The Fourth of July holiday is nearly here, which means you’ll undoubtedly be paying a visit to a backyard BBQ or two this week. And sure, you may think you’re a master chef because you can form ground beef into the perfect patty and flip it like a pro over the hot coals. But, there’s one major mistake every novice chef appears to be making when preparing their meat: Salting their burgers too early.
According to Reader’s Digest, even the smallest amount of added salt can seriously mess up a burger recipe. You see, it all comes down to science as salt, Reader’s Digest reported, is very good at dissolving protein. And when that salt mixes with additional seasoning it will break down the lovely patty you so tirelessly formed.
“What you end up with is a very tightly compacted patty whose texture is similar to sausage,” Test Kitchen expert James Schend told Reader’s Digest. “Think about when you bite into a sausage—that firm, almost rubbery texture is perfect for links, but is that the texture you want in your burger?”
So, instead of adding salt to your burger mix, Schend explained it’s best to toss just a bit onto the patty right as you place it on the grill.
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He’s not alone in this salty theory. Cook’s Illustrated even ran an experiment proving this theory to be true. In their lab, the magazine broke up three different bowls of ground beef: One with salt in the mix, one salted 30 minutes before grilling and one lightly salted as they placed it on the grill.
“We found that the burgers salted before being formed into patties had a firm, almost snappy texture that was closer to sausage than any of us would have liked,” the magazine revealed. “The patties that rested for 30 minutes after being salted on the outside had a tender interior but a dry and springy exterior, where the salt came into contact with the meat. Only the burgers that were seasoned on the outside and at the very last minute had the texture we liked.”
So, there you have it. Be a real hero this Fourth of July and leave off the salt. At least until the very last second.