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How to Grill a Hamburger

Updated February 4, 2020
Grilling season is here, and it’s time to fire up a perfect burger.

Nothing says summer better than a juicy, grilled hamburger. It’s not hard to make a good grilled burger, but there are some tricks to making an excellent grilled burger.

How to Grill a Hamburger

Let’s walk through some of the important parts. For starters, ditch the pre-formed frozen patties. It’s slightly more work to make your own, but the results are vastly superior. Take the time to do it right! When it comes to picking a ground beef, there are a lot of options. Anything from ground chuck to ground sirloin can be used (or a mix), but ideally you want a fat content of 15-20% in your ground beef. That will keep the burgers juicy. While you can eyeball a burger size, if you're feeding a crowd, we recommend weighing them. Our ideal burger is 6 ounces, or 1/3 pound. That size will produce a big burger, but not comically big. Plus, by weighing the burgers, you’ll guarantee that they all cook evenly, and everybody gets the same size burger.

How to Grill a Hamburger

Step 1: Form the Patties

After you weigh your burgers (or eyeball it), use a light touch when forming them into patties. Don’t press on them a lot or compact them. Try to keep the meat light.

How to Grill a Hamburger

Step 2: Season

People get crazy when seasoning burgers, but if you cook it well, all a good burger really needs is salt and pepper. We recommend using kosher salt and freshly ground coarse pepper. Use big pinches of both to season your burgers on both sides.

How to Grill a Hamburger

Step 3: Avoid the Football Burger

Do you know what a football burger is? It’s when you make your own burgers and they end up shaped like footballs: big in the center and skinny on the ends. It’s not a great shape for burgers, both looks-wise and taste-wise. To prevent this from happening, make a small thumbprint in center of each burger. As the burger cooks, the meat will expand and fill the thumbprint. The finished burger will be nice and flat.

How to Grill a Hamburger

Step 4: Fire Up the Grill

We’re a little biased, but we think it doesn’t get much better than a charcoal-grilled burger. If you have a charcoal grill and have the time to coax coals to a fiery life, prepare your coals for direct-heat grilling. You don’t want the coals to be super-hot, but they should be directly under the burgers, so a nice crust is created.

You can absolutely use a gas grill instead. If you are cooking with gas, heat your grill to medium-high so your grates are nice and hot.

How to Grill a Hamburger

Step 5: Grill Baby Grill

If you have 6-ounce burgers, they will probably need to cook for 4-5 minutes per side for a medium burger. At some point during the grilling process, we highly recommend tossing on some buns as well. Burgers can dry out quickly if you overcook them, and while there are many people who claim they can eyeball when a burger is done, the only way to know for sure is to use a thermometer. Grabbing the temperature with an instant read thermometer takes just a second and guarantees your burgers are cooked to the right doneness. If you’re shooting for a medium burger, you want the temperature to be around 140ºF. A medium well burger will be about 150ºF. When your burgers are done, they should have a nice crust on both sides.

How to Grill a Hamburger

Step 6: Don’t Forget the Cheese!

A good burger doesn’t need cheese, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. If you’re adding cheese, do so a minute or so before your burger is done and close the cover on the grill so the cheese melts quickly.

Pile the finished burgers on toasted buns with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and condiments. Enjoy your grilling season!