How many pounds of beef do I need for 4 burgers?

Quick Answer

For 4 quarter-pound burgers, you will need about 1 pound of ground beef. This allows for some extra meat to account for loss during cooking. A quarter-pound burger uses about 4 ounces of uncooked ground beef. With 4 burgers at 4 ounces each, that comes to 16 ounces total, which is 1 pound.

Calculating Burger Meat Needed

When figuring out how much ground beef to buy for burgers, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Burger size – How many ounces will each uncooked burger patty weigh? A typical burger is 1/4 pound or 4 ounces uncooked. Larger burgers may be 1/3 pound or even 1/2 pound.
  • Number of burgers – How many total burger patties do you need to make? Count the number of people eating burgers and figure at least 1 burger per person.
  • Meat shrinkage – Ground beef tends to shrink by around 20% as it cooks due to fat rendering and moisture loss. So you’ll need extra meat to compensate.
  • Leftovers – It’s smart to buy a little extra ground beef so you have some leftover meat for other meals.

Let’s look at how to calculate the pounds of ground beef needed for some common burger cooking scenarios:

4 Quarter-Pound Burgers

  • Burger size: 1/4 pound or 4 ounces each uncooked
  • Number of burgers: 4
  • Total uncooked weight: 4 oz x 4 burgers = 16 ounces
  • With 20% shrinkage: 16 oz x 1.2 = 19.2 ounces (round up to 20 ounces)
  • Total ground beef needed: 1.25 pounds

So for four simple quarter-pound burgers, buy 1.25 to 1.5 pounds of ground beef. This gives you a little extra meat to account for cooking loss and leftovers.

6 Half-Pound Burgers

  • Burger size: 1/2 pound or 8 ounces each uncooked
  • Number of burgers: 6
  • Total uncooked weight: 8 oz x 6 burgers = 48 ounces
  • With 20% shrinkage: 48 oz x 1.2 = 57.6 ounces (round up to 60 ounces)
  • Total ground beef needed: 3.75 pounds

For six bigger half-pound burgers, purchase about 3.75 to 4 pounds of ground beef to be safe.

10 Quarter-Pound Sliders

  • Burger size: 1/4 pound or 4 oz each uncooked
  • Number of burgers: 10
  • Total uncooked weight: 4 oz x 10 burgers = 40 ounces
  • With 20% shrinkage: 40 oz x 1.2 = 48 ounces
  • Total ground beef needed: 3 pounds

When making 10 smaller slider burgers, plan on having 3 to 3.5 pounds of ground beef on hand.

Ground Beef Shrinkage

Why do you need to account for shrinkage when calculating how much ground beef to buy for burgers?

Raw meat shrinks quite a bit when cooked. Ground beef loses moisture and fat content during cooking. This renders out the fat and causes the meat to lose volume and weight.

On average, pre-cooked ground beef will shrink by 15% to 25% after cooking. For burger calculations, it’s safest to estimate around 20% shrinkage.

This means if you start with 1 pound of raw ground beef, after cooking you’ll end up with about 0.8 pounds of cooked meat.

Accounting for this cook loss is an important step when figuring out burger quantities. Buy at least 20% more uncooked meat than the final cooked amount you need.

Cost per Pound of Ground Beef

The price of ground beef can vary considerably depending on the leanness, quality, and where you shop.

Here are some average costs per pound:

  • Standard 80/20 ground chuck: $3.50 – $4.50/lb
  • Lean 90/10 ground sirloin: $4.50 – $6.00/lb
  • Grass-fed ground beef: $6.00 – $8.00+/lb
  • Organic ground beef: $6.00 – $9.00+/lb

On average, most grocery stores charge around $4 to $5 per pound for typical 80% lean ground chuck. Higher fat ground beef is more economical, while leaner meats cost more.

Organic, grass-fed, and premium ground beef can run $2 to $3 more per pound. Ground sirloin is also pricier than ground chuck or ground beef.

