5 Tips for grilling the perfect hamburger

Hamburger with the worksGrilling the perfect hamburger.  What quest could be more worthy... more rewarding... or more addictive.

Here are five tips for grilling a burger that tastes like nirvana on a bun:

ONEFat content is the MOST crucial factor in grilling a juicy, flavorful burger.  80% lean ground beef is best.  85% is okay.  Anything leaner and one of two things will happen: 

Your patties will fall apart – forcing you to use a binder such as egg yolk to hold them together (so much for low fat) ... or your burgers will be so dry and bland you might as well serve rice cakes instead.

So, if you're really that worried about fat, eat a salad instead – or consider using ground chicken or turkey instead but, again, don't expect as much flavor.

TWOThe key to tender, melt-in-your-mouth burgers is NOT overworking the meat.  Gently fold, roll, and compress the ground beef in your hand as little as necessary to form a patty – it should look like a flattened ball of yarn where the individual, noodle-shaped pieces of meat are still visible.  If you squeeze and mash the meat until it looks like really thick paste, your burgers will come out very tough and chewy. (By the way, the same holds true for meatloaf.)

THREEThe optimal thickness for a grilled hamburger is 3/4 of an inch thick.  Any thinner and it will break apart or dry out while grilling.  Any thicker and you'll end up with a burger that's done on the outside and raw in the middle... or done in the middle but charred on the outside.

FOURToo much bun for the burger is a real let down.  So make your patties are wide enough to stick out 1/4 of an inch all the way around the bun.  Remember all of that *cringe*, dreaded fat from tip number three?  Well, a lot of it is going to melt and drip away – causing the burger to shrink while it cooks. 

By making your raw patty a bit bigger than the bun, you'll ensure your finished burger fits the bun just right.

And...

FIVE:  Never, never, NEVER press down on your burgers with a spatula.  If you're even the slightest bit tempted to do so then reread tip #1 – fat is the secret to a mind-blowing burger.  It's where a meat's most succulent flavors are hidden.  And it's what keeps the burger moist and tender. Squeeze the burger and your squeezing out the magical, juicy elixir that makes a burger worth eating.  So just leave the cooking patties be – excess melted fat will drip out naturally, leaving just the right amount behind to make your burger taste like.

And there you have it, five simple  tips for grilling the perfect burgers

Want to know more about the basic steps for grilling hamburgers? You can find them here:  Instructions for Grilling Hamburgers.