How to Grill the Best Burgers
When a burger's done right, you know it — the smoky, char-grilled outside and the juicy inside, all barely contained within a chewy, toasty roll. That's what a burger is all about. But as simple as it might sound, there's more to grilling burgers than just slapping it on the grill. We'll show you how to grill the perfect burger — from getting the meaty mixture right to forming the patties so they don't shrink. We'll also looks at grill temps and times. Let's get grilling!
10 Tips for Best Burgers
1. Fat = Flavor. Use beef that is no leaner than 85%. Meat with a higher fat content will be juicier and more flavorful. But be aware, patties from higher fat meat will shrink more when they cook. If you shop at a grocery store or a butcher that grinds their own beef, choose coarsely ground beef for juicier burgers with a more pleasing texture. For lean ground chicken and turkey burgers, add a little olive oil to the mixture.
2. Build Additional Flavor. Add just about anything you like to your burger mixture. Here are a few flavoring suggestions:
- Fresh or dried herbs and spices
- Dehydrated or fresh minced onion and garlic
- Seasoning mixes for soups or salad dressings
- Your favorite cheese, such as blue cheese, goat cheese, Gorgonzola, feta, Stilton, Cheddar, or pepperjack
- Prepared sauces including BBQ sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, hoisin sauce, plum sauce, oyster sauce, salsa, or salad dressing
- Other tidbits like olives, capers, chopped tomatoes, diced chiles, crumbled bacon, or minced ham
3. Hold the Salt! Don't combine salt into the mixture, especially if you're not going to grill the patties right away. Salt will extract moisture from the meat, leaving you with dry burgers. Instead, sprinkle each burger with salt right before you put it on the grill.
4. Don't Mix Too Much. Use a light touch when combining seasonings with the ground beef. If you mix it too much, your burgers will be dense and heavy.
5. Let the Flavors Mingle. Leave the meat mixture (or patties) in the refrigerator for several hours to allow all the flavors to mingle. To form patties, wet your hands a little to keep the meat from sticking to them. If you make patties ahead of time, stack them on a plate separated by waxed paper and cover with plastic wrap before you put it in the refrigerator.
6. Form a Good Patty Don't form patties too thick or too thin. A 3/4-inch thick patty is ideal. To keep patties from swelling in the middle, make small indentations in the center.
7. Temperature Matters. Make sure the grill is the appropriate temperature. Medium-low to medium heat is best. Too hot, and burgers burn on the outside before getting done on the inside. Keep the lid closed while cooking; it shortens cooking time and keeps burgers moist.
8. Clean Your Grill. Always start with a clean, oiled grill grate. This keeps burgers from sticking, extends the life of your grate, and helps put those beautiful grill marks on your patties.
9. Turn Once and Don't Smash. It's hard to resist, but do not flatten your burgers with the spatula. It squeezes out flavorful juices.
10. Cook Thoroughly. How long to grill hamburgers? Cook ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F (170 degrees F for poultry). For an accurate reading, insert the thermometer into the patty horizontally.
Bonus Tip: How to keep grilled burgers moist. A hot, hot grill achieves just the right char and sears the perfect grill marks on burgers, but the fierce flames can also dry them out. Graham Elliot, a judge on MasterChef, has a pretty cool solution: hide a small ice cube in center of the patty! That's right, the cube melts as the burger grills, and keeps the meat nice and moist.
See our collection of Grilled Burger Recipes.