How To Grill Super-moist Onion Burgers

I know people who have secret recipes for what they put in their burgers. They’re convinced they make the best burger in the world. Then three out of four burgers come off the grill with burned edges that you have to trim off. Unless you like crunchy burgers that is.

That’s why I’m more concerned with how to make a well cooked burger. Not well-done, done well. (Speaking of well-done, my father once told a waiter, “Tell him to just put it on the grill. When the smoke alarm goes off, I’ll come back and get it.” I suspect this is why I didn’t discover I liked steak until I was 19.)

There are three tips in here that are all about keeping it moist on the grill. And a little extra flavor doesn’t hurt.


2 pounds ground beef (there’s a second pack under the vacuum-sealed one)
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup sour cream onion dip
2 egg whites, plus 2 whole eggs (see note below)


Bread crumbs are not only a good filler when you’re trying to stretch ground beef, they also hold moisture really well. The moisture from the meat gets soaked up instead of just dripping off into the grill. I’d be lying if I told you I measured these, but it was about a cup.

Normally I add one egg per pound of ground beef. But this night I had just made mayonnaise, so I had a couple of extra egg whites lying around. Actually it was three egg whites and a half a yolk, which I broke separating the whites. I could have gone with three whites and a half a yolk, but added the other whole egg because I had already taken it out.

My first attempt at making onion dip wasn’t the roaring success I had hoped for. It was tasty, but not what I was looking for. So it sat in the fridge for a while, until I decided to put it in some hamburgers. It came out great, so I’m sharing it here.

I got the idea when I remembered that some meatloaf recipes start with bread soaked in milk. Well heck, I was adding bread crumbs already. The dip was made from sour cream (which is milk), onion and Worcestershire sauce. Perfect for burgers.

Mix everything else together before adding the meat. It’s impossible to get the egg mixed in well if you wait until you add the meat.

Now add the meat, and mix well. I’ve heard you can do this with a mixer, but if I’m going to have my hands in it anyway to make the patties, I might as well not mess up the mixer and have to clean it.

Here’s my last — and best — tip for moist burgers. Most people make patties that are thicker in the middle, kind of like giant M&Ms. Some use a form, like a big cookie cutter, to press them out nice and even and flat. Either way, burgers tend to shrink side-to-side while getting thicker through the middle when you cook them. I could explain the chemistry behind it, but then you’d have to read it … I’d have to research it … neither one of us really wants that, do we?

So anyway, the problem this causes is that the edges tend to burn by the time the center is cooked properly. You could fight this by mashing the burger down, which lots of people do when frying burgers. That squeezes all the juice out, leading to dry burgers. And you can’t do it on the grill anyway; you’d press the meat straight through the bars.

Instead, I make burgers thinner in the middle. So as they get smaller around and thicker in the middle, they even out. I end up with flat finished burgers that are cooked the same way from edge to edge and everywhere in between. You can really see the shape on the one at the far right of this picture.

There were supposed to be eight quarter-pound burgers there. But my wife got big kaiser buns, so I got carried away and went large. Oops. But I did think ahead and rip the two pieces of wax paper before starting to mix the ground beef.

Now, just before turning the burgers over for the first time, you can see that they’ve all grown in the middle and are nearly flat all the way across.

The tomato is from Lou’s garden, the onion is from the farmers market, the mayonnaise is homemade.

And that’s it.

I’m heading off on vacation next week. I don’t know if they’ll have any WiFi there, so I can’t promise I’ll be around to respond to any comments. (Besides, I’m not taking the laptop to the pool.) If not, I’ll get caught up with everybody when I return.