Why An Ice Cube Is Key To Grilling Juicier Burgers

In the long list of tricks, hacks, and essential advice for making the juiciest burgers, it's important to remember that if you ensure you have a juicy, well-made patty, you've already won most of the battle. Sometimes condiments have to take on the task of rescuing a dry or flavorless burger, but to make sure your toppings are merely improving not recovering your protein, put an ice cube on it.


Strange as it sounds, it solves the most common problem of cooked burger; it moistens the meat while the heat from your grill is actively drying it out. As the ice cube melts, the water spreads through the patty, moistening and steaming it from the inside. It's one of those simple hacks  that sounds counterintuitive but is highly effective, like using water to make crispy bacon.

So, stock up on ice cubes since you'll need them not just for your summer cocktails but also for making juicy burgers at your next cookout. And if you want to go a step further, use ice cubes made with beef stock that flavor and moisten your burger patties while they sear.

An ice cube keeps the burger patty moist while grilling

The trick is as easy as it sounds — once you've placed a burger patty on the grill, gently push an ice cube into the top of the patty so it creates a shallow dent, and then leave it there. The small depression ensures the ice cube doesn't slide off and that water seeps into the folds. Use a medium-sized ice cube since one that is too small won't contain enough water. Conversely, an ice cube that's too large will lower the patty's temperature and risk the insides being undercooked.


The ice cube trick was popularized in 2006 by Chef Graham Elliot of MasterChef fame but has since become widely used. It works just as well at keeping stovetop skillet burger patties moist as it does on the grill. Interestingly, the ice cube solves another burger concern — the problem of the patty bulging from the middle as it cooks. Making a shallow dent in the middle of the raw patty, also known as the thumbprint trick, is a tried and tested method for ensuring it retains its flat shape and doesn't swell up. 

Variations of the ice cube trick for even tastier burgers

The ice cube trick has been around for a while, so it's no surprise that several variations have evolved. Substituting regular ice cubes for beef stock ice cubes ramps up the flavor of your burger patties, and you don't need to make stock ice cubes just for grilling juicy burgers. A great time-saving kitchen trick is to make a large batch of stock and then store it as frozen cubes so it's easy to use in any dish that could benefit from them. Using these broth cubes on burgers is just another of their many uses.


Another option is flavoring your ice cubes with a dash of Worcestershire or steak sauce so that when they melt, they carry the flavors through the patty. This is a great way to season the insides of the patty since salting hamburger meat sucks out moisture. Instead, only sprinkle salt and pepper on the outer surface of the patty right before cooking.

If you're wondering why you can't just add water to the ground beef instead of using an ice cube, you can. A dash of water or cooking stock in ground burger meat can give juicer results. However, the water or stock must be chilled to avoid raising the temperature of the raw meat. Keeping hamburger meat cold helps it retain moisture, which is why many people find it easier to use cubes.