick goes something like this: Nestle an ice cube in the center of the patty, and as it cooks on the grill, the water will melt. The burger will absorb the water, becoming juicier—no need to overload your bun with prepared mustard and ketchup in an attempt to moisten an overdry burger.
There’s nothing wrong with that idea, per se, but there’s an even better burger hack: using ice water in your burger. It gives you the same result—the moistest, juiciest burger ever—but without some of the drawbacks of the ice cube (more on those in a bit).
How do you cook a burger with water?
Forget about the ice cube. The burger hack that yields the juiciest mouthful involves ice water. It’s a brilliant solution shared in the 2007 book Mastering the Grill by Dave Joachim and Andy Schloss.
“I’ve been advocating adding water to burgers since 2007,” says Joachim, who has collaborated on more than 50 cookbooks, including his latest, The Food Substitutions Bible. “The difference? I mix ice water into the burger mix from the get-go. That achieves the same effect of making the burger juicier.”
So how exactly does Joachim’s burger hack work? Use about three tablespoons of ice water per pound of ground meat, he says, and add it in when you mix the burgers with whatever seasonings you like. If you’re not using seasoning, go ahead and mix in ice water before you form the ground meat into burger patties and pop them on the grill.
Why should you add water to a burger instead of ice?
There are a few reasons Joachim says the best burgers are made with water, not ice. For starters, it offers better moisture distribution. “Ice water achieves the same effect of making the burger juicier,” he says. “But it better distributes the moisture throughout the entire burger.” That’s a good thing, for sure.
Water also makes for a better-shaped patty. “[The ice cube] leaves a hole or dent in the center,” says Joachim. It’s not just an aesthetic issue; a hole in a burger disrupts its consistency in a surprising way: “It eats differently, not in a good way,” he says. “Like walking along and tripping into a little hole you weren’t expecting.”
The other issue pertains to food safety. “Adding an ice cube lowers the internal temperature in the center, which increases the chance that your burger will remain undercooked in the middle, a food safety risk I’d rather avoid,” he says.
Tips for juicy burgers
Adding ice water to your ground beef is just one way to get the perfect patty. The tips below will also up the juiciness of your burger.
- Grind the meat just before grilling, or use freshly ground beef, then cook immediately. “It leads to less water loss,” Joachim says.
- Handle your burger meat as little as possible; overworking the mix tends to make your burgers tough.
- Use ground beef with an 80:20 lean-to-fat ratio. Or even better, Joachim says, go with a 75:25 burger mix. This will keep the meat moist while it cooks and help prevent it from drying out.
- Even better than adding ice water to your burger? Joachim loves adding a flavored liquid like low-sodium beef broth, porcini mushroom broth or Worcestershire sauce. You only need a little bit.
- Add butter, peanut butter, bacon fat or beef fat into the mix. Those will add juiciness by adding fat, says Joachim. It’s the same reason people top their patty with American cheese.
- Something you should never do to a burger? Add salt to the burger mix. “Salt draws moisture from the meat,” he says. Instead, salt the exterior only, just before cooking.
And as for that whole idea of resting your burger before digging into it? Joachim doesn’t recommend it. “Burgers begin to lose juice immediately after cooking,” he says. “That makes for soggy buns and dry burgers. I serve them as soon as possible.”
About the expert
David Joachim has authored, edited or collaborated on more than 50 cookbooks. His books on grilling—Mastering the Grill and A Man, A Can, A Plan—were New York Times bestsellers. His latest book is The Food Substitutions Bible.
- Fox News: “Ice cube for a better burger? Graham Elliot’s bizarre grilling trick”