Shopping sales and buying ground beef in bulk quantities can help lower the per pound cost. Ground beef is also inexpensive when purchased in large family packs versus individual pounds.

Comparing Raw vs Cooked Ground Beef

It’s important to distinguish between the weight and volume of raw ground beef versus cooked meat. Here’s a quick comparison:

Raw Ground Beef

  • 1 pound of raw ground beef is 16 ounces by weight
  • Takes up a larger volume before cooking as it contains fat and moisture
  • A 1-pound ball of raw ground beef is about the size of a baseball
  • Can be densely packed into a ball shape

Cooked Ground Beef

  • 1 pound raw cooks down to about 3/4 pound (12 oz) cooked
  • Loses moisture, fat, and volume during cooking
  • A 3/4 pound amount of crumbled cooked beef fills about 2 cups volume
  • Does not pack down as densely and has a loose, crumbled texture

Understanding how much raw meat shrinks and changes during cooking allows you to buy the right amount you need for your recipes.

Typical Uses for Ground Beef

Here are some common ways ground beef is used along with about how much you need:


  • 1/4 pound burger: 4 oz raw meat per patty
  • 1/3 pound burger: 5.3 oz raw meat per patty
  • 1/2 pound burger: 8 oz raw meat per patty


  • Large meatballs: 2-3 oz each
  • Small meatballs: 1 oz each


  • Standard meatloaf: 1.5 to 2 lbs meat
  • Mini meatloaves: 5 to 6 oz raw meat each


  • 3 oz raw beef per taco

Pasta Sauce

  • 1/2 pound raw beef for 2-3 servings
  • 1 pound raw beef for 4-6 servings


  • 1 to 1.5 pounds ground beef for 4-6 servings

Knowing rough estimates for how much ground beef typical recipes require makes it easier to shop for the correct amount.

Tips for Cooking Burgers

Here are some useful tips for achieving delicious, juicy burgers at home:

  • Don’t overwork the meat – Gently shape patties without compacting the meat too densely. This helps burgers stay tender.
  • Make a indentation in the center – Press your thumb into the middle of each patty to prevent bulging as it cooks.
  • Handle patties gently – Flip burgers with a spatula just once during cooking for better texture.
  • Don’t press burgers – Never flatten or press down on burgers while they cook, as this squeezes out juices.
  • Use high heat – Cook over medium-high to high heat to sear the meat and lock in juices.
  • Don’t overcook – Cook until lightly pink inside for optimum moisture. Internal temp should reach 160°F.
  • Let rest before serving – Allow burgers to rest 5 minutes after cooking for juicier results.

Following these simple tricks will give you flavorful, moist burgers full of beefy flavor.

Ground Beef Nutrition Facts

Ground beef provides high-quality protein and several nutrients. A 4-ounce uncooked serving (113g) of 80% lean ground chuck contains (1):

Calories Fat Protein Carbs
291 22g 19g 0g

Ground beef is an excellent source of:

  • Protein – Helps build and repair muscles. Important for growth and development.
  • B Vitamins – Aid energy metabolism and neural functions. Niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 present.
  • Selenium – Antioxidant that supports immune function and thyroid health.
  • Zinc – Boosts immune system and wound healing. Needed for DNA formation.
  • Iron – Essential for producing hemoglobin and oxygen transport in blood. More bioavailable than plant iron sources.
  • Choline – Used in cell membranes and neurotransmissions. Supports brain and liver health.

Leaner ground beef with a higher percentage of protein by weight contains less saturated fat than regular 80/20 ground chuck.


When trying to determine how much ground beef to purchase for burgers, use about 4 ounces of raw meat per average quarter-pound patty. Account for meat shrinkage during cooking by buying an extra 20% more than the final cooked amount.

For a party of 4 people eating quarter-pound burgers, buy 1 to 1.25 pounds of ground beef. This allows for some extra meat to account for cooking loss. Understand how raw meat reduces in volume after cooking for more accurate burger estimates.

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