Exactly How to Make the Best Grilled Burgers on a Weeknight
Burgers are easy to make and are a great excuse to spend time at the grill rather than in the hot kitchen. Plus, they come together fast and are a total crowd-pleaser. In fact, we'd go as far as saying burgers are probably the ultimate summer weeknight dinner. Since properly preparing this classic grilled meal does require a little bit of legwork, we're sharing our tips for perfect burgers, including how to choose the right ground beef, grilling tips, and our favorite toppings to make your meal extra delicious.
When you're shopping for ground beef, keep an eye out for two things at the meat counter: fat content and quality. Don't go with lean ground beef because it dries out on the grill, but you also want to avoid too much fat in the meat, as this can leach out and cause flareups. Instead, look for meat in the sweet spot around 15-20 percent fat, that's 85-80 percent lean. It's also important to choose a good quality ground beef. We like grass fed, but seek out the best quality your store offers, as it will make a huge difference to the patties.
Forming the Patties
The most tender burgers take the least amount of work. Overworking the meat by mixing seasoning into it before forming the patties or overforming the patties and compressing the meat creates tough burgers. Take it easy; loosely form a meat into a patty, that's it.
What size patties are the best? This is open to interpretation, but we think a good standard is a one-inch patty made from about six ounces of meat is the gold-standard. Form the patties into an even thickness which promotes an appealingly charred crust on the outside and a juicy medium to medium-rare center. This size of patty when cooked fits perfectly on the average hamburger bun. To maintain the patty shape on the grill, form a one-inch indent in the center, it shrinks up as the meat cooks so the patty doesn't have a hole in the middle. Then, season the outside liberally with salt and pepper.
Preheat the Grill
Before you start forming the patties, go ahead and turn on the grill so it can preheat for about 15 minutes. While we recommend getting the grill nice and hot for that perfect char, it also helps to set up a cooler zone for warming the buns or transfer the burgers to if they need a few more minutes but the char is set on the outside.
Prep the Grill
Once the grill is hot, clean and oil the grates. This prevents sticking and also prevents the meal from picking up old, crusty remnants of previous grill outs. This tip is true for anything you grill; we can't emphasize enough how important it is.
Grilled food needs a moment to develop the char and to release from the grill. For a six-ounce patty, six to eight minutes per side should produce a perfect medium-rare burger. Flip the burgers once, there is no reason to flip more than once.
It may be tempting to press or smush the hamburger patty into the grill with a spatula—some cooks believe this speeds up cooking or benefits the burgers in some way—but don't. Pressing releases juices, fat, and moisture from the burger into the grill which can create flare ups and also releases yumminess, diminishing the quality of the final burger.
Time the Cheese Right
For cheeseburgers, wait to add the cheese until the last minute or two of cooking. Then, place the slices on top and close the grill. The cover acts like an oven melting the cheese evenly.
Get to the Bun Fast
A grilled burger isn't the same as a grilled steak which needs a rest to lock in juices; it's at its juiciest and most tender right off the grill. Remove the patty from the grill directly into the bun. As for those buns? Select soft butter buns that have a little give so you can really bite into the burger. We love brioche, classic sesame seed, and potato rolls.
Serve with a Toppings Bar
Even if it's just some standard toppings, create a bar of options so everything is ready to go when the burger comes off the grill and each person can customize their burger how they like. Slice tomatoes and clean lettuce leaves, then add whatever it is that makes the perfect burger for your crew. Ketchup, mustard, and pickles are standbys, but consider adding something different to the mix like grilled onions, sliced avocado, bacon, or prepare a special sauce.
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