A big juicy burger wouldn't be as juicy without the addition of bread crumbs. Just as in meatloaf, bread crumbs help trap in moisture, add volume and bind the hamburger together in a patty. Sometimes bread crumbs just won't work, especially if you're making a seafood burger or you have a gluten issue, but you can substitute a number of different binding agents for burgers made of beef, seafood, vegetable and poultry.
Try Out Panko
Panko bread crumbs, typically sold in tan and white versions, are coarser and lighter than typical bread crumbs. Tan crumbs contain the entire loaf of Panko bread, while the crusts were cut off white crumbs before they were processed. When added to hamburger, they'll absorb a lot of the moisture, and you won't notice or taste them much in the product. You might need more Panko than traditional bread crumbs, so start with a one-to-one ratio and add more as needed.
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Add Some Oats
You can use old-fashioned rolled oats as a binder for hamburger patties, but they add volume, which means you may end up with more patties than expected. Since rolled oats are coarser and larger than bread crumbs, your hamburger might take on a different texture and flavor. Use a 1/2 cup of oats per 1 cup of bread crumbs and decrease any egg or liquid binders by half.
Break 'Em Up
You can buy cracker crumbs, but they're easier and cheaper to make at home by simply breaking up crackers in a food processor or blender until they form a fine crumb. If you don't have a food processor or blender, place your crackers in a zip-top bag and use a rolling pin. First, flatten the bag as much as possible to remove all of the air; then, roll over the bag with your rolling pin until you reach the desired crumb consistency. Cracker crumbs get soggy when introduced to too much liquid, so omit any liquid binders in your hamburger recipe or only use fine cracker crumbs to avoid soggy bits of cracker in your burger. Use a cup of cracker crumbs for every cup of bread crumbs.
Cereal, such as cornflake cereals or rice puffs, can be used in place of bread crumbs. Break them up in a blender, food processor or by hand using a bag and rolling pin until they're small crumbs and add them to your hamburger mix. Cereal crumbs might have a slight crunch even after the hamburger is cooked, so the finer the crumbs are, the less you'll notice the texture. Avoid sugary or flavored cereals that might alter your final product's taste and use in equal proportions to the bread crumbs called for in the recipe.
Make Your Own
Make your own bread crumbs at home if you're out of a commercially made product. Use stale bread -- that has not started to mold -- and bake it in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit until dry and crispy. Once fully cooled, break the pieces into a fine crumb using a food processor, blender or by hand using the bag and rolling pin method. Add spices while baking the bread slices to incorporate the spicy flavor into the bread, if desired. Store your crumbs in a plastic bag or airtight storage container in the pantry for up to two weeks.
You don't always need bread crumbs to bind hamburgers. Leaner meats need binders to stay together, but if you're using a fattier meat, such as a high-fat content ground beef or pork sausage, omit the bread crumbs and egg. Form your patties as normal. If grilling, spray the grill with a non-stick cooking spray or cook the patties on the grill over aluminum foil to keep them from sticking and breaking apart when turned.