ANN MALONEY The Washington Post
Tender, hot and well dressed. This is how I like my burger grilled: a charred patty, less than an inch thick, sandwiched on a lightly toasted bun with a thick slice of red onion and tomato, lettuce leaves, sliced pickles, and some of mayonnaise. optional cheese.
We may not agree on how we like to garnish our burgers, but we all want a burger that holds its shape and flavor, and stays juicy but doesn’t soggy the bun. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned through years of reading recipes and practicing, practicing, practicing.
What kind of meat is best for grilled burgers?
This is not the time for lean meat. Ground beef with a mix of 80% lean and 20% fat, labeled 80/20 at most grocery stores, is best. Leaner meats will dry out.
People are also reading…
If you have access to butchers, ask them to grind up a mix for you. (It will probably taste a little better.) I have added bacon grease, which I keep in a jar in the fridge, to leaner ground meats and had good results as well.
How are hamburgers made?
You want a burger thick enough that it doesn’t dry out, but not so thick that you can’t move your mouth around the garnished sandwich. I found that a 6 oz burger is perfect. Shape the meat into a patty about 3/4-inch thick, about 1/2-inch wider in diameter than a standard bun. Handle meat as quickly and as little as possible to prevent it from heating up and toughening.
You may have heard of putting a thumbprint in the center to prevent the burger from shrinking. I gave it a try, as well as making indentations with my finger on the surface of the meat. Both help, but this method works best: Shape your patty on a flat surface and make a 2-inch sunken circle in the center with your fingers, leaving about a 1-inch raised edge around the patty. When grilling, place it flat side down first, so the depression stays on top and fills with the burger’s juices. (Safety tip: keep a bottle of water handy for any flare-ups when flipping.)
Seasoning? If you’re cooking the burgers right away, sprinkle the burgers generously with salt and pepper. (I prefer not to mix seasonings on my burgers, because handling the meat too much makes it tough.)
If you’re not going to grill the burgers right away, store them in the fridge and wait until just before cooking to season them. Salting too far in advance can result in drier burgers.
What is the best temperature to grill a juicy burger?
You can go with a cooler temp, but I like at least 450 degrees because I want char and grill marks.
With gasoline, that’s easy; just turn it on and wait. With charcoal, it gets a bit more complicated: Fill a lighter (or two depending on the size of your grill) with charcoal, light it, and when the coals are grayish-white with ash, pour them into the grill and cover, making sure the charcoal outlets are air are fully open. When all the coals are grey, 15-20 minutes, your grill should be perfect.
Use a grill thermometer or test the heat by holding your hand, palm down, about 4 inches from the grill. If you can hold it there for about 4 seconds, the heat should be 450 degrees. Make sure nothing flammable, such as sleeves or other clothing, is near the heat.
To Oil Or Not To Oil – If your grill grate is clean, there’s no reason to oil it before adding the burgers. If your grill grate isn’t clean… clean it.
When should you flip a burger?
The only rule of thumb here is that when you first place the burger on the grill, leave it undisturbed for at least 3 minutes to sear and sear. Use a putty knife to look. If your burger isn’t browned with any markings, your grill temperature is probably below 450 degrees, so cook it a little higher. After that you can flip as much as you like, but I like to flip just once so I can cover the grill and allow the patties to soak up the smoky flavor.
Unless you are grilling a flattened patty in a cast iron skillet, never press the patties while they cook. This tends to make a thicker burger dry, and dripping juices can cause flare-ups.
How do you know when a burger is ready on the grill?
Typically, the burger should take 8-9 minutes to cook. But that can vary due to grill temperature and the thickness of the patty, so the best way to tell if a patty is just the way you like it is to insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the patty. The USDA recommends an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees for home-cooked beef patties, which means cooking them for 8 to 10 minutes, until no pink remains in the center. For a rarer burger, start checking the burger’s temperature after 5 minutes of total cooking time.
The burger should be almost raw (130 to 135 degrees). For medium (145 to 150), try for about 7 minutes total cook time.
Should you rest burgers before serving?
Yes. Nobody wants a hamburger that’s soggy in the bun. Transfer your burgers to a plate, cover lightly, and let rest 3-5 minutes. This is also the perfect time to add a slice of cheese so that it melts and coats the burger.
For an even neater burger, place a wire rack on a baking sheet and place the patties on it, before adding cheese and lightly topping. This allows any escaping juices to pool away from the meat.
While your burgers are resting, toast the buns on the grill. (I like to brush the brioche buns with a thin layer of mayonnaise before lightly grilling them cut-side down.) Then dress them up and serve them up.