Hamburger Temperature Guide – Make the Perfect Burger!

Published By Kevin Turner

Last Updated Jan 30, 2024

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Two Hamburgers
Doneness Cooking Time Internal Temperature (°F)
Medium – rare 6 min. 130-135°
Medium 7-8 min. 140-145°
Medium – well 9 min. 150-155°
Well done 10 min. 160-165°

 

Grilling burgers represent some of the best times spent with friends and family. Even though there are numerous ways to prepare a burger, one thing that is always necessary is making sure to cook it to the right hamburger temperature for safety.

In this article, we’ll provide a guide to the right temperature, discuss the risks that come with undercooked ground beef, explain how to stay safe when dealing with ground meat, and finally, share our best tips for grilling a restaurant-quality hamburger.

Why is the Internal Temperature of Burgers Important?

It is important to cook hamburgers to the right internal temperature to prevent food poisoning and also to ensure that the burger is juicy and delicious.

People may not be aware that ground meat has a higher chance of causing food-borne illnesses than other types of meat.

Meat Thermometre and kitchen utensils

Why is a Rare Steak Safe but a Rare Burger Not?

Bacteria on the outside of a steak or other piece of meat stay on the surface and don’t go anywhere else or dig into the meat.

Cooking a steak at a high temperature kills off all the bacteria on the outside, so the inside can be medium rare or even rare and still be safe to eat.

If you’re worried about the freshness of the steak before you cook it, there are a few signs you can look for to tell if it’s okay to eat or if it’s gone bad.

However, if you mince the steak, the bacteria will spread throughout the entire burger patty, both on the inside and outside.

That’s why ground meat needs to be cooked to a temperature of 160°F in the middle so that any bacteria that was spread during the mincing process is destroyed, and the meat is safe to eat.

In contrast, steak with an internal temp of 130°F is typically safe to eat.

Related reading >> Can You Eat Raw Steak?

What is the USDA’s Recommended Hamburger Temperature?

No matter what type of meat you use to make burgers, the USDA says you should cook it to at least 160°F as shown on a meat thermometer to ensure any lingering bacteria are killed, and the meat is safe to eat.

This applies to pork, beef, veal, and lamb. Keep in mind that chicken and other poultry must be cooked to a higher temperature of at least 165°F.

However, this recommendation applies to store-bought ground meat, which poses a greater risk of bacterial presence.

Related Reading >> How to Grill Frozen Burgers

The Risks of Pre-Ground Beef

When you buy ground beef at the store you can never be certain how long it sat on the shelf, nor would you know how clean the inner parts of the meat grinder they used were.

Furthermore, pre-ground beef usually comes from more than one cow unless specified as single-sourced on the packaging. Even a tiny amount of contaminated meat, like 1%, is enough to make the whole batch of meat bad.

The bacteria will spread quickly when the meat is ground and packaged. This means that supermarkets could potentially sell bad meat.

Friends grilling burgers

Reducing the Contamination Risk

You can reduce the risk of contamination by the following simple steps when you prepare raw burgers:

  • Keep ground beef chilled and at or below 40°F
  • Use different prep areas and utensils for raw meat and veggies
  • Wash hands before and after handling raw meat
  • Before and after cooking, clean and disinfect kitchen surfaces
  • Keep ready-to-eat foods away from raw foods or their liquids

If you follow these guidelines and measure the hamburger temperature in the center, you will eliminate the risks of spreading foodborne illnesses.

Grind Your Own Meat

Raw Hamburger Patties

If you adhere to the sanitation regulations, you could get away with not following the internal temperature rules by grinding your own meat for burgers.

If you purchase a good quality cut of meat, such as nicely marbled chuck, and mince it up just before grilling, you’ll minimize the potential dangers.

Ground chuck is the go-to ground beef for making burgers. It’s got the right amount of fat to give the burgers a flavorful and juicy texture without breaking the bank. Aim for 15 to 20% fat content for the juiciest grilled burgers.

Keeping the 15 to 20% fat ratio in mind, you can be creative with burger recipes by mixing different kinds of ground meats together for a variety of flavors—like different cuts of beef, beef and pork, or even beef and chorizo.

If you grind your own meat, you can have fun experimenting with different flavors. When you grill burgers, you can decide how done you want them to be. Make sure you form the patties between 3/4 and 1 inch thick; otherwise, they may become too dry while cooking.

Related Reading>> How to use a hamburger press perfectly.

Temp Guidelines for Hamburgers

Medium – rare:

  • Cooking Time: 6 min.
  • Internal Temperature: 130-135°F

Medium:

  • Cooking Time: 7-8 min.
  • Internal Temperature: 140-145°F

Medium – well:

  • Cooking Time: 9 min.
  • Internal Temperature: 150-155°F

Well done:

  • Cooking Time: 10 min.
  • Internal Temperature: 160-165°F
  •  

You can find the USDA hamburger temperature recommendations here.

If you grind your own meat for burgers, you can use the following temperature guide to ensure your burgers are grilled to the tastes of the diners:

NOTE: The cooking times in this temperature chart are approximate, depending on the heat of the charcoal grill or the cooking temperature and the thickness of the patties.

Note that we did not include rare hamburgers (120°F to 125°F), which would be too risky, even if you ground your own beef. If you like your burgers to be pink inside, a medium-rare burger cooked to 130° is the pinkest you can go.

