While most people use egg in some form to serve as a binder when making meatloaf or meatballs, there is some question about whether you need egg for burger patties. Egg whites add moisture and protein, holding together delicate ingredients and additions such as vegetables and grain fillers. Whether or not you need to add egg whites to bind your burgers depends on the base ingredient of your burger patties.
Juicy Beef Burgers
Burgers made with real beef and containing at least 10 to 15 percent fat don’t need egg whites to hold together. The juices and proteins from the meat start to coagulate and bind the burger during cooking. To keep your patties moist and tender, make medium-size patties and don’t over-handle the meat when shaping. Aim for 5-ounce patties -- about 2/3cup of meat for each burger -- and pass it back and forth between cupped hands to shape. Let the patties rest at room temp for five minutes before cooking, and resist the urge to press the burgers with the back of the spatula when frying, because this can make them dry.
Lean Poultry Patties
Unlike beef, ground turkey and chicken -- either alone or in combination -- benefit from the addition of egg whites when forming burger patties. The egg whites help the lean meat to bind together, especially if you're using additional ingredients such as chopped vegetables. To form patties made with ground poultry, use a food processor to chop vegetables such as onion, pepper or mushrooms into small pieces. Use one egg white per 1 pound of meat. A tablespoon of savory flavoring to the meat mixture, such as soy sauce or barbecue sauce, adds body and moisture.
Tasty Veggie Burgers
The success of a good veggie burger depends on its ability to mimic the rich texture and taste of meat. Combining flavorful roasted and dried vegetables together with grains require a binding agent, and eggs, either whole or separated, do the job. Squeeze out any excess moisture from cooked vegetables, and pre-cook grains such as rice. Add the egg whites to your mixture last, so you can taste and adjust the seasonings of your vegetable mash. Like beef burgers, veggie burgers also benefit from a rest time; for best results, refrigerate, covered, for two at least two hours before cooking. Adding eggs will mean vegans cannot eat the veggie burgers.
Egg-actly Right Eggs
To separate an egg white from the yolk, use a funnel or egg separator, or crack the egg into the cup of your hand using the one-handed cracking method. Let the egg whites run through your fingers and into a bowl while keeping the yolk cradled. This method reduces the chances of introducing bacteria from the egg's shell. Always wash your hands before and after handling raw egg. The whites from two eggs will equal one whole egg in liquid volume. Use a clean spoon to scoop out any broken shell bits to reduce the chances of introducing bacteria. For convenience, you can buy pasteurized egg whites in a carton.
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For more than 10 years, Carol Butler has run a small, off-grid furniture business with her husband and is a regular contributor to the Edible community of magazines. As staff writer for RichLife Advisors, she covers financial planning and other industry-related topics. She holds a B.F.A. in theater arts.