Excerpted with permission from Weber’s Big Book of Burgers™ by Jamie Purviance, © 2014 Weber-Stephen Products LLC.
1. Meat Matters
Prepackaged “hamburger” often means you get ground scraps of questionable quality. Once that meat has been compressed in a tray, it will never have the loose, tender texture of a great burger. You are much better off with “ground beef” (by law, it can’t include fat scraps), or, if perfection is your goal, buy freshly ground beef from a butcher you trust.
2. Thorough Seasoning
Burgers taste significantly better with seasonings dispersed throughout the meat, not just on the surface. Use salt and pepper at a minimum. Wet ingredients like minced onion, ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce improve not only the taste but also the juiciness. Mix in the seasonings as gently as possible with your fingertips so you don’t compress the texture too much.
3. Portion Control
Inside the bowl, divide the meat into equal portions so that you don’t end up with mismatched sizes. Form each portion into a loose, round ball, and then gently flatten it until it’s 3/4- to 1-inch thick. This is your ideal thickness for giving the surface a nicely charred crust just as the center is reaching a juicy medium doneness.
Most burgers tend to puff up in the middle as they cook, making the tops rounded and awkward for piling on toppings. To avoid this trouble, use your thumb or the back of a spoon to press a shallow indentation in the center of each raw patty. As each patty cooks, that well will fill in and flatten out, giving you a nice level surface instead of a big fat meatball.
5. Handling The Heat
The grill has to be hot (400°F to 500°F) and clean. You have to be cool and patient. Close the lid as soon as the patties hit the grate. Give them 8 to 10 minutes total to reach a medium doneness, turning them only once—any more and you run the risk of ripping the surface before it has turned into a tasty crust. Oh, and don’t ever smash burgers with a spatula! The juices will run out quickly and cause a flare-up.