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When it comes to small backyard barbecues, there is nothing like a mouthwatering, flame-kissed burger on a toasted bun with all the fixings to satisfy your hunger cravings! Up your summer grilling game with all my best tips and tricks for how to grill burgers so they turn out juicy and amazing every time.
We love to cook on the grill during the summer months, and it’s not just burgers. Some of our other favorite things to grill are blackened salmon tacos, sides like grilled corn salad, and even dessert like grilled peaches with ice cream!
It’s summer! Time to fire up that grill!
You don’t have to be a burger connoisseur to truly appreciate a properly cooked, tantalizingly juicy burger. But most people seem to agree that homemade burgers are so different from fast food burgers that they are practically a different thing entirely.
When I was a kid learning how to grill, I LOVED to press our burgers with the flat back of the spatula. But the sizzle you hear as you see juices running down the sides of the burger into the flames below isn’t worth it! Leave the juices inside the burger and enjoy them with your tastebuds. It’s much more satisfying.
In this post I’m sharing all my tips, tricks, and knowledge for making the best burgers ever on your backyard grill, whether you use charcoal or gas! If you are one of those people who don’t want to read a whole post full of tips and tricks, here are the three biggest takeaways, then you can just jump to the recipe and get to work.
- Don’t overhandle the meat
- Flip the burgers just once
- Never press on the burgers with a spatula while they are grilling
For more detail and info on the WHY behind each of these tips, keep reading!
How to make burgers
I don’t recommend using preformed patties. Frozen or not, pre-made patties from the store are never as good as hand-formed patties made with fresh ground beef.
For the best, juiciest burgers, you will want to buy fresh ground beef and shape the burger patties by hand. Here’s how!
Choose the right meat
When it comes to beef burgers, you want a meat that isn’t too lean so the burgers will have the best flavor and stay juicy. While I prefer lean ground beef for other recipes, when making burgers my preference is 80/20, or 85/15 at the most. Freshly ground beef is best. You can even ask the butcher at the store to grind the meat fresh for you, or do it at home using a meat grinder and using sirloin, chuck, and/or brisket, which all have good flavor and a good fat to meat ratio.
Gently press the burgers into patties
Divide your ground beef into the number of burgers you want to make so they will all be a uniform size. Our preference is to make burgers that are around 1/3-pound each.
Use your hands to gently press the burgers into flat patties of an even thickness about 1/2-inch larger than the buns you plan to use. Try not to overwork the meat, but it’s okay to squeeze it together a bit around the edges so the burger doesn’t crumble when transferring it to the grill.
Make a small indentation in the center of each burger with your thumb. This will help the burgers cook more evenly and not puff up on the grill.
Season the burgers well
This might be divisive, but I recommend only seasoning the OUTSIDE of the meat, rather than mixing the seasoning into the meat. It helps the meat develop a flavorful crust and you still get the flavor in every bite. This approach also helps avoid overworking the meat.
A generous sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides of the burger makes a world of difference. Those larger kosher salt crystals do a much better job of drawing the moisture out of a burger, resulting in a juicier burger with better flavor than one seasoned with regular table salt. Even if this is all you do to your burgers, you will be amazed at what a difference you see in the final result.
You can also use your favorite burger seasonings or rubs from other recipes. Cajun seasoning, BBQ rubs, Montreal steak seasoning, and other blends can all make for excellent burgers. I tend to like spice blends with a little garlic in them, but be sure to watch out for rubs or spice blends with a lot of salt in them. You may need to adjust your base seasoning of salt and pepper for this by using a little bit less.
Season the meat before putting it on the grill and try to sprinkle the salt and pepper from at least 10 inches above the burger patties for more even coverage.
Grill temp for burgers
When grilling burgers, you want the grill temperature to be around medium-high to high heat, which is around 375 to 400 degrees F. Many gas grills have built in thermometers, but often they tend to be not super reliable. You can get an inexpensive grilling thermometer to help you dial in your temperature for easier grilling and more consistent results.
How long to cook burgers on grill
If the grill is properly heated, most burgers are going to take around 6 to 10 minutes on the grill, especially if you are going for a nice medium cook with just a hint of pink inside. Keep in mind that you might need more or less time depending on how large your burgers are and the temperature of your meat and grill when you start cooking them.
The USDA guidelines for ground beef call for cooking to 160 degrees F, although the temperature will rise about 5 degrees after removing from the grill, so you can pull them off sooner than that at 155 degrees F and rely on this “carryover cooking” residual heat to help them get the rest of the way there.
Plan on 3-5 minutes for each side, flipping only once, for the burgers to char nicely and cook through but still have just a little bit of pink in the middle, which is how I like them. If you prefer burgers that are medium-well or well done, they will just need to grill a couple minutes longer.
As a general guide, here is how long burgers take to cook to reach a desired level of doneness:
- Rare: 5-6 minutes total
- Medium-rare: 6-7 minutes total
- Medium: 8-9 minutes total
- Medium-well to well-done: 9+ minutes total
Do you need a binder?
Sometimes people feel like they need to add an egg or breadcrumbs or something to make ground beef it stick together better on the grill, but it really is unnecessary. Stick with just the ground beef and seasonings for the best burger experience. I find that that burgers made that way come out much juicier than burgers made with a binder. Besides, hand-shaped patty made with beef with a 15-20% fat content will hold together just fine on the grill all on its own.
Can you make burgers ahead of time?