Digital meat thermometer to measure hamburger temperature

If you take the proper precautions, medium rare, medium, and medium well burgers will be safe to eat, even though the internal temp is lower than the USDA recommendation. Grilling your burgers to the recommended160°F typically leaves them tough and dry. 

Related reading >> Best Internal Temp for Brisket

How Can You Be Sure the Burgers are Done?

Figuring out the right hamburger temperature for cooking burgers and other foods can be tricky, especially since burgers cook faster than other meats.

To be sure you grill delicious burgers that are safe to eat, you should use a food thermometer—it’s the only surefire way to make sure your burgers are done to the correct temp.

Although many experienced BBQ masters can judge the doneness of burgers by touch, the main point of knowing when your hamburgers are cooked right is to check the inside temperature, which can only be done with a thermometer made for food.

Most People Prefer Medium Temperature Burgers

Most people prefer medium temperature burgers because of the balance they offer between taste, texture, and food safety. Here are some reasons:

  1. Flavor and Juiciness: Medium-cooked burgers retain more of the natural flavors and juices compared to well-done burgers. They are generally considered to be more flavorful and moist.

  2. Texture: Medium burgers strike a good balance in texture. They are not as tough or dry as well-done burgers, yet provide more firmness and less rawness than rare or medium-rare burgers. This texture appeals to a wide range of palates.

  3. Food Safety: While rare burgers can pose a higher risk of foodborne illnesses due to undercooked meat, medium burgers are cooked enough to significantly reduce this risk. They reach a temperature that is generally considered safe for consumption, without overcooking.

  4. Personal Preference and Cultural Norms: In many cultures, a medium cook is seen as the standard or preferred way to cook burgers. People often develop a preference for what they are accustomed to.

  5. Compromise Between Different Tastes: When cooking for a group, choosing medium burgers can be a compromise that satisfies those who dislike rare meat without overcooking the meat for those who dislike well-done burgers.

Each person’s preference can vary based on individual taste, dietary restrictions, and cultural influences.

What is The Best Way to Grill Hamburgers?

Hamburgers on griller

To get the perfect burger when grilling, we use the two-zone cooking method.

Set up your grill with one area at a lower heat and one at a higher heat. Put your burgers on the cool side first and let the heat emanating from the hot side cook them.

When they’re close to your desired temperature, move them over to the hot side to sear them.

This is better than the usual way of putting them over high heat from the start and cooking them until they’re done. That is when you get flame flare-ups because your burgers are losing their fat and juices.

A few tips for a successful burger cookout:

  1. Mix the seasonings into the ground beef before shaping the patties.
  2. Do not skimp on the fat. Keep to the 15 to 20% fat to ensure your burgers are juicy.
  3. For the best burgers, keep the patties in the refrigerator until just before they go onto the grill.
  4. Push your thumb onto the hamburger’s center to leave an indentation. This will keep their shape flat instead of ballooning on the griller.
  5. Turn the hamburgers only once, and never push them down with the spatula, thereby forcing the juices out.
  6. Remove the burgers from the grill when their temperature is about 5 degrees below the goal temp. The carryover cooking will continue during the resting time before they are served.

Frequently Asked Questions

Grilled hamburgers to the right temperature

Q: How do you know if a burger is cooked properly?

A: You should cook hamburgers until the inside temperature reaches 155°F and stays at that temp for 15 seconds, or until the burger temperature reaches 160°F. For chicken and turkey burgers, they have to be cooked until the inside is 165°F.

Related: See here the history of the hamburger.

Q: For how long should you cook hamburgers?

A: Cook the burgers for 2–3 minutes until they have browned and have grill marks, then flip them over and cook for a few more minutes depending on how done you like them – 4–5 minutes for medium-rare, 6–7 for medium well, 8–10 for well done. However, using an instant-read thermometer or any other meat thermometer, similar to those used for roasts to measure the internal burger temp is the best way to avoid the risks of foodborne illnesses.

Q: How many times do you flip a hamburger?

A: Flip the burgers only once. Cook them for half the desired time, then flip them to cook the other half of the time—2 minutes for medium rare, 3 minutes for medium-well, and 4 minutes for well done.

Q: How do you know when to flip the burgers?

A: A good indication to show a patty is ready to be flipped is when you can see liquid pooling on the uncooked side of the patty.

Q: Why must I measure the internal hamburger temperature?

A: For the sake of food safety, the USDA recommends the internal temperature of burgers must be 160°F to destroy harmful bacteria.

More Reading>> See how to make perfect smoked BBQ meatballs here.

 

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Kevin Turner
Hi there, I'm Kevin Turner, Founder and CEO of thegrillingmaster.com. I started this website to share my passion and knowledge with you. You can leverage my years of experience as a pit master and professional to grill great food!

About The Grilling Master

Hi there, I'm Kevin Turner, Founder and CEO of thegrillingmaster.com

My passion has always been grilling, smoking and BBQ delicious meats that satisfy my inner carnivore!

I started this website to share my passion and knowledge with you, the hungry reader who wants to prepare the perfect meal. 

You can leverage my years of experience as a pit master and professional. 

Send me a message and let's connect on Twitter here.

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