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How to BBQ a better burger. Easy steps to hamburger heaven!

Updated on May 3, 2009

In the quest of the perfect BBQ burger

More burgers will be grilled this summer than any other type of meat (imagine this said with the casual confidence of someone accustomed to contributing impossible to verify facts) and most of these burgers will be good, some will be great, and too many will disappoint. Well, no BBQ burger really disappoints, but the burger has a bit of an undeserved reputation as a food that doesn't require much skill to cook.

A really good burger is a work of art, and you should take some time and some care in the quest for a little bit of backyard heaven.

The most important step to a good burger is simply attentive cooking, and as with any other food that's quickly grilled, you need to keep an ever watchful eye on it, to make sure that a 2 minute flare up doesn’t ruin dinner. But beyond this, there are a few easy steps to better burgers every time.

  1. A good burger needs fat, especially when grilled. Fat is flavor, and fat is juiciness, and by making a burger with lean ground beef you're halfway doomed to failure from the start. Grilling is an inherently lean way of cooking, and a lot of the fat from a burger will drip down onto the coals anyway. That fat will baste and flavor the meat, and make for a succulent, never dry, flavorful patty. Look for 25% fat…that's right a quarter of your quarter pounder should be fat!
  2. Hold the breadcrumbs. Unless you are depression era schooled in meat economization, unnecessary additions to a burger do nothing good. A real burger has two ingredients, beef and salt. A generous hand with the salt will help a lot, and forget about that old saying that salting meat will dry it out. It's baloney!
  3. You want ground chuck, or a mixture of ground chuck and sirloin. These are the most flavorful, and will make a much better burger than the mystery ground of your local supermarket.
  4. Don't over handle the patty. You need a light and delicate hand when forming your patties. Handle as little as possible, and as gently as possible. You don’t want to pack the meat into a dense patty, as this is surely the quickest way to the hockey puck sort of burger we're all too familiar with.
  5. If you have the time, let the meat chill in patties for an hour or two before grilling. This will firm it up, and make it hold together better on the grill.
  6. The temptation always exists to form Neanderthal style 2 inch thick patties…don't get sucked in. A patty should be no larger than an inch in thickness, and ¾ of an inch is better. Burgers that are too thick are very difficult to grill well.
  7. Grill over a medium high heat, about 4 minutes per side, with the lid up, watching carefully. Serve with good soft rolls, and enjoy.

Watch it done...indirect heat, but they still look great

What makes your perfect burger?

I would welcome any additional burger making comments or suggestions. What works best for you? And what's the real secret to the perfect grilled burger?


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      M'Mud El Bakr 6 years ago

      To get an out-of-this-worl flavor...spread some ground "praire oysters" ( ground up bull's balls) to your beef when you flip it the first time; and just before you finish add some blue chesse for half a minute so that it melts a bit.You can also add a bit of finely crushed taste...ooh, mama, you are now in nirvana!

    • profile image

      Eric Jordan 7 years ago

      Burgers - one of my faves. The weather is getting a bit cooler here in California, but I might be firing up the grill next week.

      Here' what I like in a burger

      - toasted bun

      - tomato slice

      - cheese - any type

      - mayo

      - mustard - strong

      - some spice like green chili

      - ketchup and a bit of BBQ sauce

      - sweet onion

      - juicy

      Thank God!

    • profile image

      deevan 7 years ago

      Hey, I am about to fire up the grill (labor day), and saw this page. I am new to BBQing (just done it a few times) so the part about searing to lock in the juices and then move to indirect heat is a good one for me.

      Burger recipes - looks good. Don't have much to add as I am using readymade patties this time.

    • profile image

      Alex CK 7 years ago

      Thanks for the video! Going to have a BBQ party this coming weekend and learned a lot by watching you making those tasty lookin burgers. Thanks again!

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      Jon 7 years ago

      You forgot the pepper! Fresh ground pepper in addition to good kosher salt is just as important. What about the cheese? Mild cheddar is miles ahead of American or "burger cheese." Have your deli man slice you some nice squares. What about toppings? Pickle toppers, garlic mayo, thin sliced tomato and grilled onion are great offerings. Also, if anyone can help me find large restaurant size sesame seed buns (not bulkie or onion rolls), I would be most ecstatic.

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      First Timer  8 years ago

      I'm a little torn over the differences here- I have a half-inch patty with a mind to butter on bbq sauce and cheese when I flip it, but whether to flip after 1min covered, or 4min uncovered is making me anxious

    • profile image

      bbqer 8 years ago

    • The Dan Sai Kid profile image

      The Dan Sai Kid 10 years ago from Scotland

      Sorry, confusingn question - I just meant grill the cheese or not?

    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 10 years ago

      I actually don't think there's anything wrong with processed cheese on a burger. To grill or not to grill...that's an easy one! Failing a BBQ burger though, a good heavy cast iron skillet does a decent job.

    • The Dan Sai Kid profile image

      The Dan Sai Kid 10 years ago from Scotland

      I'm all about the cheese o my burgers - to gril or not to grill - that's one question. What cheese? That's another question...