Backyard grilling is an all American summer-time pastime. You can gather your friends and family for a long evening of eating and enjoying one another’s company. Having a great meal to offer to your guests is a must, and nobody wants to ruin a good time with a burnt, crumbly burger. Perfectly grilled burgers, as simple as they sound, are often the most difficult to achieve.
My tried-and-true, step-by-step tutorial walks you through preparing your meat and grilling it to perfection each and every time. Follow along to see how easy and quick it is to serve up juicy, mouth-watering hamburgers all summer long.
What You Need
This meat prep and grilling technique has been used in my family for years because it results in a perfectly sized, juicy, savory hamburger. There are a few crucial details to pay particular attention to, so be sure to follow the steps carefully.
Charcoal or Gas Grill
Either a charcoal or gas grill works great for hamburgers. Just be sure to make sure you have control over the temperature. I like the smoky flavors of charcoal, but for such a quick meal, propane is my go-to. Burgers don’t cook very long, and propane is much faster.
One to Two Pounds Ground Beef
On average, one pound of ground beef makes four hamburgers. I generally use about two pounds at a time. You can pick up 80/20 ground beef for great prices at the store if you wait until the fresh meat hits the discount section. These are generally getting close to their sell-by date to be considered fresh (usually only a day or two after being ground), and can often be purchased at steep discounts.
I always stock up when I see a surplus, and then freeze what I am not using right away. You can look for a leaner chuck, but the extra fat in an 80/20 helps hold in both moisture and flavor.
Have one egg per pound of meat to help bind the meat and add some moisture. I prefer a fresh egg, as it still has a high water content and the yolk won’t be as concentrated as older eggs. The point is to use it to hold the meat together, but not lend any flavor.
Use approximately two tablespoons per pound of meat. Again, this is to help bind and holds moisture and juices without altering meat texture or flavor. You can use plain breadcrumbs or seasoned bread crumbs. Just make sure they are finely ground.
Salt, Pepper, and Other Seasonings to Taste
Add salt and pepper, as well as onions or onion powder, garlic powder, and any other spices you like for red meat. A pinch of cayenne pepper, as well as red pepper flakes, can add a little zing to the palate.
After mixing in the seasonings, add a little Worcestershire sauce and just gently work it into the meat. This helps tenderize and adds salt to bring out the natural flavors of the meat as well. Even if you don’t like Worcestershire, it is well worth adding since you can’t taste it and it only enhances the recipe.
Olive or Grapeseed Oil
Both these oils have high smoke points and are great for oiling your grill to help keep foods from sticking. I brush it over my clean grates every few hours of cook time to help keep them seasoned and easy to work with.
Store-bought buns aren’t very large, which is why I make this recipe as I do. It results in a hamburger that is about ¼ lb in weight but is somewhere between a slider and an average hamburger size. It is perfect for kids, and won’t make you feel guilty when you go back for seconds… or thirds!
All the Toppings
In my mind, what’s a hamburger without cheese? Use your favorite cheeses, or even use the smoked cheese you hopefully have been experimenting with from my last tutorial. Ketchup, mustard, pickles, tomatoes, onions, and lettuce are all great additions as well. As is bacon! Go crazy: sauteed mushrooms, pickled vegetables, a fried egg—anything goes at your backyard burger party.
7 Steps to Perfect Burgers on Your Backyard Grill
Step 1: Add All Ingredients and Mix
The key to a moist, juicy burger is to not overwork the meat. You still need to incorporate everything together, though, so the trick is to be gentle. Dump all your ingredients except the Worcestershire sauce in a bowl and then gently mix it together with your hands. When the seasoning is evenly incorporated, add the Worcestershire sauce and give it another few good turns.
Don’t overdo it, but make sure it’s consistently mixed in. Then add your Worcestershire and simply turn it a few more times. Let this all sit together in the fridge and incorporate together while you ready your grill. Keep it cold before forming into patties to help the fat keep from melting out. You want it later while it cooks on the grill.
Step 2: Preheat Your Grill
Get your grill up to a medium-high temperature, around 400-450°F. Too high and the grill will quickly cook the outside but leave the inside cool and pink. Too low and you will either dry it out trying to bring your burgers to temperature, or you’ll end up with very undercooked patties, which can be dangerous for you and your guests.
Step 3: Form Meat into Patties
Once your grill is coming up to temperature, form your meat into patties. As mentioned, I make about four patties per pound. This creates a large palm-sized patty that is about an inch or so thick. I have found this size allows them to cook down to the perfect store-bought bun size without leaving too much bread, or too much meat. You can always adjust the size, but for even cooking, it’s important that they’re all about the same thickness.
Again, don’t overwork or over handle them during this step. Simply scoop up and form into the patty to avoid too much heat from your hands melting the fat, or compressing the meat.
Step 4: Place Hamburger Patties on the Grill
Oil your grates. Place your patties on the grill, making sure you space them out. If one area of your grill is hotter than the rest, the burgers placed in that area will cook more quickly. Check for hot spots and adjust your patty placement as needed to cook them uniformly. When you’re happy with your positioning, close up the grill.
Step 5: Flip Halfway through Cooking
How long you cook depends on how you prefer your burger. Keep the following in mind:
- Rare Burgers: 4 to 5 minutes, flipping halfway (~ 125°F inside)
- Medium-Rare: 5 to 6 minutes, flipping halfway (~135°F inside)
- Medium: 7 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway (~145°F inside)
- Medium-Well: 9 to 10 minutes, flipping halfway (~160°F inside)
- Well Done: First off, why? Second, this is a charcoal briquette. But if you insist, flip halfway and try to get to 165-170°F.
After flipping, cover back up and watch your time. Don’t press the burgers flat with the spatula.
DO NOT PRESS THE BURGERS WITH THE SPATULA.
This is the biggest rookie mistake, and the fastest way to ruin your backyard BBQ. You don’t want to lose the moisture in the meat. I like to stand over the grill with a cold drink in hand and act important while I wait.
Step 6: Add Cheese
Once cooked, if you are going to add cheese, this is when you will do it. Add it, cover up the grill, turn off the propane, and wait about a minute or two. This will melt the cheese but keep it from getting too messy. You can also put your buns on the bun warmer at this time as well.
Step 7: Enjoy!
We had to add a bit of bacon to our burgers as well, but as you can see, they came out perfectly! The ingredients helped keep the burger from falling apart and held the fats inside to allow them to cook within the meat instead of dripping down in the grill.
Of course, I did lose some moisture as I cooked, but all it served to do was create some small flame flare-ups that helped add great flavor to the meat. These burgers were melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
Cooking burgers doesn’t have to result in flavorless briquettes of ground beef you have to spruce up with condiments and cheese. Rather, remember to use the ingredients that will help bind your meat and flavors together while it cooks, and make sure not to over handle the meat as you prepare it. Also, cook it only briefly on each side to avoid overcooking and drying out the meat.
We would love the opportunity to answer any questions you have, and, as always, please share!