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When it comes to your backyard cooking, there’s one thing that will always go well with summertime, the upcoming Labor Day holiday, and the return of football -- hamburgers! This easy grilled meal option has been a fan favorite for a long time and, when cooked properly, will have people coming back for more.
If you are wondering how to grill a perfect burger, we’ve got you covered. The last thing you want to do is end up feeding charred hockey pucks to your family and friends. So, we went to our champion Grillmasters and got the inside scoop.
To ensure you cook juicy and flavorful hamburgers, just follow these pro tips below:
To answer the question of how to grill hamburgers like the pros, you have to start from the base. The cut and quality of meat you are starting with will always have a huge impact on the flavor and texture of your final result.
So, when you are going to be grilling hamburgers, it’s important to go with ground chuck, which is cut from the shoulder, versus ground round, which is taken from the rump. Chuck will range between 15 and 20 percent fat, making your burgers more juicy and tender. Also, make sure you are getting at least USDA Choice (Prime is even better) and avoid Select.
Your local butcher is the best place to get fresh ground chuck.
You do not want to salt the burgers before you form them into patties. This will dissolve muscle proteins and dry out the meat too much. The best thing is to liberally season the patties with a simple mix of salt and pepper just before going on the grill. You don’t want to go crazy with a bunch of additional seasonings and overpower the delicious taste of the beef itself.
This is one often overlooked tip for how to grill a perfect burger and is crucial to ensuring you end up with a good final result. The fat and collagen are what helps keep the meat juicy and tender. So, if you overwork the meat by mixing it too much, you’ll break down the muscle fibers and collagen too much. This will highly increase the chances of your burgers drying out and being way tougher in texture than you were aiming for.
The less you handle the meat the better. So, mix it just enough to evenly work any seasonings in (onion, etc.) and form the patties.
Source: CopyKat - Stephanie Manly
You want to make sure you are forming the patties the right size. Ideally, the thickness of the raw patty is 1 inch. If you go thicker, then the exterior can start to burn and ruin the flavor before the center is done cooking. Go thinner and you greatly increase the risk of the burgers quickly overcooking and drying out. Staying right at 1 inch will give you the delicious caramelized exterior crust and a juicy interior.
While grilling, burgers can start to puff up in the middle and become rounded at the top, making it awkward when it comes time to put toppings on. A good tip to avoid this is to make a slight indentation in the top of each patty with your thumb or the back of a spoon before they go on the grill. Then, if the center pushes up while cooking, the top of each burger will still be level and you’ll keep it from breaking.
Some cuts of meat cook better when you let them sit at room temperature for a little bit first. But burgers are NOT one of those things. The best burgers will be put on the grill straight out of the fridge. This will allow a nice caramelized crust to develop on the exterior while cooking the interior to the desired Medium temperature.
Even if it’s been a while since you cooked on the grill, don’t make a rookie mistake of cooking burgers on a grill that’s not clean. Cooking on a dirty grill can cause uneven cooking since it can impede heat transfer, taint the flavor of your burgers, and even cause flare-ups that end up over-charring the meat. So, make sure your grill is properly cleaned first.
(Check out our article on natural homemade grill cleaner!)
Source: Clarke Clean
By setting up your grill in a two-zone setup, with a direct heat side and an indirect heat side, you’ll have the flexibility and ideal heat control to properly grill hamburgers. You can start your burgers on the direct heat side near the fuel source and get a nice crust on the outside. Then, you can move them to the indirect heat side when they start to develop too much color too quickly and can safely finish cooking away from the direct heat.
A two-zone grill setup will also give you room to move burgers away from the direct heat if a flare-up does occur.
To grill a perfect burger, you want to keep the grill’s temperature at medium-low to medium heat, which is usually between 275 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. If you go much higher than that, you risk the exterior of your burgers burning before the inside has reached the desired temperature.
Be careful not to go crazy with the flipping. You want the burgers to cook evenly and to the proper doneness (160 degrees Fahrenheit according to the USDA). So, the perfect burger will only be flipped once and only when it’s actually ready. Close that grill lid and let them cook.
Burgers are ready to flip when you can easily slide the edge of a spatula underneath them and lift the edge gently. If the meat is still sticking to the grate, let them cook a little longer and then try again.
Also, make sure not to use the spatula to flatten the burger. This will squeeze all the juices out and dry out your burgers.
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Unlike steaks or some other meats that are smoked low and slow, you don’t want to let burgers sit for long after they come off the grill. Because the meat is ground and not intact muscle, if they sit too long, all the juice will run out and leave you with an overly dry burger. So, serve them up as soon as they are done cooking.
If you are wondering how long to grill hamburgers for, the important thing to know is that you should be cooking to temperature and not by time. Get out your meat thermometer and insert it into the burger horizontally (you should definitely have a thermometer if you are going to be doing any serious backyard cooking!).
Remember, you want to cook ground beef until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This will give you delicious, juicy burgers without being overcooked.
By following these tips for grilling hamburgers that we covered above, you can be confident in knowing how to grill a perfect burger every time. Give yourself plenty of time for proper preparation, make sure you have everything you need outside, and enjoy the process. Don’t be afraid to get creative with toppings too!
Have you discovered another tip for how to grill hamburgers that we didn’t cover above? Plan on grilling hamburgers soon? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!
To level up your backyard cooking game and become the king or queen of your street, check out our Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy today! You’ll learn straight from the barbecue pros step-by-step how to cook a variety of grilling favorites.
If you are ready to dive into competition smoking and grilling techniques, in-depth insider BBQ tips, and more, get your All-Access pass now! Join our Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters in their one-of-kind online BBQ classes and master smoking and grilling a variety of different meats.
Make sure to also subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel and stay up to date on all the latest insider info and news straight from the BBQ pros!
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