How to Grill the Best Burgers

VideoFavorite SummerGrillBurger

We tested all sorts of methods for mixing, shaping, and grilling backyard burgers, and even talked with grilling expert Steven Raichlen! Here is our take on the perfect grilled burger.

Photography Credit: Nick Evans

Grilling season is upon us, and this year I’ve decided to master the art of America’s summertime grilling favorite—the hamburger.

My aim: a burger that is easy to throw together on a weeknight, flavorful enough to stand up to the person who adds every condiment known to mankind to his or her burger, and yet balanced enough to satisfy the minimalist burger eater (ketchup only, please!).

Video! How to Grill the Best Burgers


Steven Raichlen, author of more than 30 books, founder of BBQ University, and television host to multiple shows on the subject of grilling and smoking, including the recently released Project Fire, generously took time out of his day to teach me a few things about how to grill the perfect burger. We discussed charcoal verses gas grills, the best fat to meat ratio, and one mistake newbies make when tackling the all-beef patty.

Armed with information from Raichlen, a mountain of research, my own experiences, and emails from friends and family members, I set out to make my version of a Classic Backyard Burger.

How to Make the Best Burgers on the Grill heat the grill How to Grill Burgers grill the burgers


Just like you want to use a clean skillet with a little oil to cook dinner on the stovetop, you want to start with a clean grill with oiled grill grates when making dinner on the grill.

Raichlen suggest starting by scrubbing your grill grates with a grill brush to remove any built-up residue from past meals. Then oil the grill by dipping a folded paper towel in oil and using grilling tongs to rub the oil soaked towel on the grates.


A burger can be seasoned a hundred ways to Sunday, but it means nothing without a solid foundation. For a juicy, flavorful burger, skip the extra-lean ground beef patty blends and use ground beef with a higher fat content.

Ground beef with an 80/20 mix is the best for grilled burgers—this means a mix 80 percent lean beef and 20 percent fat. The 80/20 ground beef you would buy in the supermarket is usually ground chuck, which is great for burgers. (Something leaner like 90/10 is usually ground sirloin, which tends to dry out when cooked over the high heat of the grill.)

Raichlen actually prefers mixing ground chuck and ground sirloin to create his own mix of 80 to 83 percent beef and 17 to 20 percent fat

I opted for 80/20 ground chuck because it’s easily available in most supermarkets, but don’t be afraid to ask your butcher to grind your own blend or grind a higher fat-to-beef ratio.


The heat from your hands combined with room-temp ground beef can melt and smear the fat. This prevents the fat from binding with the lean meat, causing too much of it to render during the cooking process, resulting in a dry, dense burger. 

The solution is to keep the meat cold and shape the patties as quickly as possible.

Leave the ground beef in the refrigerator until you’re ready to season it and form the patties. Then mix the ground beef just until it comes together and not a second more. Form it into patties and put them back in the fridge until you are ready to grill.


Less is more when it comes to mixing the ground beef and forming patties. If you’ve eaten a burger that crumbles apart as you eat it, that was mostly likely a result of someone overworking the beef. The results are similar to what happens with a broken emulsion. You are trying to get the fat and the protein to bind together, but if you overmix it, you will “break” the binding, causing your burger to dry out, crumble, and lose flavor.

  • Here’s what to do: Evenly sprinkle your seasonings over the ground beef and use your hands to fold them in gently.
  • How to know when the meat is fully mixed? Years ago, an old friend of mine who is a charcuterie expert and chef taught me a little trick. After mixing your ground beef with any spices or other add-in ingredients, take a piece the about the size of a quarter and flatten it to the palm of your hand. Turn your palm down. If the meat sticks, you’re good to go.


Some people like the idea of a huge hamburger patty spilling out over the edges of the bun, and some believe it should be a perfect fit (I fall into the latter category). But no one wants a burger that’s smaller than the bun.

To correctly size your patties to fit on your buns, make your burgers about 1-inch thick at the edges, and one inch larger than the bun.

This takes into account the inevitable shrinkage that happens during cooking.

Grilled Burger Recipe make the divot in the patties


All over the Internet and in cookbooks, you will find burger recipes that will instruct you to make an indentation in the center of the patties, usually about the size of a thumbprint or a tablespoon.

The goal of “dimpling” is to prevent the burger from puffing up in the center. But does it really work? Like everyone else, I wanted to prevent puffing, but I also wanted to minimize shrinkage with my burgers, so I tested it out.

