The Easy Thumbprint Trick That Can Make Your Burgers Better

Ever notice that the burgers you get at restaurants always seem to be nice and flat, while the ones you make at home often end up taking on a domed shape instead? While they may not taste any different, it can certainly be frustrating when the center of a patty is slightly thicker. Many people assume that the only way to combat this is to keep pressing the burgers onto the grill as they cook, but there's actually a better way to go about it that even Bobby Flay swears by, sharing it with viewers on an episode of the Rachel Ray Show.

Instead of forming the ground beef into perfectly flat discs, use your thumb to create a dimple in the middle. That way, when the burger inevitably starts to swell, the bulge that normally results will hardly be noticeable because it'll be offset by the indent you created. As a result, your burger will have a much more even, flat surface.

It only works on the grill or oven

If you're making your burgers on the stove rather than in the oven or on a grill, don't bother dimpling the patties. It won't make much of a difference, because burgers cooked in a pan aren't prone to bulging in the first place, according to America's Test Kitchen. When the edges of a burger cook, the proteins tighten, acting like a belt. This effect is minimized when you use a pan on the stove because unless you push the burger against the side of the pan, the edges don't come in direct contact with the metal, which means there'll be little to no swelling to counteract.

When you make burgers in the oven or on a grill, however, the trapped heat takes care of a good amount of the cooking. The edges therefore cook at the same rate as the rest of the burger, constricting the patty and causing the middle to puff out. That's where the thumbprint trick comes into play.

How deep should the thumbprint be?

There's no need to get too precise about the depth of the indentation, but it's still best to err on the shallower side. If you do it a little too deep, you could end up with the opposite problem — a burger with a visible dip in the middle. Try to also stick to a single thumbprint in the middle, about three inches in width, rather than a bunch of little ones scattered across the burger. Smaller dimples do solve the bulging issue, but they'll result in misshapen patties.

Masterchef judge Graham Elliot told Fox News that he suggests sticking an ice cube in the indent. Though you might think this would lead to a soggy burger, it adds the perfect amount of moisture. The ice gradually melts over the meat as the burger cooks, ensuring it comes out extra juicy while at the same time preventing it from doming in the middle. It's another trick for achieving the perfect flat burger patty.