How to Grill Burgers

Published By Kevin Turner

Last Updated Feb 6, 2024

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Table of Contents

    Knowing how to grill burgers can transform you into a master chef! A great burger can really determine the success or failure of a backyard barbecue. Unfortunately, what is perfect for one person may not be perfect for someone else.

    There are numerous elements that will influence the final product, like the kind of grill, what kind of beef is used, the recipe, and the grilling procedure—all of which will be discussed in this article.

    The patty of a beef burger is the star, and it’s impossible to make a delicious grilled burger without high-quality beef. Adding spices like garlic powder and other seasonings won’t make up for inferior ground beef.

    Raw Beef burgers for grilling

    For a juicy, flavorful burger, look for ground beef with 20-25% fat (like an 80/20 blend). Too much fat will cause the burger to fall apart, while lean ground beef with too little fat will be dry. If you can, ask your butcher for a coarse ground chuck roast or a blend of brisket and sirloin for the best burgers.

    Shaping the Perfect Burger Patty

    When it comes to burger shaping, the two most essential things to remember are to keep the meat cold and not handle it too much. It’s easy to slip up here, but you can prevent it by being mindful.

    Stay away from pre-made patties, whether they’re frozen or not. Making burgers with fresh ground beef is much better, and it’ll give you the juiciest burgers around.

    To accomplish it, just buy some fresh ground beef and form the patties yourself. Keep the beef refrigerated before shaping the burgers, and also afterward, until just before they go onto the grill.

    Split your ground beef into the number of burgers you want to make, so they are all the same size. The best size for a burger patty is about 6 ounces, kind of like the size between a softball and a baseball. Make sure they are similar in size to allow even cooking.

    Shaping a beef burger patty for the grill

    Put some cold water on your hands, so the meat won’t stick to them. Once you have the beef in your hands, shape it into a lightly packed ball. Don’t press too hard, or else the burger will be too dense.

    Gently press the burgers with your hands into patties that are 3/4 to 1 inch thick and a bit bigger than the burger buns because they will shrink slightly on the grill.

    Don’t overwork the burger meat. Use your thumbs to even out the edges and to make a dimple in the middle of each patty, but don’t press too hard. The indentation will stop the center from puffing up, and let the patties cook evenly.

    Seasoning the Burger Patty

    It is a good idea to season the burger immediately before putting it onto the grill. If you are using good quality beef, the seasoning will serve to make a tasty crunch on the outside, and let you enjoy the flavor of the beef inside.

    Not adding the seasoning while you shape the patties will also prevent overworking of the ground beef.

    Remember: when seasoning a burger, it’s best to go light. The aim is to bring out the flavor of the beef. Keep it simple—salt and pepper should do the trick.

    Seasoning burger before grilling

    You can also add a bit of minced dried onion, garlic, and brown sugar for an extra kick. Cayenne or red pepper can give it a smoky flavor, as can a hint of rosemary—but don’t go overboard.

    Wood, Pellet, Charcoal vs. Gas Grillers

    Cooking burgers on different fuels like pellets, wood, charcoal, and gas can give different results—like different flavors, how easy it is to control the temperature, how convenient it is, and how much it costs. Here’s a brief overview:

    Griller

    Characteristics

    Wood Grills

    Wood grills use logs or wood chunks as fuel and give burgers a smoky flavor, but they can be tricky to control the temperature and are harder to maintain and clean than other grills.

    Pellet Grills

    Great for getting that smoky flavor on burgers, and they have a hopper that helps with precise temperature control. They’re convenient to use, but they can cost more than other grills.

    Gas Grills

    A convenient and clean way to grill, but they don’t give the same smoky flavor as other grills. They’re cheaper than pellet or wood grills and offer better temperature control.

    Charcoal Grills

    Great for getting that smoky, charred flavor on burgers. They can reach high temperatures quickly but can be a bit tricky to use. They are usually more affordable than pellet and wood grills.

    Grilling burgers can be done with different types of grills, each with its own pros and cons. It all comes down to what you want, how much you’re willing to spend, and the flavor you’re going for.

    Preparing the Grill for Burgers

    You should aim for a high-heat grill temperature of around 400°F. It’s best to use a thermometer, but you can check if it’s at the right temp by holding your hand about 6 to 8 inches above the coals. If you can do that for 5 to 6 seconds without burning, the temp should be high enough.

    Glowing coals in griller

    Set the grill up for twozone grilling with two separate heat areas: one for direct high heat and the other for indirect low heat. On the direct heat section, you can quickly sear and cook the burgers, getting a crunchy exterior. The indirect heat area is for finishing off the burgers, cooking them at a lower temperature, so the inside is cooked through and stays juicy.

    Before putting on the burgers, brush the grid to get rid of any leftovers from the previous BBQs, and give it a quick oil coating with a paper towel or brush, so the burgers don’t stick.

    What to Know About the Internal Temps of Burgers

    Burger Cookout

    You’ll probably have to cook the burgers in different ways to please everyone. You might like ’em medium-rare, but your kids and other people might want theirs at a different doneness. Once you know what temperature and timing to use for each, grilling burgers will be a breeze, and you’ll be a pro in no time.

    The amount of time it takes to grill your burgers will change depending on how hot your grill is and how big your burger patties are, and how thick they are. Don’t just follow the cooking times given here—use them as a guideline when you’re grilling, not something to follow exactly. You can use our hamburger temperature guide here to get your desired doneness just right.

