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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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