Grilling 101: Best Burgers Article -
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How to Grill the Best Burger

Burgers from the grill just taste better.

Recipes and tips for building the best backyard burgers.

Grilled Burger Basics

When a hamburger is 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!

Get the Best Flavor

Meat with a higher fat content will be juicier but will also shrink more when it cooks. 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.

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 Barbeque 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

    Save the Salt

    Here's one common ingredient to leave out. Wait on the salt! Don't combine it 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 bone-dry burgers. Instead, sprinkle each burger with salt right before you put it on the grill.

      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.

        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've 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.

          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.

            Turn Once

            And it's hard to resist, but try not to flatten your burgers with the spatula. It squeezes out flavorful juices.

              Jul. 15, 2009 7:44 pm
              I use the leanest ground beef, 10% or less fat content. Being a firm believer that yes pork fat rules and bacon is served in heaven, I add ground bacon fat to the mixture. About 1/4 cup per pound of ground beef. I buy bacon ends and pieces in 3 lb packages and separate the lean from the fat then freeze both for seasoning uses. For burgers I put nearly frozen bacon fat in the food processor and pulse it til its about the consistency of sausage. Just add the bacon fat to the ground beef along with whatever spices and seasonings you like and grill. Preferably over oak wood.
              Nov. 24, 2009 4:16 pm
              Great recipes grilling.
              May 19, 2010 5:34 am
              I’ve been serving burgers and brat patties out of a small kitchen for over 30 years. Here’s what I’ve learned. No matter how hard you try, you won’t please everyone. I only have a few rules. They’re not really rules, lets say, methods. No. 1 As this article says, never squeeze the burger with the spatula and don’t overcook it either*. No. 2 Always heat the bun. Either on the grill (careful) or nukerate it. It just should be heated, not toasted. Nothing worse than a hot burger on a cold bun or toasted crisp one. The best roll is a Sheboygan (WI) hard roll but whatever you're using, heat it. Put a pat or two of butter on the top half of the bun, just before serving. Hey, those that are on some goofy diet don't eat burgers anyway. And that burger doesn't have to be 3/4" thick. Thick burgers are Chicago, like their pizza. They can have ‘em. There's no flavor to cooked hamburger by itself. It's how you cook it, what you put on it and the bun that make the burger. 1/4" -
              May 19, 2010 9:43 am
              always toast the buttered bun! Thick is good! Go Chicago! If you go thick...remember to put a thumb size indentation to the center of the when it wants to plump up in the center it will return to a level burger for easier bun placement.
              Jul. 2, 2010 12:46 pm
              The suggestion to use medium-low to medium heat is incorrect. Your grill should be as hot as possible, then it will take ~2 minutes per side to get a very nice burger. Also, the 'suggestion' to cook the burgers to 160F is TERRIBLE. This is what anyone with good taste would call an overcooked burger. Shoot for 130F and you'll have a delicious medium to medium-rare burger. The USDA's recommendation to cook beef to 160F is ridiculous if you trust the quality of your meat and handling.
              Sep. 29, 2010 4:55 am
              Here is what I do especially for myself when grilling. I make a whole bunch of pre-made burgers frozen in the box. While I am grilling I have one of those huge foil 9X13 pans or larger filled 1/2 way full with water sitting on the grill next to the burgers being grilled. As the burgers get done, I slip them into the hot pan of Water, and throw some more frozen burgers on till the pan is full. If you must use two pans depending on the group then go right ahead. As the guests arrive an hour or so later, they can help themselves to a hot, juicy burger or throw it on the grill for a couple of seconds, and then on a bun. This has saved me from doing the grilling while others are having a good time visiting. I now can enjoy the company, knowing full well the food will be hot and ready when ever they need something to eat. The water will start to turn brown, creating a type of au jus, Ever wonder how the burgers at the baseball park taste so much better?? Well, now you know the sec
              Feb. 14, 2011 6:31 am
              I am always interested in cook ahead ideas,however I am wondering about the grilled burgers in water. It seems like they would taste washed out or boiled. I will have to experiment with just a few to test that idea. I hope it works for me Thanks for the tip
              Mar. 27, 2011 2:10 pm
              We put them in water mixed with Dale's Seasoning for our high school concession stand. We also put the hot dogs in it. We have been complimented on having the best burgers around.
              May 27, 2011 5:17 am
              I buy the leanest ground beef I can find, to have the least amount of saturated, animal fat possible. But we all know that this doesn't make a juicy burger. So I add a 1/4 cup of heart healthy olive oil to 1 pound of meat,along with whatever seasonings I choose, and get ready for a juicier, healthier burger!
              May 28, 2011 8:05 pm
