Nutrition

How to Grill Burgers: 5 Expert Cooking Tips

When it’s too hot to turn on your stove or oven, grilling is the perfect cooking alternative.

An all-time grilling classic is the humble burger, so if you’re looking for the best way to grill burgers, we’re here to walk you through all the steps.

From choosing the best meat, seasoning, and grilling, right down to your very first bite, this is your ultimate grill guide for mouthwatering burgers.

We’ll focus on beef and turkey burgers, but if that doesn’t suit your lifestyle, try recipes for portobello burgers, bean burgers, barley burgers, and more from 7 Healthy Burgers to Try This Summer.

Here’s a five-step guide on how to grill burgers.

Step 1: Choose your ground meat

For juicy grilled burgers that are not too dry, choose ground beef with a higher fat content of around 10% – 20%.

At the grocery store, you’ll see these numbers like 80/20 or 90/10, which means the meat is 80% lean to 20% fat or 90% lean to 10% fat, respectively.

Of course, we know that might be more fat than you’re willing to eat.

Says Holly McKee-Clark, culinary specialist for Beachbody, “A 93% lean (7%) fat ground beef ratio will result in tasty burgers, but not so fatty that you can’t enjoy one every once in a while. The key to juicy but lean burgers is really in the mix-ins.”

Don’t worry. We’ll get to that in the next step!

Burgers cooking on a grill

Step 2: Season and mix burgers

For grilled burgers made with higher fat ground beef, simply add seasoning and work it in with your hands.

Be very careful not to overdo the mixing since it can result in a burger that crumbles and falls apart when eaten. Less is more here.

Common seasonings for grilled burgers include:

  • Salt (required)
  • Pepper
  • Worcestershire
  • Paprika
  • Garlic or onion powder
  • Dried herbs

If you chose to go the leaner route with 93/7 ground beef or turkey, McKee Clark recommends a few additional add-ins:

“Add an egg for binding and moisture. Then, add ¼ cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella along with 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and other spices of your choice.”

“Consider adding a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs to keep the burger from falling apart. This will make the burger of your dreams. One that you won’t feel bad while eating,” she adds.

For more tips, check out How to Make a Healthier Burger.

Step 3: Divide and shape burgers

Now it’s time to divide and shape into patties. Grilled burgers use roughly 4 to 6 ounces of meat before accounting for shrinkage during cooking.

If you started with a pound of meat, simply cut your mixture into quarters.

For precision, use a kitchen scale to weigh out your meat.

Roll the meat into a ball, then flatten it out onto a cutting board with the back of your hand.

To account for shrinkage from grilling, keep flattening until the patty is bigger than your bun.

Ideally, your burger patty is an inch thick or very close to it. Use your fingers to create a slight depression in the center of the patty so the burger doesn’t end up thicker in the middle after cooking.

Bun-buying tip: Keep in mind that the burger patty size should complement the buns you bought.

No one wants a dinky patty that disappears beneath the bread!

We recommend sticking with standard, whole-wheat burger buns, no more than 3-3.5 inches diameter.

Step 4: Grill over hot, clean grates

Raw burgers cooking on a grill

How long to cook burgers on the grill? It depends on if you like it rare, medium, or well-done.

Start by preheating your gas or propane grill to 450-500° F. Spray your grill grates with nonstick cooking spray to prevent sticking.

Place the patties on the grill over direct heat.

How long do you grill burgers on each side?

Start with 2-3 minutes on the first side, then flip. To get the desired doneness, use a meat thermometer and this handy chart:

Doneness Temperature
Rare 120-130 degrees F
Medium rare 130-135 degrees F
Medium 135-145 degrees F
Well done 155 degrees F

Keep in mind that the USDA recommends cooking ground meat to 160° F. Unfortunately, that also means a very well-done burger!

Please use your best judgment when cooking.

Want sultry, smokier burgers?

McKee-Clark adds, “Gas and propane grills take all the guesswork out for you since you can precisely control temperature. Charcoal grills are much harder to maintain a specific temperature, but oh boy, is it worth it to get that sweet, sweet smokey flavor!”

For charcoal grilling, definitely use that meat thermometer.

Finally, how long to grill turkey burgers?

“Place your turkey burgers on a cooler part of the grill (the outside, or not directly over the white-hot coals) and have your trusty meat thermometer close at hand,” recommends McKee-Clark.

“165° F is the safe temperature for eating turkey, and this is no place for medium-rare. You want to pull those bad boys off at 164.99° F, as right on the money to 165° F as you can get; they’ll continue to cook and rise in temperature by about 5° F as they rest,” she adds.

Step 5: Let the burgers rest, then dress them up

Let your grilled burgers rest under an aluminum foil tent for about 10 minutes to seal the juice inside.

Use that time to prepare the fixings because no burger is complete without toasted buns and toppings galore.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Tomatoes
  • Pickles
  • Greens (e.g., lettuce, arugula, spinach)
  • Cheese (e.g., America, cheddar, provolone, blue)
  • Onions (e.g., fresh sliced or grilled)
  • Condiments (e.g., ketchup, mustard, mayo, guac)

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