How To Grill The Best Burger

Burgers from the grill just taste better. Recipes and tips for building the best backyard burgers are here.

Burgers on the Charcoal Grill

Photo by Meredith

When a hamburger is 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 are some grilled burger basics.

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.

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

Wait on 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.

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.

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.

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.

How to grill a burger | Indention in raw beef patties

Photo by Meredith

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.

Related: Charcoal vs. Gas Grilling: The Great Debate

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.

Turn Once. It’s hard to resist, but try not to flatten your burgers with the spatula. It squeezes out flavorful juices.

Cook burgers properly. 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.

VIDEO: How To Grill the Perfect Basic Burger


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

See our collection of Grilled Burger Recipes.

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