              Any tips for cheese? Is goat cheese good on burgers
              Jun. 15, 2011 1:55 pm
              Every year at the 3-day annual Chili Cookoff to benefit local charities, there are charity booths selling among other food hamburgers and hot dogs. We sell about 700 hamburgers and 500 hot dogs over the 3 days, most on Sat and Sun. First, does keeping hamburgers in hot water really work? Don't they get boiled? Second, has anyone tried it with hot dogs, which we grill, but doing them ahead as the crowd thins briefly leaves a dry crust. Any suggestions on hot dogs besides electric steamers which aren't practical in our situation?
              Jun. 15, 2011 4:16 pm
              Mix some powdered au jus mix in with the water. You don't want to have the water simmering . . . about 120 - 130 degrees is about right. Don't add more hamburger patties than you're likely to use in an hour. Also, when making a cheeseburger, hold the slice of cheese by the corner and briefly dip it into the broth. This will soften the cheese so that it melts quicker on the burger, and will also impart some nice flavor.
              Jun. 20, 2011 9:22 am
              My husband loves burgers and one of his favorite things to add to burgers is crushed cheez its or goldfish. The cheezy crackers make the burger taste like a cheddar burger. try it if you love cheese.
              Jul. 19, 2011 8:54 am
              My burgers always fall apart on the grill when I go to flip them. Can anyone give me some tips on how to fix this?
              Jul. 21, 2011 8:24 pm
              Kati.......If your burgers are falling apart when you flip them, that means they are too dry. I find a couple of different things that are essential for a good moist burger are as follows; First you can add approx. an 1/8 cup olive oil per 1 pound of your beef mixture before patty-ing, or bacon fat works just as well. Secondly, leave the salts out of your mixture. Salt your patties just before you place them on the grill. If your beef patties are good and moist, and they still fall apart, then perhaps you could grill on higher heat and leave your patty on longer per side before flipping. Hope this helps! Happy grilling!
              Aug. 11, 2011 5:55 pm
              Eigsti. . . Thanks for the olive oil tip. My burgers turned out great! No falling apart :)
              Feb. 23, 2012 1:46 pm
              im not the greatest when it comes to grilling burger patties they normally taste pretty bland does anyone have any tips on better tasting burger patties :) im sure my family and friends would thank you
              Joes Leah 
              Mar. 8, 2012 11:18 am
              I have found that grinding my own meat is the only way to go. When chuck roasts go on sale or tri tips UNTRIMED I use my grinder attachment on my stand mixer and wow! If you compare the price its cheaper to grind your own and know whats in your ground beef. Its best to make your patties (garlic powder, worch, ect) and let them rest in the fridge so they can set up if you will, doesn't need much seasoning because you are making a steak burger and the freshness is the key to a juicy burger. Oh, I almost forgot i also add a little water to the ground meat before making the patties, not alot just a little. If you start with good ingredients you can never go wrong.
              Apr. 8, 2012 4:30 pm
              For people like me,surfing burger tips,Never,ever do it without access to meat!Like me,you will find yourself drooling over an old shoe!Great tips,though.
              May 10, 2012 12:22 pm
              hahahaha...@ mikeraff oh how right you are! I too was drooling over the different posts! I just happened to have had the package of (my own ground meat blend) waiting for me to decide which amazing ingredients to put into it befoe forming them into patties! I decided to check out this site to see what inspiration I could take away. So glad I did! Can't wait to get to grillin'!
              May 22, 2012 2:03 pm
              Love all the good tips so I think I'll add one. If you want a moist warm bun when grilling out just remove buns from bag and as you grill place the burger on a bun and put it in the bag. Keep the bag tightly closed until you finish all your burgers. People can remove them from the bag one at a time and they will be warm and moist. Please don't toast a bun.
              May 23, 2012 10:20 am
              My mama always added 1 egg and about 1/4 c rolled oats to her burgers, along w/ lots of spices and they were always moist and never fell apart. We will be grilling burgers this weekend! YUM!
              May 24, 2012 11:24 am
              I must disagree with the comment that everyone in Wisconsin eats raw beef. While I've heard of the sandwich and know people who have eaten it, it is not common throughout all of Wisconsin, especially now. We love bison burgers with a bit of Dale's Sauce and olive oil mixed in and grilled over charcoal. And no rare or medium rare burgers for us. We like them done, and they are still plenty juicy.
              May 24, 2012 9:52 pm
              The bacon fat sounds great. Absolutely don't work the patty too much but......the bun.... to toast or not to toast. If your using those standard hamburger buns it really doesn't matter because they don't add a thing to a great burger. Everyone knows its the total package of a great burger, great bun and fixing of your choice. Go to the bakery and try a brioche or egg bun or onion bun. If you decide to toast brush inside of buns with melted butter and then grill lightly. These buns will hold up to fixins like lettuce, tomato, grilled onions or, one of my favorites, avocado relish with jalapeños. Happy grilling!
              May 27, 2012 9:56 pm
