Q: We use our outdoor grill several nights a week and do well with things like marinated lamb, yakitori chicken, Puget Sound seafood, and vegetables. But when our grandchildren ask for hamburgers we fail miserably. We make the patties about 1/2 inch thick from the leanest hamburger or ground round but when we put them on the grill they crumble and fall apart. How do we get the patties to stay together?
Lynne: First of all, I'd make them thicker, maybe 3/4-inch to one-inch thick, and cook them over a slightly lower fire so they don't burn on the outside before they're cooked on the inside. The very low fat content of the hamburger probably has something to do with it but there's a couple of tricks you can use. Add one egg yolk per pound of hamburger. It won't add appreciably to the fat content and will bind the meat beautifully. The other thing you can do is add canned, drained, crushed black beans or chickpeas to the hamburger. The starch from the beans will bind the meat together and add an interesting taste. The kids might not like it, though.