Classic Recipe to Make the Perfect Grilled Burger

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Never grill another dry, tasteless burger. Take all the guesswork out of how to make the perfect grilled burger by following these simple tips and tricks.  

How to make the perfect grilled burger

Grilled burgers are a go-to choice for casual get-togethers and summer cookouts. When prepared correctly, this simple American classic is juicy and delicious. However, we’ve all had those less-than-stellar burgers that are dry and tasteless. 

It is unbelievably simple to make the perfect grilled burger, but there are some common mistakes and oversights that can result in dry, overcooked hamburgers. Follow the tips and tricks below, and you’ll end up with the perfect burger every single time.

How to Make the Perfect Grilled Burger

Making the perfect grilled burger isn’t difficult, but there are some tips and tricks you need to know to achieve the delicious, juicy burger you’re craving!

Close up on package of lean red raw ground meat

Choosing the Right Beef

To make the best burger, you need to start by selecting the best blend of ground beef. Higher fat content burgers will be greasy and fall apart. A really low percent fat and your burgers will be dry. 80/20 ground chuck is the ideal kind of ground beef for juicy, delicious burgers.  

Nothing beats freshly ground beef, so if you can grind your own that is ideal. However, you can also select good quality meat from the grocery store. Avoid beef that comes in tubes. To get beef into those tubes it has to be packed tightly, which will never produce a tender, juicy hamburger. Instead, look for the type of beef where you can see the individual strands of ground meat that haven’t been packed too tightly inside of the packaging as pictured above.

Classic Burger Recipe Mix-Ins

We will discuss seasonings in a bit, but let’s talk about mix-ins first. To achieve juicy burgers you’ll need to add some fat if you’re starting with very lean ground beef. Place the lean beef into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk an egg then pour over the ground meat. Worcestershire sauce is also a great choice to add some moisture and flavor. Use clean hands to combine ground beef with the egg and Worcestershire sauce. Do not overwork the meat. Grill immediately or place the meat mixture into an airtight container and refrigerate for grilling within 24 hours. 

Forming the Hamburger Patties

The main thing to keep in mind while making the patties is don’t overwork the meat. You want your burger patty to hold together, but you still want to be able to see those individual strands of meat when you’re done. 

The best way to achieve this is to gently break apart your ground beef and place it into a bowl. Use a spoon to scoop some ground beef into your hands keeping each patty the same size. If you’re not good at eyeballing it, use a food scale to help with this. Keep in mind that hamburger patties shrink when cooked, so make your patties a little larger than your buns. 

Next, gently roll the meat into a ball shape being careful not to use too much pressure. Place the balls of meat on a flat surface and press them down using your hand, a plate, or a burger press to form patties. For thick patties, press your thumb into the center of each patty to make an indention. This will help ensure the hamburger patties cook evenly.

Stack of raw fresh burger patties from beef meat

Chill Before Grilling

Place patties in the refrigerator to chill before cooking. Chilling ensures the fat is solid before hitting the grill. This will allow the meat to start cooking when it hits the grill and trap that juicy fat inside as it melts. If you need to stack the patties in the refrigerator, separate them with a piece of wax paper or parchment paper so they don’t stick together.

On a wooden cutting board on kraft paper there are raw beef burgers for burgers, spices, rosemary, a pepper mill, a cooking process.

Season Just Before Grilling

The perfect grilled burger requires seasoning. At the very least you should add salt and pepper to both sides of each patty. You can also use any other seasoning you prefer. Our favorite is Montreal Steak Seasoning. The thicker your hamburger patties, the heavier you should season. 

I do not recommend mixing seasonings into the meat when forming the patties. Seasonings can draw moisture out of meat, which will result in a dry burger. For best results, always season just before grilling

SEASONING SUGGESTIONS FOR BURGERS

  • Onion Powder
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • Blackening Seasoning
  • Seasoned Salt

Get That Grill Hot

Whether you’re using a charcoal grill or a gas grill, you want to make sure it is already hot before adding the hamburger patties. When your burger hits the grill you want to hear a sizzle. Cook over medium-high heat and leave the burger undisturbed until a crust forms to sear in the juices. Once the patty is crusted on the first side, flip it over and sear the other side. After both sides are seared, you can reduce to medium heat to finish cooking. 

Searing both sides first also allows for easier flipping throughout the rest of the cooking time. If you prefer your burgers medium-well or well done, you’ll need to continue flipping every couple of minutes to ensure even cooking. However, I am a firm believer in serving burgers in the medium doneness range to get the best hamburgers.

Do not press the patty down during the cooking process! This squeezes all the juices out of the burger and will result in a dry, tasteless burger. 

If you don’t have a grill, you can cook your burgers on a large nonstick skillet, a large cast-iron skillet, or a grill pan. To avoid sticking, add some olive oil to the heated pan before placing hamburger patties on the cooking surface. 