              I buy ground beef made from trimmings from steaks with 27% fat and mix it with Angus Chuck. add garlic salt, black pepper & Lea & Perrins worchester sauce. use Weber charcoal grill hot. the fat from the beef flames the charcoal making the fire too hot so I cover the lid which also allows the meat to cook inside. I add chedder cheese blue cheese to melt on top of the burger the last minute while adding the wheat buns on the outside area of the grill. My wife likes the hamburgers welldone & I eat them medium. I have never checked the temperature but just watch the time 4-5 mns for medium & 6-7 mns for well done. Let the burgers resr for a minute before adding fresh lettuce, tomatoes, sliced dill pickles, pink onions and add ketchup/mustard as desired. My son likes mayo with his burger. Get a lot of compliments on the taste. I sometimes use Lawry salt instead of garlic salt & it is delish! Luv my Weber... try it!
              May 28, 2012 12:14 pm
              Here's a tip I find helpful. Fill a spray bottle with Worchester sauce and spray on burgers or any meat on grill. Makes for a more even coating and doesn't drown out your spices.
              Jun. 13, 2012 4:01 am
              I'd like to grill hamburgers today for an event tomorrow and am wondering if anyone knows how I can "reheat" them ... possibly in a slow cooker with some type of liquid that will not let them overcook or become soggy. I've done it with brats; whereas placing them in a mixture of water, beer and onions but am not sure if it would work with hamburgers.
              Gramma Becca 
              Jun. 24, 2012 5:56 am
              We run auctions and our lunch wagon guy always uses au jus in a pan to keep his burgers hot. I had one yesterday with nothing on it and it was great! My only complaint is he uses regular buns, but he has to please lots of people that won't eat the good buns.
              Jun. 25, 2012 12:59 pm
              For moister burgers, take a slice of White Bread with crust removed and tear into small pieces. Soak in about 1/4 cup milk.Add to the Ground Beef. They will be super juicy.
              curvy cook 
              Jun. 27, 2012 12:14 pm
              I respectfully disagree with the people who say not to salt your meat ahead of time, salt equals flavor and you want it all through your meat! If you season the night before the meat can reabsorb any moisture it might lose initially. We add 1/2 an onion finely chopped 1 1/2 tsp season salt and 1 tbs worstishire and 1 tbs olive oil to 1lb 80% lean ground beef and let flavors meld over night. We perfer to cook our burgers in a cast iron skillet for the perfect crust. It is delish, please try you wont be sorry!
              curvy cook 
              Jun. 27, 2012 12:17 pm
              Salting and seasoning works awesome on steaks the night before too!
              Jun. 27, 2012 5:02 pm
              I use a custom burger blend made from roasts of chuck, sirloin. and rib meat. I season with 1/4teaspoon Johnnie's of Lawrey's and fresh ground black pepper in the mix for each 1/4lb burger. Just salting the top after the patty is made doesn't do it for me. Also, lately I have been using Ball Park brand buns for burgers and dogs. They are a little heartier and definitely a cut above other commercial brands. The buns freeze well too and are still perfect after thawing.
              Jun. 27, 2012 5:09 pm
              Also, if frying in a skillet, use a plate to press the patties perfectly flat before frying. You will get an even crust and sear.
              Jul. 3, 2012 9:14 pm
              I can't wait to get some ground beef & try these tips!! My mouth is watering! Love the "au jus" idea, & olive oil in the meat mixture!
              Aug. 21, 2012 9:10 pm
              Steven, You might try adding some beef broth to the water in the pan on the grill. I've done this for large groups, and it really seems to keep the burgers juicy. I've also put Brats and hot dogs in the beef broth/water mixture as well, and it adds some extra flavor to those as well.
              Aug. 23, 2012 8:38 am
              There is certainly more than one right way to do a burger. But some people seem to think that their OPINION on how to cook or dress a burger (Or other food) is actually a fact. ie: Grilled burgers are the best, or, only this kind of bun, (Toast or don't toast?) etc. Flavor preferences aren't a science so they can't be a fact. But there are some facts regarding burgers. The article says to not pre-salt the meat because it will end up "Bone dry". "WRONG. Please don't exaggerate to make a point. Especially when the point is wrong. yes, salt may extract a very small amount of moisture but the amount that the average person will put on the outside isn't enough to extract a noticeable amount. Pack the burger in a salt crust, then you'll see a difference. But not with a sprinkle on the outside. And while it's a matter of personal preference whether or not you like salt/seasoning inside the meat, it absolutely won't make the meat any less moist either. Adding bread or bread crum
              Sep. 11, 2012 8:19 am
              i need the best chicago burger
              chef flipper 
              Sep. 17, 2012 12:28 pm
              I am 81 young & have been grilling most of my life when possible, & I think that salt is whatever your taste is. I always use a small amount in all my grilling on my Green Egg.over fifteen years old. I belive in grinding my own meat also. I make my burgers thick also.
              Mar. 8, 2015 8:01 am
              The way to keep burgers juicy is to put relish in the mix also, let uncooked burger sit for 15 minutes. For spices to work their magic.
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