Here's What You Should Never Do When Cooking Hamburgers

When you're preparing a steak, one of the first things you probably think about is how to make sure it comes out tender and juicy instead of tough and chewy. Not so much care and attention, however, goes to hamburgers, despite the fact that both are beef. 

Reader's Digest points out that ground beef isn't tender by default, nor is it invincible to any toughness that occurs during the cooking process. In fact, there's a good chance you might be making your hamburger meat even tougher than you intended simply by adding salt at the wrong time. As much as salt contributes seasoning and flavor to meats, it also serves to alter the protein structure. Therefore, if you add the salt too early, it results in a patty with a rubbery texture closer to that of a sausage than what you'd want in a burger. That's why it's best to salt your burgers right before you put them on the grill, rather than mixing the salt into the raw meat beforehand and letting it break down the protein.

Salted hamburger patties hold up better raw, but taste worse cooked

If you're pressing and packing down your ground beef until it forms a very compact patty, you're actually doing a disservice to the taste and texture of your hamburger. While a patty that doesn't fall apart might seem like a good thing, according to Serious Eats, it actually lends itself to less than favorable cooking results, and salt is a major culprit of this. The reason is that when salt breaks down proteins, it makes them more velcro-like, meaning it sticks to itself more readily. In the case of ground beef, that translates to the patty appearing smooth on the surface and holding its shape well, even before it's cooked. 

But what you actually want to see is a patty with coarse individual chunks of ground beef and lots of cracks. This indicates that there will be pockets of juiciness throughout, and when you bite into it, it'll be fall-apart-in-your-mouth tender, instead of being as hard as a hockey puck. Stay away from the salt until just before the hamburger is cooked, and you won't have to worry about that happening.