Before you form your ground beef into patties for the grill, do you add an egg to the mixture? And if you don’t, is it a good idea to start? We’re here to tell you all you need to know about this practice.
Do You Put an Egg in Burger Meat?
You don’t need to put an egg in ground beef burgers, because the meat has plenty of fat and flavor on its own. In fact, doing so can have a negative effect on the flavor and texture of the burger. On the other hand, it’s permissible to use egg as a binder for burgers made from ground poultry or plant-based ingredients.
Why Do You Put an Egg in Burger Meat?
Proponents of the egg method believe that the egg acts as a binder, preventing the meat from falling apart as it cooks. And there is some truth to this—that’s why we add eggs to the mixture when we’re making meat loaf or meatballs, after all.
However, a burger isn’t a meatball. Though they’re made of the same base ingredient, the two aren’t interchangeable. You can follow a different set of guidelines for each one.
How Do Eggs Bind Meat Together?
Eggs are a classic binding ingredient. But what’s the science behind this phenomenon?
The basic structure of an egg consists mainly of water and protein. The proteins are long-chain amino acids that come unfurled when they’re heated or even thoroughly beaten.
When this happens, the eggs lend stability to other ingredients. The proteins are capable of connecting with other molecules, providing a strengthening effect.
If you’re hoping to use egg as a binder, it’s permissible to use only the whites. They have less fat and fewer carbohydrates than the yolk, but all the proteins you need to create the binding effect are present.
On the other hand, if your goal is to help the meat retain moisture, you’ll want to use the yolks as well—or perhaps only the yolks. These seal in the meat’s natural juices, so it will be more flavorful as well.
Do You Put an Egg in Burger Meat?
We don’t think it’s necessary to add an egg to your ground beef when you’re making ground beef burgers. The egg acts as both a binder and an extender, but you don’t need either one in this case.
Your ground beef mixture should consist of meat or spices, nothing more. Save the eggs and bread crumbs for your next batch of meat loaf. If you’re dead set on having an egg with your burger, fry one up and add it as a topping instead (see below).
Here’s why. Eggs have a different protein makeup than ground beef. That means they start to cook through at different temperatures, which can affect the texture of your finished burger.
What does that mean exactly? When proteins break down too much, they create a mushy texture. A similar phenomenon occurs when you marinate meat in an acidic mixture for too long before you cook it.
The egg will also alter the flavor profile you’re trying to create. Even if you only add a single egg to the mixture, you’re bound to notice a difference.
How To Keep Burgers From Falling Apart
There are other ways to help your burgers keep their shape as they cook. Once you understand them, there should be no need to rely on the egg shortcut.
For starters, the meat should be coarsely ground, but not so coarse that it can’t hold a shape. If you grind your own meat for burgers, you’ll have more control over the texture.
It’s also a good idea to chill the formed burgers prior to cooking. This will give the patties a chance to bind together. Grilling burgers straight out of the fridge prevents them from falling apart as soon as they hit the hot grill.
Don’t make the patties too thin. A thicker patty will be more likely to hold its shape. On the other hand, try not to make them too thick, either, or they might char on the outside while the insides are still dangerously undercooked.
How to Season Burgers to Perfection
It’s fine to season burgers with a simple blend of salt and pepper. Don’t be afraid of the salt—in addition to making the burgers more flavorful, it will draw out moisture, allowing the meat to achieve a nice sear on the outside.
Regular salt is fine, but a seasoned salt, such as Lawry’s, is also a good option. It gives you a hint of spice without taking away from the natural sweetness of the beef.
You can experiment with some other seasonings if you’d like, but try not to overdo it. When you’re grilling burgers, you want the flavor of the beef to take center stage.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Paprika (sweet or smoked)
- Chili powder
- Cayenne pepper
- Crushed red pepper flake
- Dried thyme
Should You Add Egg to Other Ground Meats?
Although we don’t advocate adding an egg to burgers made from ground beef, it’s not a bad idea to use this binder for turkey or chicken burgers. Those meats are leaner than beef, and they’ll benefit from the added flavor and moisture.
It’s fine to add egg to plant-based burgers as well, assuming that the person who’ll be eating it isn’t a vegan. The added protein will boost the nutritional content of the burger, as well as improving the texture.
How To Use Egg as a Burger Topping
We’ve established that putting an egg in your burger meat will make the meat taste odd and give it an unpleasant mouthfeel. If you still have your heart set on enjoying an egg with your burger, here’s the best way to do it.
A cooked egg makes an excellent topping for a grilled burger. It lends a creamy texture and a savory flavor boost to every bite. Obviously, it also makes for a much heartier burger, so this ingredient is best reserved for those with healthy appetites.
Fried eggs are the most popular option. You can cook it sunny side up, over easy, or over medium, depending on your preference. Just be forewarned that sunny or over easy eggs will invite a messy dining experience.
If you prefer your eggs poached, that can make for a nice textural contrast. Because the cooking process requires no oil, it’s also a healthier option—though any benefits might be negated by the fatty beef.
Speaking of which, if you’re topping your burger with an egg, go the extra mile and add a slice or two of bacon as well. There’s a reason why eggs and bacon are a classic combination. You can even enjoy this concoction in the morning and call it breakfast.
The Bottom Line
There’s no doubt that eggs are a versatile and tasty ingredient. They provide a valuable service when you need a binder for meat loaf, meatballs, or even a burger made from ground poultry.
But when it comes to ground beef burgers, the egg is not necessary. You want your burger to be made of 100 percent beef, with no fillers or binders to detract from the experience.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!