You can shape and season your burger patties up to 6 hours in advance and keep them in the fridge covered in plastic wrap until you are ready to grill. I recommend letting them sit out at room temperature for 10-15 minutes first though to take off the chill before they hit the hot grill for more even cooking.
My tips & tricks for the best burgers
- Don’t go too lean with your meat selection. A little extra fat is your friend when it comes to really excellent, flavorful burgers. Remember to use meat with a 15-20% fat content for the best burgers.
- Season the meat well! Use coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to season the meat AFTER shaping them, rather than mixing it in, which can overwork the meat. Most people underseason their burger patties, which results in bland burgers. Season from high above the patty – at least 10 inches – to get more even coverage and season those patties to perfection.
- Make sure the patties have an even thickness. Press the patties flat to about 3/4- to 1-inch thickness with your hands, a flat-bottomed plate, or a burger press, if you have one. Also, you can make sure your patties are the same size by using a kitchen scale to weigh them before you shape them.
- Make your patties about 1/2-inch wider than the buns. Burgers tend to shrink as they cook, so you need to account for that when shaping your patties.
- Make an indent in the center of each burger patty with your fingers. This will help keep the burgers nice and flat while they grill and prevent them from balling up.
- Clean your grill grates before you begin cooking. Preheat the grill and use a grill brush to make sure the grates are clean. You may even want to rub them with a little oil by soaking a couple of paper towels in oil first and using tongs to rub the grill grates with the paper towels if you have had trouble with burgers sticking in the past. Taking care of your grill like this not only extends the life of your grill, which can be an expensive investment, but it also ensures the tastiest results from your grilling! Also, remember to clean your grill AFTER cooking while it is still hot so that it is ready for your next backyard cookout!
- NEVER press the burgers while they are on the grill! It’s so tempting to press on the burgers with a spatula while they are grilling, either to flatten them out or to hear the sizzle they make as the fat hits the flame or coals below. But that is the sound of the flavorful juices being lost! Resist the urge to press!
- Flip only once! Frequent flipping doesn’t allow the burgers to cook as evenly and results in lost juices and dry burgers. As long as you start the burgers on a clean, preheated grill, they will release and flip easily once they have seared on one side for 3-5 minutes and finish cooking on the other side, without needing to be flipped multiple times.
Do you grill burgers with the lid open or closed?
I always close the lid when grilling my burgers, but truthfully, when cooking things like burgers over high heat, the lid doesn’t make much of a difference. Mostly I find it helpful to make sure the cheese is completely melted. And it also helps to put the lid back on when dealing with windy conditions, which we often have where we live.
What to do if the weather really won’t cooperate
We personally prefer burgers that are grilled outside, but sometimes that’s just not possible when the weather is bad. In that case, you can always make your burgers indoors in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop.
Just drizzle a little olive oil into a heavy duty pan set over high heat, then sear like the burgers by placing them in the pan and leaving them alone! Treat them like you would any good steak and don’t move them around for at least 3-5 minutes so they can develop a nice crust on one side before flipping and cooking on the other side, just like on the grill.
Burger construction: building a better burger
Once you have your burger game in place, think about the condiments and toppings you want to serve with them. Ketchup, mustard, and mayo are all traditional, with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles for classic burger fixings.
Soft, pillowy burger buns make such a huge difference in your burger game, so don’t waste your time on boring, stale buns from the store. Brioche buns are the best for burgers, in my opinion, but potato rolls are good too. We love our buns toasted on the grill during the last minute or two of cooking our burgers!
I’m probably the last person to realize this, but I recently learned that if you place your lettuce under the burger it will help keep the bottom bun from getting soggy.
Don’t forget the toppings!
- How to Make Aioli
- Crispy Fried Onion Strings
- Oven Baked Bacon
- Bacon Jam
- Alabama White BBQ Sauce
- Other favorite BBQ sauce
- Sauteed mushrooms
- Caramelized onions
- 1 1/2 pounds 80/20 or 85/15 ground beef
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Tomatoes, sliced thick
- Onions, sliced
- Condiments like ketchup, mustard, and mayo
- Dill pickle slices
- Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to reach medium-high heat, around 375 to 400 degrees F. Brush the grill grates to make sure they are clean.
- Divide the ground beef into 4 equal portions. Use your hands to gently shape the meat into patties that are each about 3/4- to 1-inch thick and slightly larger than the buns you plan to use. Make an indentation in the center of each patty with your thumb to help the burgers cook more evenly and stay flat on the grill.
- Season the burgers generously on both sides with kosher salt and pepper. You can also use your favorite burger seasoning, if you like.
- Place the burgers on the hot grill and cook for 3-5 minutes to sear on the bottom.
- Flip and cook for another 3-5 minutes on the other side, until you reach your desired degree of doneness. Plan on 5-6 minutes total for rare, 6-7 minutes total for medium-rare, 8-9 minutes total for medium, and 9+ minutes for well-done. If adding cheese, place the slices on top of the burgers during the last 2 minutes of grilling so it can melt.
- Remove the burgers from the grill and let the rest for 5 minutes before serving so the juices can redistribute.
- Assemble the burgers with lettuce and tomato on the bottom bun, followed by the burger and other toppings and the top bun.
- Keep in mind that the burgers will cook differently depending on the size of your patties and just how hot the grill is. USDA guidelines call for ground beef to be cooked to 160 degrees F, although the temperature will continue to rise about 5 degrees after removing the burgers from the grill.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 228Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 45mgSodium: 408mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 15g
The calories are just for roughly 1/3-pound burger patties themselves and do not include cheese, buns, or other toppings.