The Major Burger Mistake Bobby Flay Wants You To Stop Making

When crafting the perfect burger on the grill, it can be a challenging feat to keep the meat nice and juicy. You need to cook it long enough to create a crusty, browned exterior, but the high heat can dry out your patties fast. Luckily, renowned barbecue aficionado Bobby Flay is here to help: He has published some must-know advice in his "10 Commandments of Grilling" (via Food Network). The pro chef warns about one common mistake that could give you those dreaded dried-out patties: Pressing the burgers down when grilling them.

Flay notes that pressing your burgers causes them to "lose all the delicious juices". A perfectly moist burger relies on a few vital factors: On an ingredient level, it's key to use a custom ground beef burger blend. An 80% to 20% ratio of lean meat to rich fat is a good starting point. As the beef cooks, though, the water and fats inside are susceptible to leaking out, especially if you press the meat down. Bother your burgers with your spatula, and even fatty beef will lose a lot of moisture.

To prevent all that flavor from escaping, you need to let your burgers cook over the flame undisturbed so the juices can distribute nicely throughout the beef. This is just as important as letting meat rest after grilling, as well as forming your patties properly to begin with.

To retain the fat content, don't overwork the beef

Burgers tend to puff and expand during grilling, hence the temptation to flatten them throughout the process. Bobby Flay has a tip to help your burgers keep their shape without pressing them down. "After I've shaped the burger, I take my thumb and make a well in the middle, so that when the burger cooks, it actually comes back to the shape that you want it to be," he tells Esquire.

These tiny indents compensate for expansion. Instead of bloating up and becoming overly plump, the middle of your patties will rise up to the desired thickness. When forming the burgers, it's also important to use a light hand and mix the meat until just combined, then form loose patties. This way, the meat doesn't become too compact and the juices can flow throughout the muscle. Overworking the beef — whether on or off the grill — can result in dense, tough burgers that are dry inside. 

Finally, to keep the fatty juices in the burger instead of melting out upon contact with the grill, it helps to keep the raw beef patties refrigerated. Take them out right before you cook them instead of letting them sit at room temp, which can cause the fat to soften too much.

More juicy burger tips

The way you season and cook an all-American cheeseburger recipe can also help prevent it from drying out. Another hot tip from Bobby Flay is to season the meat "liberally with salt, pepper, and canola oil" (via Food Network). The salt and pepper amplifies the taste of quality beef, while oil adds some extra moisture. Brushing canola oil on the outside of the burgers can also assist them in charring up nice and crisp. However, over-salting your beef can actually reduce its moisture content when cooked, so if you like your burgers on the saltier side, reserve an extra sprinkle for after grilling.

Once your burgers are seasoned and on the grill, flip them halfway through cooking, and don't touch them again after that. The exact cook time will depend on the thickness of your patty, so be sure to pay attention to the burgers and test them with a meat thermometer once they look ready. With these tips and tricks, your next cookout burgers will turn out juicy and delicious, not so dry that they need a blanket of ketchup to disguise it.