As the weather is warming up and the daylight hours are getting longer, that means more backyard grilling time with family and friends. There are so many great grilling options to choose from, but nothing beats a big juicy hamburger fresh off the grill.
It may be a good idea to brush up on the burger basics so you can grill the best burgers for your next backyard BBQ or tailgate party. Follow these simple steps and become the “Burger King” grill master and serve restaurant-quality burgers!
How about grilling Classic American Cheeseburgers or Bacon Swiss Burgers at the next gathering at home or in the parking lot? These recipes will indeed deliver. Get ready to wow your guests as you grill the best burgers!
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.
"Even allowing for differences in personal tastes, this burger approaches perfection. At first bite, meaty juices will run down your chin and the flavors will remind you just how gratifying an old-fashioned burger can be. There are many ways to personalize these. If you wish, add your mesquite, apple, or hickory wood chips to the grill, or top with bacon. While sliced yellow American cheese is traditional, grated mild cheddar has a bit more flavor, and the shreds melt very readily, too."
Prep: 10 minutesGrill: 8–10 minutesServes 4
1½ pounds ground chuck (80% lean)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 thin slices mild cheddar cheese
4 sesame hamburger buns, split
4 leaves iceberg lettuce, broken to fit the bun
8 slices ripe tomato
8 dill pickle chips
Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat (400°F). In a bowl using your hands, mix together the ground chuck, salt, and pepper.
Gently form four patties of equal size, each about 3/4 inch thick.
With your thumb or the back of a spoon, make a shallow indentation about 1 inch wide in the center of the patties to prevent them from forming a dome as they cook.
Grill the patties over direct medium-high heat, with the lid closed, until cooked to medium doneness (160ºF), 8 to 10 minutes, turning once or twice.
Turn them only when enough crust has developed on the surface of meat that that patties release easily from the grate, without sticking.
During the final minute of grilling time, place a slice cheese on each patty to melt.
Toast the buns, cut side down, over direct heat.
Bacon Swiss Burgers
Excerpted with permission from Weber's Real Grilling by Jamie Purviance, Tim Turner
"Give your basic burger a boost with crispy cooked bacon crumbles and sautéed onions mixed in with the ground chuck before grilling. Topped off with Swiss cheese and sliced tomatoes."
Prep: 20 minutesGrill: 8–10 minutesServes: 4
3 slices bacon
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1½ pound ground chuck (80%lean)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
4 thin slices Swiss cheese
4 hamburger buns, split
8 medium slices tomato
In a large skillet over medium heat on the stove, fry the bacon until crisp, about 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Drain the bacon on paper towels, reserving the drippings in the skillet.
Cook the onion in the skillet with the bacon drippings over medium heat until tender but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and thyme. Continue to cook until the garlic has softened, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the onion mixture to a small bowl and let cool. Finely chop the bacon.
In a medium bowl mix the ground chuck with the Worcestershire, salt, pepper, hot pepper sauce, the onion mixture, and the bacon. Gently form four patties of equal size, each about 3/4 inch thick. With your thumb or the back of a spoon, make a shallow indentation about 1 inch wide in the center of each patty to prevent them from doming as they cook. Refrigerate the patties until ready to grill.
Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat (400° to 500°F).
Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the patties over direct medium-high heat, with the lid closed, until cooked to medium doneness, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once. During the last minute of grilling time, place a slice of cheese on each patty to melt, and grill the hamburger buns, cut side down, until toasted. Build each burger on a bun with a patty, tomatoes, ketchup, and/or mustard. Serve warm.