I found that a thumbprint or tablespoon indentation prevented center puffing, but the burgers still shrank. Making a wide, shallow depression in the patty, however, worked like a charm. Think of a salad plate rather than a donut.

  • Shape your patties so the outer 1/2-inch of the patty slightly taller than the middle. 

One more tip: Rather than smash the patties together in your hands, place approximately 5 oz of meat on a tray or platter lined with parchment. Gently flatten the top of the burger and make your wide shallow depression (“dimple”) with one hand while pressing your other hand against the sides form a circle. This creates a depression without overheating or overworking the ground beef.


For Raichlan, the best choice for grilling burgers is always wood or charcoal because of the additional flavor and charring that happens with those grills.

“It’s more versatile. You get a hotter, drier heat which give you a better sear,” Raichlan said. If you use charcoal, you can add different kinds of wood to contribute to the smokiness and enhance the overall flavor of the burger.

However, millions of Americans prefer gas grills because they are easy to use, and you don’t have as much of a mess. Don’t worry—you can still cook a great burger on a gas grill!

  • To grill with charcoal or wood, Raichlan recommends investing in a chimney starter. It’s a tall box or cylinder with holes in it. Paper is crumpled up in the bottom and the coals reset on top. Position the chimney starter on the bottom of grate of your grill, and light the paper. You will have hot coals in 15 to 20 minutes.
  • If you’re using a gas grill, open the lid, turn on the gas, and light the grill. You want to get your grill up to 450 to 500 degrees before adding your patties.

How to Grill Burgers serve the burgers


In general, follow these total grilling times:

  • For rare burgers, cook for 4 minutes total (125°F)
  • For medium-rare burgers, cook for 5 minutes total (135°F)
  • For medium burgers, cook for 6 to 7 minutes total (145°F)
  • For well-done burgers, cook for 8 to 9 minutes total (160 °F)

Please note that the USDA recommends cooking ground meats to an internal temperature of at least 160°F, which is well done without any pink in the center. Cooking burgers to other degrees of doneness should be done at the cook’s discretion.

All this said, ultimately, the time it takes for a hamburger to reach a certain temperature depends on how hot your grill is and how thick your patty is. In my tests, my 1-inch thick, 4-inch diameter patties were medium done at 5 minutes total (2 1/2 minutes on each side), and well done at 6 minutes total (3 minutes on each side).

Raichlen suggests checking the temperature of the burger by inserting the meat thermometer through the side, not through the top; this gives you a more accurate reading. You can also use Elise’s handy dandy finger-test guide.


Once you put those patties on the grill, don’t press them down. Pressing forces the fat and flavor out the burgers, which results in dry, bland patties.

However, feel free to frequently flip your burgers. Raichlen once believed it was best to let the burger be and only flip once during cooking, but he has since changed his tune and sites research that says it frequent flipping cooks a burger more evenly.

Grilled Burger Recipe add the cheese


Add cheese about 1 minute before the burger is finished cooking. Some of my favorite flavors are Swiss, cheddar, and Havarti.


I’m a toasted brioche bun kind of girl. They are rich with butter and sturdy enough to hold all of my fixings and my burger, but also they squish down and are easy to bite through.

Whichever buns you prefer, butter the top and bottom of the bun, and then plop them on the back of the grill, out of direct heat, until they are golden. Start toasting the buns when you have a minute left on the patties.


Resting isn’t just for humans. Let the burgers rest for a minute after they come off the grill. This allows time for the juices to redistribute throughout the burger, giving you a more flavorful experience.


Once you’ve mastered the basic burger in the recipe below, feel free to get funky with your flavors.

You can blend different cuts of meat, add mushrooms, anchovies, herbs, or cubes of cheese. I’m a big fan of lemon zest in my burgers, because it helps cut the fatty flavor of the beef. Ultimately, the choice is yours. As long as the patty is meaty and juicy, you can’t go wrong.


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Updated June 23, 2020 : We spiffed up this post with a brand new video. Enjoy!

How to Grill the Best Burgers

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 6 burgers

This recipe will make six burgers that are 1/3 pound each. The patties should be 4-inches across and 1-inch thick at the edges before cooking.

I like hamburgers with a bit of a garlic kick, so if you prefer a subtler garlic flavor, feel free to reduce the amount to your liking or eliminate altogether.


  • 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef, cold
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 hamburger buns
  • Butter for buns


1 Make the burger mix: Put the cold ground beef in mixing bowl. Sprinkle the other ingredients evenly over top. Fold the meat over a few times to get everything incorporated. This entire process should only take about 30 to 45 seconds. Don’t over handle the meat.

