Would you eat a hockey puck? What about a ball of dripping paper mache? I wouldn’t either, especially if it just came off a grill and was served on a toasted bun with cheddar cheese, mustard, onions and ketchup.
That’s why cooking the perfect hamburger is important to me and, hopefully, most grillers around the world. Now, of course, everyone likes their burger cooked differently, as I stray more toward hockey puck, while others lean to pink paper mache.
But as long as they stay in the sweet spot that won’t get you sick/require three bottles of water to get down, a burger off a grill is one of the best meals in the world. Thanks to some tips from grill companies and some tips from regular grillers like myself, this article is here to make sure you get your perfect burger.
Buying the patties
Everyone has their own preference on patties, as some make their own with different seasonings and ingredients like onions or other fixins. For the most part, I just go with the flat store-bought patties that are about a quarter of an inch, though both Kingsford and Char-Broil say ¾ of an inch is best.
And if you’re using a thicker burger, it’s common knowledge to put a little imprint on one side with your thumb, so the burger doesn’t rise up and you’re not eating a tennis ball.
Heating the grill
I’m an impatient person, so when I cook in the oven, I’m always tempted to put my food in as the oven preheats, which has led to some nasty meals over the years. Now, I have to practice patience with the oven and the same can be said of the grill.
Making sure to preheat the grill is absolutely key and is one of our first recommendations from our grilling guide for any type of food, otherwise you could end up with a burnt outside and an undercooked inside.
According to Kingsford, you want the grill at medium/high heat, whether it’s charcoal or gas, which means you should be able to hold your hand above the grate for five-to-six seconds before it’s too hot.
Cooking the burgers
This is one of the biggest reasons why burgers can come out poorly. Timing is everything.
Working at a sandwich shop for a summer saw me manning the grill a couple of times, where I was told you can tell how cooked a burger is from the color of the juices coming out of it. Obviously, the redder the juice, the less cooked it is. Therefore, I usually eyeball my burgers for medium-well when there’s no red juices, just clear.
But to be perfectly sure, Char-Broil has a timing guide for each type of burger. Each one cooks on one side for three minutes, then on the other for a longer period of time depending on how well-done it is.
Weber also weighed in, saying the perfect cooking time for a ¾-inch patty is eight-to-ten minutes on medium, which matches Char-Broil’s assessment pretty well.
But it should be noted that these specifications are for ¾-inch patties, which means there’s adjustment for the size and type, of course. That’s where the eyeballing can help.
And just as a tip, when I’m cooking for a large group of people, unless there’s a specific request, I tend to overcook just a tiny bit to make sure every burger is done, because all it takes is one person out of 28 getting salmonella and my grill privileges are revoked.
Grilling the burger
When I first started grilling, I was flipping burgers haphazardly like Spongebob Squarepants every time I saw fit and throwing it over the flames to try to mimic a Burger King commercial. Those were bad ideas.
I was told once by a friend over 40-years older than me that burgers should only be flipped once to keep the juices in and since then, I’ve tried to stick to that tenet and both Kingsford and Char-Broil agreed.
Another thing I learned is about positioning. While I was taught by the aforementioned Burger King commercial (no slight to the Whopper intended) to get that burger right on the flame, that’s not the way to go. The burger can get too charred or dry and not cook evenly.
If your grill is emitting some flame, slide that burger away if possible. And if one burger looks done while another is not, slide it over to a cooler part of the grill to keep it warm while the other one finishes up.
And lastly, stop opening the grill so much. It’s fun to poke and prod the burgers and watch them cook, but it’s letting out heat and will make it take longer while potentially overcooking or undercooking the food. My rule of thumb is I check once before flipping and once or twice after flipping.
Perfecting cheese and buns
For me, no burger is complete without some cheddar cheese and a toasted sesame bun. But whatever your choices are, you don’t want un-melted cheese or a burnt bun.
Everyone has a different strategy, putting cheese on for the last minute of cooking or putting buns on and taking them off for a few minutes while the burgers finish.
What works for me is once the burgers are basically done, I put the cheese on them and put the buns on the grill then turn it off before closing the lid. After letting it sit for a minute or two, the burgers are cooked but not overcooked, the buns are still charred from the hot grate and the cheese is perfectly melted.
Taking the burger off
Steaks need to rest, angering rumbling stomachs. Burgers, thankfully, do not. You can pull it off the grill, throw it on a bun and chow down.
But if you’re cooking for a group or can’t serve them right away, toss them in a tin baking pan and throw some foil over the top. It’s easy to serve out of and will keep them warm for a bit before you dig in.
Using the right utensils
And last but not least, make sure you’re doing it all with the right tools.
I’ve had to cook a burger with a fork or something of the like in lieu of a spatula or tongs, but after a mess that includes dropped patties and burnt fingers, it’s time to upgrade and Reviewed has you covered.
So happy grilling, and if you’ve bought/cooked too much and are looking for something to do with your leftovers, we’ve got you covered there too.