    More Reading>> How to best shape your burger.

    Instant-Read Meat Thermometer

    The USDA recommends cooking ground beef to an internal temperature of 160°F to ensure you’ve killed any harmful bacteria. However, if you grind and make your own burger patties, upholding food safety rules, you’ll be safe eating burgers removed from the grill before reaching internal temps of 160°F.

    Use a meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature, and push it into the side of the burger to reach the center of the patty.

    Stage

    Internal Color

    Approx. Time

    Internal Temp

    Medium-rare

    Red Center

    6 minutes

    130 to 135F°

    Medium

    Pink Center

    7 to 8 minutes

    140 to 145F°

    Medium-well

    Slightly Pink Center

    9 minutes

    150 to 155F°

    Well Done

    Brown Throughout

    10 minutes

    160 to 165°F

    Grilling the Burgers

    Grill the burgers on a hot grill right above the coals until they’re brown and crispy on the bottom, around 4–5 minutes. You’ll know it’s time to flip them when you see liquid forming on the uncooked side.

    Don’t press on the burgers with a spatula while they’re cooking, or you’ll push out all the flavor. You might get some flare-ups from the fat dripping onto the coals—just move the burgers over and wait for the flames to die down.

    Flare-up while grilling burgers

    If you want juicy, evenly cooked burgers, just flip them once, using a metal spatula. Make sure your grill is clean and preheated, then wait 3–5 minutes before flipping the burgers. They should release easily and finish cooking on the other side without having to flip them multiple times.

    If you’re making cheeseburgers, put a slice of cheese on top of each patty a few minutes before taking them off the direct heat.

    To get the juiciest burger, wait at least five minutes before serving because carryover cooking will let the internal temperature go up by about five degrees.

    If you’re concerned about the burgers getting cold, put some aluminum foil over the top to keep the heat in.

    Flip Patties with spatula

    Resting the burger patties gives you time to put the hamburger buns on the grill face-down to develop that delicious char and toasty texture, but keep an eye on them because they can burn quickly.

    Building the Burger

    Once you’ve done your magic grilling a delicious batch of patties on the griller, the next step is to pick your toppings. Many people like it simple—a toasted bun, a slice of cheese, a thin layer of mayo, ketchup, and pickles.

    Burger with egg

    That’s all you need for a classic juicy burger! But if you’re feeling creative, you can add whatever you want—just remember that piling on too many toppings can overpower the flavor of the beef.

    Why not Have a Burger Bar?

    If your backyard burger cookout involves a group of people, why not let them all build their own burgers? Lay out a spread of toppings for everyone to add the toppings they love, similar to organizing a taco bar. The list of burger recipes and toppings is endless, but here are some to add to your burger bar.

    Burger Toppings

    There are many burger toppings that can add flavor and texture to your burger. Here are some popular ones:

    1. Cheese (Cheddar, Swiss, American, Provolone, cream cheese, blue cheese, etc.)
    2. Bacon
    3. Lettuce
    4. Tomato
    5. Onion (raw, caramelized, or fried)
    6. Pickles
    7. Mushrooms
    8. Avocado (Mashed to prevent them from sliding off while you eat your burger)
    9. Jalapeños
    10. Barbecue sauce/ketchup
    11. Worcestershire Sauce
    12. Mustard
    13. Mayo
    14. Relish
    15. Hot sauce
    16. Fried egg
    17. Coleslaw
    18. Chili
    19. Guacamole
    20. Salsa

    These are just a few examples to be mixed and matched to create the perfect burger for each one’s taste.

    Take Away

    With these guidelines, grilling hamburgers to perfection does not have to be a daunting task. With the right ingredients, and the right equipment, including a digital or instant-read thermometer, anyone can make a perfect burger, whether well done, medium-well, medium, or medium-rare.

    Sharing burgers

    For the best taste and flavor, choose ground beef that has an 80/20 fat content and is freshly ground. Finally, create the perfect burger with a wide selection of toppings. With the right ingredients and practice, grilling burgers can be an easy and enjoyable experience.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Q: What kind of meat should I use for grilling burgers?

    A: Ground beef with 80% lean and 20% fat is the most commonly used meat for burgers.

    Q: How do I form the patties?

    A: Form the patties into a ball, then flatten it gently into a disc. Make sure the patties are uniform in thickness, so they cook evenly.

    Q: Should I season the meat before grilling?

    A: It is best to season the burgers with kosher salt, coarse black pepper, and other seasonings at the last minute before they go on the grill to avoid overworking the ground beef.

    Q: How long should I grill the burgers?

    A: Cook the burgers for 3–4 minutes per side for medium-rare, 4–5 minutes per side for medium, and 5–6 minutes per side for well-done.

    Q: How do I know when the burgers are done?

    A: Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature to check the level of doneness. For medium-rare, the temperature should be 130-135°F (54-57°C), for medium, it should be 135-145°F (57-63°C), and for well-done, it should be 160°F (71°C) or higher.

    Q: Should I flip the burgers multiple times while grilling

    A: No, flip the burgers only once to ensure that they cook evenly.

    Q: How do I prevent the burgers from sticking to the grill?

    A: Brush oil on the grill grates before grilling the burgers, and make sure the grill is hot before adding the patties.

    Q: Can you grill frozen burgers?

    A: Yes, you can grill frozen burgers. You’ll have to turn the heat on the grill lower than you would for regular patties. That way, you’ll get a good sear without the burgers still being frozen in the center.

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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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