Ingredients for the best burgers include ground beef, garlic, onions, Worcestershire sauce, ground pepper, and salt Mix the ground beef and seasonings for grilled burgers together with your hands.

2 Shape the burger patties: Rather than forming the patties in your hand, form them on a tray. This makes it easier to shape the patties without over-handling or warming the meat. I like to use a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, but any tray or platter will do.

On the tray, divide the meat into 6 equal parts (about 5 1/4 ounces each). Gently form each portion into a patty that is 4-inches across with 1-inch sides and a shallow depression in the middle (see photos below). You want the outer 1/2 inch of the patty to be slightly taller than the inside. This keeps the patty from shrinking too much and from puffing up in the center during grilling

Cover the patties with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge while you heat up your grill and butter your buns.

Form patties for the best burgers with a wide dimple or divot in the middle Your burger patties should be about 4 inches across with 1-inch sides and a depression in the middle

3 Heat the grill: Heat a gas or charcoal grill to 450 to 500°F, or hot enough that you can only hold your hand above the grill grates for about 1 second.

Butter the insides of all the buns and set them near the grill.

The grill for cooking the best grilled burgers is ready when you can hold your hand above it for one second

4 Grill the burgers: Place patties on the grill over direct heat. Cook to your desired doneness:

For rare burgers, cook for 4 minutes total (125°F)

For medium-rare burgers, cook for 5 minutes total (135°F)

For medium burgers, cook for 6 to 7 minutes total (145°F)

For well-done burgers, cook for 8 to 9 minutes total (160°F)

Flip the burgers at least once during cooking, or as often as you wish. Do not press down on the patties at any time.

Place the burger patties over direct heat. Flip your patties for the best grilled burgers at least once or as often as you wish.

5 Add the cheese and toast the buns: When you have about 1 minute left on the cooking time, add the cheese to the burgers and the buttered buns to the grill over indirect heat.

Top your grilled burgers with cheese when there's about a minute left to cook.

6 Rest the burgers: Remove burgers and buns from grill and transfer to a clean platter. Let the burgers rest for 1 minute before serving.

After grilling, let the burgers rest on a platter for a minute

7 Serve: Serve with tomato jam, mayonnaise, bacon jam, garlic aioli, blue cheese sauce, sautéed mushrooms, Thousand Island, or the classic and always wonderful lettuce, tomato, pickles and red onion.

Top your grilled burger with onions, tomatoes, and all your favorite toppings

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Summer Miller

Summer Miller is the Senior Editor for Simply Recipes based in Nebraska. Her work has appeared in Bon Appetit, Eating Well, Grit, SAVEUR, and Every Day with Rachael Ray, among others. Her first book is New Prairie Kitchen (Agate Publishing, 2015).

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77 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Nancy Sulse

    Thank you for all this great info. Yesterday’s burgers were the best I’ve ever made and the fam devoured them. Beef I had been using was too lean and (gas) grill temp wasn’t hot enough – so typically a dry burger for both reasons. This entire combination of steps led to the best darn burger ever! And btw, topped it off with one of own free-range eggs. Perfection. Should have gotten 4 lbs. of hamburger for the six of us.


  2. Kaye

    I did this today for lunch and had great success! I’m so grateful for all the details on this post. I think previously I hadn’t waited for the grill to get to 450 degrees, which resulted in a weaker sear, and crumbly burgers. I used premade frozen patties from Costco, thawed to room temp. Then pressed into that shape. They fit perfectly on the brioche buns I had.

    I did 3m on one side, flipped, and added cheese on top & added buttered buns to the top rack of the grill for the remaining 2 minutes. Thanks so much for sharing, now I feel confident knowing I can make great burgers at home.


  3. Terri

    Followed directions exactly. No bread crumbs Or an egg ( I normally do one or the other). All burgers totally fell apart on the gas grill. My husband usually only flips when cooked 1/2 way but, told him to flip a bit more frequently. Not a fan of Raichlen. Won’t follow any more of his recipes. I have liked many of your recipes before so not blaming you for this one!


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  4. Ray

    Great recipe! I added paprika to the meat. Cooked 3 mins 1 side, 4mins the other side, added the cheese in the last min, nice flavor. Thanks!


  5. low and slow

    Everything is on point here however I find that mixing salt into the meat before making the patty creates a sausage like texture.Try making one with salt one without,as for the pepper I prefer to have added at the end so it doesn’t burn.IMHO

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Grilled burger on a plate with cheese, onions, and tomatoesHow to Grill the Best Burgers