Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) might complement and one day replace phenotypic identification of bacteria in the clinical microbiology laboratory, but there is no consensus standard regarding the requirements for its validation prior to clinical use in the United States. The objective of this study was to assess the preanalytical variables influencing Gram-negative identification by use of the Bruker Biotyper MALDI-TOF MS system, including density of organism spotting on a stainless steel target plate and the direct overlay of organisms with formic acid. A heavy smear with formic acid overlay was either superior or equivalent to alternative smear conditions. Microbiological preanalytical variables were also assayed, such as culture medium, growth temperature, and use of serial subculture. Postanalytical analysis included the application of modified species-level identification acceptance criteria. Biotyper identifications were compared with those using traditional phenotypic methods, and discrepancies were resolved with 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Compared to the recommended score cutoffs of the manufacturer, the application of optimized Biotyper score cutoffs for species-level identification increased the rate of identification by 6.75% for the enteric Gram-negative bacteria and 4.25% for the nonfermenting Gramnegative bacteria. Various incubation temperatures, growth medium types, and repeat subcultures did not result in misidentification. We conclude that the Bruker MALDI Biotyper is a robust system for the identification of Gram-negative organisms in the clinical laboratory and that meaningful performance improvements can be made by implementing simple pre- and postanalytical techniques.