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When the weather turns warm and the lure of the backyard barbecue takes over, one person’s craving overtakes all others: a big, juicy burger. But whether you’re new to grilling burgers or a seasoned pro – or you’re cooking for someone who prefers different levels of doneness – it’s a good idea to stop and read our How to Grill Burgers guide (and the time to grill them) for optimal satisfaction.

Choosing the best burger meat
Ground chuck is a great versatile, buy-anywhere option for burger recipes. Whatever you do, look for beef with a fat content of 20%. An 80/20 ratio is the key to creating the perfect burger that’s juicy but not greasy. Want to try a custom blend? Go for it. Let your butcher grind up a partial chuck with short ribs or brisket and live your most customized life.

No roast beef patty? The alternatives are endless: chicken burgers, turkey burgers, even salmon burgers! Choose dark meat poultry, fatty fish or ground pork or lamb shoulder (or black beans and quinoa if you want a veggie burger). Please note that poultry or seafood patties should be fully cooked. Medium rare does not look good on chicken or fish burgers. Otherwise, the following rules should apply to any beef burger.

Shape those burgers correctly
When making burgers for the grill, aim for ¾” to 1″ thick and 3″ to 4″ in diameter. The burgers will shrink slightly as they cook, so you want the raw patties to be slightly larger than the small round buns they end up on. Make a small dimple in the center of the patty – this indentation will prevent your burger from expanding like a balloon and ensure that the patty is even and beautiful. Work quickly but gently and don’t over-compress the patty: the enemy of any burger is overworked meat.

Season your burger properly
Avoid mixing seasonings into the burger meat. Adding salt to ground beef too soon will make it tough. Instead, season the patties with plenty of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper after they’ve been formed and just before you plan to bring them to the grill.

How to cook burgers on the grill
Set your gas grill to high and give it a few minutes to preheat, or prepare a charcoal grill for direct heat. Brush off those grill grates to remove anything stuck in the bits, then wipe them clean with paper towels, tongs and neutral oil so your burgers don’t stick.

The total time required to grill your burgers will fluctuate depending on the temperature of the grill and the size of the burger patties. Whatever your idea of a “cooked burger,” use the time suggestions below as your picnic guide, not a rule.

How long to grill a burger
Medium rare: 6-7 minutes total

Medium: 7-8 minutes total

Medium hole: 9 minutes total

Well done: 10 minutes total

While approximate grill times can definitely help bring your burgers to temperature, checking the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer is the surest way to know that your burgers are cooked to perfection.

Internal temperature of burgers
Medium rare: 130°-135°F

Medium: 140°-145°F

Medium Well: 150°-155°F

Well done: 160°F

Other than checking the temperature occasionally, leave the patty alone once it hits the grill, aiming to flip it once midway through the cooking time. Resist the urge to press the patty, which can cause a sudden attack and result in a dry burger that you won’t regret.

Tips for making better burgers
For the perfect cheeseburger – because who doesn’t want a cheeseburger – slap on a slice of cheese once you’ve flipped the burger and covered the grill at the last minute of cooking. American cheese is classic and melts like no other, but you can substitute cheddar for a sharper cheese, or pair it with pepper jack, Swiss, muenster or whatever cheese you like. Keeping the heat in the grill will cause the cheese to melt quickly and evenly, which means the burger will be very gooey by the time it’s done cooking.

Also important: don’t leave the burgers in the dust (i.e., in the plastic bag). Express your love for the little round buns by placing them on the hot grill for a few minutes to develop a delicious char and toasty texture. Last but not least, spread the buns with a special burger sauce. Our favorite basics are: mayonnaise, ketchup, a little seasoning and some Worcestershire. Or hurry up and choose your own condiment adventure.


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