Learn how easy it is to grill the best juicy burgers on your gas or charcoal grill. From the choice of meat, seasoning, grill temperature, how long to grill, and final internal temperature—we will cover it all.
This is a recipe I use almost weekly. The burger goes from the refrigerator to your mouth in less than 20 minutes. So please enjoy learning how I frequently cook at home and have a delicious homemade hamburger at home.
This is a tutorial for newbies and those who can't seem to get it right. If you're an accomplished griller, you can move on or stick around for some tips.
This is not a gourmet burger— no grounding meat, no stuffing, and no magic ingredients. But you will learn to make a delicious hamburger with store ground meat and simple seasonings on your home grill. How is that for a goal?
Like many things, once you get your basic method down, then the variations can flow. This is a darn good burger and is basically what I have done a thousand times. It is not a special meal, but it is an excellent easy dinner in less than 30 minutes.
So, let's do our burgers right. You will be glad you did.
Funny story (skip this paragraph if you want to get on with it).
In Lee Iacocca's autobiography, there is a section that talks about the Ford Motor Company executive dining room having the best burgers ever. When the chef was asked about his technique, he demonstrated the method starting with a whole beef tenderloin going into the meat grinder.
Great starts will give great results. I don't start that way, and I assume you won't either.
I love this. I'm sure I have done this a thousand times.
🏃♂️Quick Start FAQs
Just a summary if you are in a hurry—more details below.
Buy standard 80/20 ground beef. Leaner will not be as moist, and you are going for taste here. Do not use "hamburger" meat.
Either gas or charcoal will be fine, although the charcoal will add a bit different flavor. Use what you have.
As hot as it will go and cook over direct heat. Generally, grill with the hood closed, but since it is under 1 inch thick, open will affect time estimates a small amount.
For safety, the FDA suggests all ground meat should be cooked to 160° internal temperature, except ground poultry should be cooked to 165°. Please follow these guidelines.
While the exact time will vary by your grill and thickness of the meat, 8 to 10 minutes total for most people with a flip at about 5 minutes. But the real correct answer is as long as it takes to get to 160° internal temperature.
Do not compress the meat. Indent the center of the burger. Flip once.
Most of us will start with store-bought ground beef, which is fine. Use 80/20 ground beef is an easy answer.
There is a difference between hamburger meat and ground beef. Ground beef has a variable amount of fat, but the fat is from the beef being ground. Hamburger can have up to 30% fat from other cuts can be added—not good. Please choose #1, not #2.
Most burger gurus suggest 20% fat for the moistest, tasty burger. I think they are right. Fat does taste good. You can sneak that amount of fat down a bit to 15% fat and still come out good, but less than 15% requires some special treatment.
You can go lower fat by adding something to retain moisture like my Healthy Low Fat Burgers or American Test Kitchen, adding a panade of milk and bread.
When making the hamburger patties, make them the size of your buns and use ⅓ to ½ pound of ground meat. Put a "dimple" in the middle of one side about 1 inch or a bit more in diameter and about ⅓ of the thickness of the pattie.
While working on the patties, work quickly and keep them cool until cooking.
Your grill can be a gas grill or charcoal grill. It does not matter for this to work. Just get it as hot as you can.
You are cooking a relatively thin patty of meat rapidly, so direct high heat is correct. While my very hot Weber runs 650° plus surface temperature and you might "only" get 550°, the results will be about the same. Some smaller grills will only get to about 500°, they will take a bit longer but we are cooking to a final internal temperature and never by time alone.
Some gurus suggest you must use charcoal. If true, I can't grill a burger since I don't have a charcoal grill. Use what you have. Just get it very hot, cleaned, and oiled.
Since the meat is under 1 inch thick, you can grill with the hood open, but I prefer to keep the hood closed to keep the temperature high.
Cook for about 5 minutes (I use a watch with a second hand) on the first side, flip and cook another 3-4 minutes on the second side. I then check the temperature and will add cheese in the last 30-60 seconds if you want.
8 to 10 minutes total is the best answer, with a flip at about 5 minutes for cooking time. There is no exact answer. But the real correct answer is as long as it takes to get to 160° internal temperature.
But there are many variables: The size and thickness of the burger, the start temperature of the meat and the grill, and how frequently you open the grill and flip are the most important ones.
The minimum safe internal temperature for ground beef is 160°. I like to go to 165° to be sure all areas are done but not much higher, or you have a hockey puck.
I'm playing the Doctor's card here. You will not eat or serve ground beef that has not reached 160°. No discussion allowed.
