When a burger's done right, you know it -- the smoky, char-grilled outside and the juicy inside, all barely contained within a chewy, toasty roll. That's what a burger is all about! Here's how to grill the perfect hamburger -- plus we'll load you up with top recipes for beef burgers, turkey burgers, chicken burgers, and lamb burgers.
How to grill hamburgers
1. Fat = Flavor. Use beef that is no leaner than 85%. Meat with a higher fat content will be juicier and more flavorful. But be aware, patties from higher fat meat will shrink more when they cook. If you shop at a grocery store or a butcher that grinds their own beef, choose coarsely ground beef for juicier burgers with a more pleasing texture. For ground chicken and turkey burgers, add a little olive oil to the mixture.
2. Build Additional Flavor. Add just about anything you like to your burger mixture. Here are a few flavoring suggestions:
- Fresh or dried herbs and spices
- Dehydrated or fresh minced onion and garlic
- Seasoning mixes for soups or salad dressings
- Your favorite cheese, such as blue cheese, goat cheese, Gorgonzola, feta, Stilton, Cheddar, or pepperjack
- Prepared sauces including BBQ sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, hoisin sauce, plum sauce, oyster sauce, salsa, or salad dressing
- Other tidbits like olives, capers, chopped tomatoes, diced chiles, crumbled bacon, or minced ham
3. Hold the Salt! Don't combine salt into the mixture, especially if you're not going to grill the patties right away. Salt will extract moisture from the meat, leaving you with dry burgers. Instead, sprinkle each burger with salt right before you put it on the grill.
4. Don't Mix Too Much. Use a light touch when combining seasonings with the ground beef. If you mix it too much, your burgers will be dense and heavy.
5. Let the Flavors Mingle. Leave the meat mixture (or patties) in the refrigerator for several hours to allow all the flavors to mingle. To form patties, wet your hands a little to keep the meat from sticking to them. If you make patties ahead of time, stack them on a plate separated by waxed paper and cover with plastic wrap before you put it in the refrigerator.
6. Form a Good Patty Don't form patties too thick or too thin. A 3/4-inch thick patty is ideal. To keep patties from swelling in the middle, make small indentations in the center.
7. Temperature Matters. Make sure the grill is the appropriate temperature. Medium-low to medium heat is best. Too hot, and burgers burn on the outside before getting done on the inside. Keep the lid closed while cooking; it shortens cooking time and keeps burgers moist.
8. Clean Your Grill. Always start with a clean, oiled grill grate. This keeps burgers from sticking, extends the life of your grate, and helps put those beautiful grill marks on your patties.
9. Turn Once. It's hard to resist, but try not to flatten your burgers with the spatula. It squeezes out flavorful juices.
10. Cook Thoroughly. How long to grill hamburgers? Cook ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F (170 degrees F for poultry). For an accurate reading, insert the thermometer into the patty horizontally.
Bonus Tip: How to keep grilled burgers moist. A hot, hot grill achieves just the right char and paints the perfect grill marks on burgers, but the fierce flames can also dry them out. Graham Elliot, a judge on MasterChef, has a pretty cool solution: hide a small ice cube in center of the patty! That's right, the cube melts as the burger grills, and keeps the meat nice and moist.
VIDEO: How To Grill the Perfect Burger
Here's how to cook hamburgers on a gas grill.
Our Favorite Burger Recipes
Okay, let's get to our very favorite grilled burgers -- beef, turkey, chicken, and lamb!
Beef Burger Recipes
Juiciest Hamburgers Ever
"No more dry, lackluster burgers. Baste frequently with your favorite barbeque sauce. If you find the meat mixture too mushy, just add more bread crumbs until it forms patties that hold their shape." -- Jane
Asian Barbecue Burgers
"These burgers include the Asian flavors of hoisin, Sriracha sauce, and sesame oil with a little crushed red pepper for some added heat." -- Occasional Cooker
Tex-Mex Burger with Cajun Mayo
"A jazzy way to spice up the boring basic burger that will tantalize your taste buds! Cajun spiced mayonnaise is the perfect complement to these spicy beef burgers." -- Sarah Stephan
Turkey Burger Recipes
Spicy Chipotle Turkey Burgers
"With a chipotle chile pepper, mozzarella cheese and other seasonings, you will absolutely love this spicy, yet flavorful, burger!" -- mbaucum
Turkey Meatloaf Burgers
"A meatloaf style turkey burger that's moist and flavorful -- a lighter alternative to beef burger. Great served with lettuce, tomato, and your choice of condiments." -- Melissa Goff
Chef John's Turkey Burger
"This recipe uses some of the same techniques and seasonings as the shish kebab. For something made with meat that is 95% fat free this is pretty good!" -- Chef John
Chicken Burger Recipes
Chicken Cheddar and Guacamole Burgers
"Looks and tastes great. A healthier and a little cheaper way to get my burger fix. You could use ground turkey instead of chicken. And toasting the buns adds another layer of flavor." -- kemosuave
Chef John's Chicken Satay Burger
"I love chicken satay, that spicy meat on a stick, marinated and grilled and served with a peanut sauce. I get that same effect with a chicken burger." -- Chef John
Chicken and Feta Burgers
"If you use all-breast chicken meat, add some olive oil to the meat mixture so they don't dry out. You could also use 2 tablespoons chopped Kalamata olives instead of the tapenade. Use tzatziki sauce on top to stay with the Mediterranean theme." -- Jeanette
Lamb Burger Recipes
Grilled Lamb Burgers
"Serve on hamburger buns with lots of mango chutney and cream cheese. Also good with lettuce, tomato and red onion." -- Jo
Mediterranean Lamb Burgers
"These burgers are juicy and full of flavor. Even people who don't really like lamb have enjoyed these burgers." -- HerbanSpoons
Chef John's Lamb Moussaka Burger
"Moussaka is a stunning blend of spiced ground lamb, tomato, and eggplant, topped with a creamy, cheesy white sauce. I decided to integrate the eggplant right into the burger itself, instead of topping the burger with cooked slices." -- Chef John