Burgers 101: Tips for the Best Grilled Hamburgers

Get expert tips, at all stages of the process, for the tastiest, juiciest grilled hamburgers around.

At the Grocery Store

Meat Matters
Use 80 percent lean chuck. Chuck comes from the shoulder, which gets a lot of exercise, giving the beef a rich flavor. Ground sirloin also works, but it's pricier.

Stand Your Ground
Buy the chuck and ask the butcher to grind it for you. When you buy packaged ground beef, you're getting a mixture of cuts, and it's not as consistently good. Plus, meat has a looser texture when it's freshly ground, leading to juicier burgers.

Don't Fear the Fat
You need some fat to get juicy burgers. Plus, fat helps enhance the other seasonings and flavors in the recipe.

In the Kitchen

Add Flavor
In addition to salt and pepper, season the meat with Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, minced onion or other add-ins.

Break It Up
Divide the meat into portions right in the bowl. Check to make sure they're even before you form patties.

Make Patties
Take one portion and form it into a ball. Gently press it into a puck, about ¾ of an inch to 1 inch thick. Preformed patties that you buy at the store are usually too thin. Make sure your patties are slightly bigger than the bun, so when they shrink during cooking they'll still fit nicely. The leaner the meat, the more the patties will shrink.

Be Gentle
Work the meat as little as possible for the best texture, using a light touch. For uniform shape, make a small well in the middle of the burger before cooking.

On the Grill

Heat Things Up
Preheat the grill to 400°F to 500°F (medium-high for gas grills). Cook the burgers with the lid closed. If you leave it open, the burgers will take longer to cook and will be more likely to dry out.

Give It Room
Don't overload your grill. You might need to move patties from direct heat to indirect, so you need space.

Don't Flip Out
Flip the burgers only once. Place your spatula under a patty to see if it releases easily. If it still sticks to the grates, cover the grill and wait another minute. It's OK to cook one side more than the other.

Photo Credit: Flickr/ wickenden