A good thermometer is a must. I use a Thermapen, and it is worth every cent of the almost $100 it cost. But you can get good results for $15. You can see specific models in The Cooking for Two Shop.
The 3 Secret to the Best Burgers
- Do not compress the meat. Pat it into shape. If you use a burger press, just use it to shape. Keep the meat cold will keep the fat and make a more tender burger so work quickly.
- Indent the center of the burger to prevent "puffing." This seems strange, but it is a must-do. Without this, the center will puff up thicker, and it will be hard to get to the correct internal temperature. The outside will almost burn and will dry out — all bad things. I'm starting with a ¾ inch thick burger and compress a 1-inch diameter area about ¼ inch.
- Flip once and do not press. Don't play with your food, and don't keep poking it to check the temp when you know it's not done. I think the more you flip, the more juices drain and the more flare-ups. The more pokes, the more moisture drains. Pressing the meat drains moisture making the final burgers dryer.
I'm a big fan of good baked goods. A cheap bun will ruin your great grilling.
Most people want a burger to fit the bun and don't like a large bun and a smaller burger. Since we are learning the basics, a standard burger bun fits a ⅓ to ½ pound burger well, and that is what we will do here.
🧂What Seasonings to Use
Just some salt and pepper will do. I use my All Purpose Seasoning - 7:2:1 and 7:2:2 which adds some garlic powder to the seasoning. Montreal seasoning is very popular, also. But season as you wish.
Who doesn't like cheeseburgers? I like to add cheese for about 30 to 60 seconds before removing the cooked burgers from the grill. I like sharp cheddar or even something like Velvetta (I know, but I like it). Other good choices are Swiss or Havarti.
Other Burger Recipes
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Note: Some images are from different grillings, so they may vary some.
Preheat grill on high. Clean and oil.
Start with 80/20 ground beef and divide it into ⅓ to ½ pound balls. They are the size of a tennis ball then form into patties about ¾ inch thick and about 4-inch diameter. Safety note: Always wash your hands for safety before and after touching ground meat.
Give them a good sprinkle of salt and pepper on both sides. I'm using my 7:2:2 (salt, pepper, garlic).
THE BIG SECRET TO GOOD RESULTS. Press one inch round ¼ inch deep indentation into the center of one side.
Grill over direct heat with a closed lid preferred, but you can do open grilling if you want. Flip after 5 minutes.
Grill another 3-4 minutes and check the temperature. Get to 160° to 165°, then add cheese for about 30-60 seconds if using cheese.
I don't feel a great need to rest the meat before serving. By the time you place it on the bun and do things to it, it has been enough time.
How to Grill Hamburgers – A Tutorial
- 1 pound ground beef - 80/20. Use ⅓ to ½ pound per burger.
- Salt and pepper to taste OR 7:2:2
- buns and fixings
- Preheat grill on high. Clean and oil.
- Start with 80/20 ground beef and divide into ⅓ to ½ pound balls. They are the size of a tennis ball then form into patties about ¾ inch thick and about 4-inch diameter. Safety note: Always wash your hands for safety before and after touching ground meat.
- Give them a good sprinkle of salt and pepper on both sides. I'm using my 7:2:2 (salt, pepper, garlic).
- THE BIG SECRET TO GOOD RESULTS. Press one inch round ¼ inch deep indentation into the center of one side.
- Grill over direct heat with a closed lid preferred but you can do open grilling if you prefer. Flip after 5 minutes.
- Grill another 3-4 minutes and check the temperature. Get to 160° to 165° then add cheese for about 30-60 seconds if using cheese. Times are given as estimates. You are cooking to the final internal temperature and NEVER by time alone.
- I don't feel a great need to rest the meat before serving. By the time you place it on the bun and do things to it, it has been enough time.
- I suggest 80/20 ground beef for routine use. We prefer ⅓ to ½ pound per burger.
- Wash hands for safety before and after touching ground meat.
- The grill should be on high. You can grill with the hood open but I prefer to use a closed lid. It is easier to keep the grill temperature up.
- Cooking time varies by your grill and the burger, so cook to a final temperature never by time alone.
- 160° is the minimum internal temperature for ground beef but I prefer to use 165° to be sure all areas are done.
- REMEMBER: Times are given as estimates. You are cooking to the final internal temperature and NEVER by time.
- Follow the secrets listed below.
- Nutrition is calculated for the meat only and does not allow for the fat drainage. Salt is my estimate of "to taste".
The Three Secrets To Getting it Right
- Do not compress the meat.
- Indent the center of the burger
- Flip once if possible. Don't keep poking it and flipping.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editors Note: Originally published August 17, 2013, Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.