- Food and Cooking»
- Culinary Arts & Cooking Techniques
How to Grill Hamburgers
Your Go-To Guide!
This article will give you all the information, tips and tricks you will need to know:
- How to choose the freshest ingredients
- How to prepare your meat before grilling
- Grilling techniques and tips
- Time saving strategies
Nothing tastes better than a burger that has been grilled over an open flame! However, there are several mistakes many make when preparing and cooking burgers. What a shame to ruin a joyful family picnic or neighborhood get-together with tough, dry and flavorless burgers. Be the star of the show and enhance your family and friends enjoyment of your event - whether it's a simple family night dinner, or a large holiday event - by following these specific, yet surprisingly simple techniques and strategies!
Freshness is Key
If you are truly interested in making your grilling experience a success you absolutely must have the freshest ingredients possible. This is (surprise!) one of the biggest contributing factors to making the best burgers. Also, this is one of the biggest mistakes most people make when planning a grilling event. If you have old meat, rotten toppings and stale buns, people will most definitely tell and so will you (hopefully). So, instead of disappointing everyone, go all out and start off with going to the store and choosing the best ingredients. Fresh meat, gourmet bakery buns and fresh tomatoes, onions and lettuce for toppings will come across to your eaters and they will truly appreciate your food and love you for it!
First Things First, Let's Talk Meat
The BIGGEST factor contributing to how well your burgers turn out is what kind of meat you use. A store bought package of ground beef will work, but an even better tasting meat is ground steak which you can find at most grocery stores. Sirloin or chuck are both good choices. However, for the freshest (and best tasting) burgers, get freshly ground steak which you can ask your local butcher for or do it yourself if you own a meat grinder.
Another important point to consider is fat content. The best burgers don't come from completely lean meat with no fat. You need some fat to make the burgers juicy and delicious. A good ratio is about 20% fat, any less fat and they will be dense and dry, any more and they will be too greasy.
Preparing the MeatClick thumbnail to view full-size
When mixing up your burger meat by hand, you may notice your hands get all sticky and gross. You can use gloves when doing this, just make sure they won't affect the flavor of your meat. But, I prefer doing this barehanded just to make sure. If you wet your hands in a little water before you start touching the meat, the mixture will not stick to you as bad. Also, a large bowl full of soap and water set to the side will make cleaning your hands easier after you are done making your patties.
How to Mix in Ingredients and Form Patties
So, you have your fresh meat and are ready to form the burger patties. First, though, mix in a few ingredients to give your burgers boldness and flavor. What you choose to mix in depends on your personal tastes or your recipes instructions (if using a specific recipe). A few great ideas for ingredients to include to mix into your meat include:
- Burger or steak seasoning
- Onions (dried, fresh or slightly cooked, but not caramelized, are delicious.)
- Worcestershire or steak sauce
- Black Pepper
If you are cooking for a crowd and aren't sure how they like their burgers, it would be safe to just include a little Worcestershire, burger seasoning and black pepper. Not everyone likes onions, garlic or any other extra ingredients. Also leave out salt for now because it will extract moisture from the meat. Throw just a pinch on before you begin grilling your burgers.
Once you have added all of your ingredients to your meat, it's time to mix the meat and form the patties. Be very careful with this step as it may have a huge impact in the outcome of the burgers. The most important thing to remember to do is to not handle the meat too much. Overly mixed and handled meat will come out as dense, tough burgers. For this step, less is more! Just mix your meat (by hand) enough to evenly distribute the ingredients. Now it's time to form the patties. Grab a handful of your meat and begin shaping it into a round disc. About an inch in width and about the same size around as the buns you are going to use. Remember, though, do not squish or pat the meat too much. A loosely formed patty will come out the best!
Expert Burger Tip: The Burger Dimple
This is one of the coolest tricks to use when making the best burgers. When forming your burger patties, using your finger, put a small dimple right in the middle of your burger. But why?! Well, when your burger cooks on the grill, it will shrink up a little bit. So when this happens and you don't put a dimple in the meat, you will come out with burgers that are thicker in the center than they are on the edges. No one likes this. However, if you use the dimple technique, when the burger cooks, it will shrink into the middle and come out perfectly flat and even.
Time Saving Tip:
A good way to save time when grilling is to get your grill going before you start mixing your meat and making your burger patties. This way your coals are ashing over while you are working on your burgers, then when you are done with that, they are ready to go right on the grill. This will eliminate time waiting on your grill to heat up and your coals to be ready.
Cooking the Perfect Burger
Once you've set up your grill and either turned on and lit your gas or charcoal, it's time to cook your burgers. Make sure your coals are ashed over before putting your burgers on (if using charcoal). For the best burgers, I recommend cooking them on high heat for a short period of time, only a few minutes per side. Also, only flip your burgers once. A few minutes on the first side when you first put them on, then flipped, then finish with a few minutes on the other side, then they are done. This will ensure that the burgers get the good flame kissed flavor of the grill, but not all dried out from being on the grill for too long. I have used this technique with great success and great tasting burgers. Grilling the burgers this way will ensure they are fully cooked from being on high heat, but they will not lose their juiciness because they were not grilled for too long.
How Would You Like Your Burger Cooked?
Do Not Press On Your Burgers While They Are Grilling!
I cannot tell you how big of a no no this is to press on your burgers with your spatula while they are grilling! This presses all of their juices out! Remember to resist the urge to press on them while they are grilling. The only time you should use your spatula with your burgers is to flip them and you only do this one time. For the perfect, juicy burgers you want do not press on them while they are grilling!
Juicy AND Well Done?
If you have ever ordered a burger from a restaurant and wanted to make sure that the meat was cooked all the way, you probably ordered it well done. But, when you bit into your burger, you were probably very disappointed at how flavorless, dry and unedible it was. It doesn't have to be that way! You can still get your burger completely cooked AND juicy and delicious. It's the best of both worlds. Remember, just cook the burgers on high heat for just a couple of minutes per side and they should come out juicy AND done with no redness in the meat.
If you like your burgers medium or medium rare (like I do) then cook them over a lower level of heat like medium to low. It would still be good to give them a few minutes on the high heat to get them a little crispy on the outside. You may have to play around with these combinations of heat levels and cooking times to get your burgers just right.
Add a Gourmet Touch!
Once you are done grilling your burgers, or just before they are done, go ahead and throw your burger buns on the grill. Lightly toasted buns taste great and add a little crunch! Your fire is still going so why not? The only problem with toasting buns is you really have to keep your eye on them so they don't burn, it can be very easy to overcook them. Add a little butter before putting them on for even better flavor.
Add Fresh Toppings and Serve With Your Favorite Sides
Garden Fresh Toppings
Fresh tomatoes, lettuce, onions, mushrooms and pickles are all great choices for toppings. As well as the classics: ketchup, mustard, mayo and of course - CHEESE! However, if you have followed all of the previous instructions, you may be surprised to taste how delicious just the burger and bun alone are! Actually, adding too many topping may cover up the delicious flavor of your burger meat. I would suggest just giving it a try first without adding any extra toppings and if you decide you still want them, go ahead afterwards. Now that you've prepared your burger how you like, throw a few sides on your plate and enjoy your meal!