How Long to Cook Grilled Burgers

How long you cook the burgers will depend on the thickness of your patties and your preferred doneness. You can use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature. Here are some suggested cooking times for burgers about one inch thick:

  • Rare: 120 -125 degrees F (3 minutes per side)
  • Medium Rare: 130 – 135 degrees F (4 minutes per side)
  • Medium: 140 – 145 degrees F (5 minutes per side)
  • Medium Well: 150 – 155 degrees F (6 minutes per side)
  • Well Done: 160 – 165 degrees F (7 minutes per side)
How long to grill a burger

Time to Add the Cheese

A slice of cheese usually takes 2-3 minutes to melt on a grilling patty, so don’t wait until the last minute of cooking to add the cheese. Here are some great cheeses for grilled burgers. 

cheese tray slices isolated

American Cheese is a classic and melts easily.
Brie is a super-gooey cheese that will elevate your burger to gourmet level. 
Cheddar is another classic choice with a bold flavor that is a great combination with grilled burgers.
Monterey Jack Cheese melts easily and is a great option for burgers. 
Pepper Jack Cheese will add a little spice to your burger. 
Provolone cheese is a mild cheese that melts well on burgers. 
Smoked Gouda pairs great with barbeque sauce on burgers for a smokey flavor.

Now allow your burgers to rest a few minutes while you prepare the buns. Resting the meat allows the juices to settle back into the meat and will give you a delicious, juicy burger.

Best Tips for the Finishing Touches

Now that you’ve created the perfect grilled burger, you can’t ignore the finishing touches. Buns, toppings, and sauces will complete your masterpiece.

Fresh homemade burger buns

Choosing the Best Buns

Since you’re not using prepackaged patties, do not go to the prepackaged bread section of the grocery store for buns. The best bun will be found in the bakery section. The most important thing you’re looking for is a freshly baked bun that is light and soft to the touch. Here are some of our favorite hamburger buns:

  • potato bun
  • pretzel bun
  • brioche bun
  • sesame seed-topped bun

For a delicious restaurant-style burger, I also recommend toasting your buns. Toasting enhances the flavor of the bread and will help it hold up to all the toppings and burger juices. You can use a toaster or place buns on the top rack of your grill for toasting to a light golden brown. 

Favorite Toppings for a Great Burger

The perfect hamburger also needs equally perfect toppings. When selecting toppings, always choose the freshest produce. Tomatoes, onions, crisp lettuce, and pickles are classic hamburger toppings, but you can add so much more!

TOPPINGS FOR BURGERS

Cooked Toppings

  • Grilled onions
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Sautéed peppers & onions
  • Bacon
  • Fried egg
  • Onion rings
  • Roasted tomatoes
  • Chili
  • Grilled pineapple slice

Produce & Herbs

  • Basil
  • Dill pickles
  • Leafy lettuce
  • Onion, sliced or diced
  • Red onion, sliced or diced
  • Slice of tomato
  • Avocado slices or Guacamole
  • Jalapeño slices, raw or pickled
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Dill

Sauces

  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Tabasco or Hot sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Honey mustard
  • Big Mac sauce
  • Bang Bang sauce
  • A-1 Sauce
  • Spicy Mayo
  • Marinara sauce
  • Pimento cheese
  • Sriracha
  • Chick-fil-A Sauce
  • Beer cheese
  • Ranch dressing

Flavor Combinations for Your Perfect Grilled Burger

Want to try something a little different with your burgers? Here are some flavor combinations to add a little variety to burger night!

  • BLT: Bacon, lettuce, tomato
  • Pub Burger: Beer cheese and pretzel buns
  • Caprese Burger: Fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinegar
  • Pizza Burger: Pepperoni, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, basil
  • Hawaiian Burger: Grilled pineapple slice and teriyaki sauce
  • Breakfast Burger: Fried egg and bacon
  • Barbecue Burger: Barbeque sauce with red onions or an onion ring
  • Mushroom Swiss Burger: Sauteed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, mayonnaise

Tips & Tricks

  • Do not press the burger when cooking! This will squeeze all the juices out of the burger resulting in a dry, tasteless burger. 
  • Do not mix seasonings into the ground beef. Seasonings can draw moisture out of meat, which will result in a dry burger. For best results, always season just before grilling.
  • Chill burger patties before cooking. Starting with the fat solidified enables a char to form on the meat before the juices can escape.
  • Don’t overwork the meet when forming the patties. Tightly packed ground beef will be tough. Use only enough pressure to keep the patty together.
  • If you like thick burgers, make an indentation in the patty with your thumb before grilling. This will help the patty cook evenly.
  • Allow the burgers to rest a few minutes after taking them off the grill before eating. This will allow time for the juices to settle back into the meat producing a juicy burger.

Get creative with your burgers!

Do you have a favorite burger topping, bun, or flavor combination? I’d love to hear it! Comment below to share your suggestions.

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you for your delicious recipes and tips. I made your Lemon Oreo Cheesecake for Easter and it was a big hit and I’ve made it again since. Definitely a keeper! I even discovered that it freezes well in slices, so I was able to freeze a couple leftover pieces until the rest of the Easter leftovers were gone and we were ready to indulge in a treat!
    Monday Burgers on the grill are on the menu, so your burger tips arrived just in time.
    Thank you for your insights and expertise.

    1. Melodee, thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I have never tried to freeze the Lemon Oreo Cheesecake. I’ll update that post so others will know it freezes well. That is definitely good to know! Thank you for supporting my blog! ~Melisha

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