Is It OK to Press Down On Burgers When Grilling?
Cooking Tip – Don’t press down on your hamburgers after you give them a flip or for that matter, at any time.
Easier said than done. I grew up watching my dad flip burgers on our round kettle barbecue grill and I can’t remember any time he DIDN’T press down on the chop meat paddies, igniting a flame from the fatty juices to our delight.
His way of cooking burgers is ingrained in me like I’m sure it is in many of you. I’m sure many of you can’t resist giving your patty a quick press on the grill. Even though I know it is the wrong thing to do when cooking a burger, I have to fight off the urge not to give them a little push with my silver spatula. Oh, how I love to watch the flames flare up.
Now as I’m writing this, I’m wondering how the ritual started in the first place. Did early cookbooks say it’s best to flip and press or is it just that we enjoy playing with the food?
Reasons for “Pressing” Down On A Burger
I did a little research to see if I could come up with some positive reasons for pressing down and here’s what I found:
- “Insures even contact with the grill surface for even cooking”
- “Increases the contact between meat and heat element by an enormous factor”
- “Releases some of the “juices” from the meat so it won’t stick to the grill”
- “If cooking burgers medium well, it insures there’s no bloody juices left in the burger”
- “It cooks them faster, and more evenly throughout the patty”
- “Helps keep their shape even and uniform”
- “I saw them do it that way in the movies”
OK, all good answers (well maybe not the last one), but I don’t agree with any of them.
Reasons for Not “Pressing” Down On A Burger
As a kid I really did enjoy watching my father jump around and get excited when the grill became engulfed in flames from the fat he pressed into the hot charcoals. He would quickly try to move the burgers to a different spot on the grill—which was impossible because the rest of the grill was covered with hot dogs.
I can assure you he didn’t have a spray bottle of water to help put out the flames, but he may have used a bit of his beer to help quell the combustion. Come to think of it, I don’t have a water spray bottle around when I’m grilling either, but there’s no way I’m going to throw any of my wine on the flames.
Here are some reasons you don’t want to press down on your burgers when cooking and then you can decide for yourselves which method works best for you:
- Pressing down on the burgers releases those desirable, flavorful juices that are a good thing and not to be wasted in the flames.
- Pressing the meat down onto the grill is more likely to cause the paddies to stick, making flipping much more challenging.
- When the fatty juices hit the coals or reflectors on a gas grill, a flare up is going to occur. It may entertain the kids, but it makes it very difficult to control the flames while cooking.
- Some people may say it speeds up the cooking process, but I don’t think it does. If you are in a hurry, try putting the grill cover on. This holds in the heat and turns the grill into an oven. This way, you are getting direct heat from the grill as well as ambient heat reflecting off the cover.