A great hamburger is a thing of beauty.  Follow these tips and you will soon be known as the master of the burger.

  • Grind your own.  A meat grinder is a great inexpensive investment for anyone who is serious about their burgers.  Freshly ground meat tastes better than ground beef that has been sitting in the supermarket for a week.  Freshly ground meat is also safer than store ground as harmful bacteria has had less time to populate and spread.  If you want to confidently serve your burgers medium rare then grinding your own is essential.
  • Mix and match.  A great burger does not have to be 100% ground sirloin or chuck.  For that matter a great burger does not even have to be 100% beef.  Try making a burger from ground brisket.  Better yet, try a making a burger from ground brisket mixed with ground bacon.
  • Warm the meat.  A common grilling mistake is to place burgers that are too cold onto a grill that is too hot.  This is a perfect recipe for a burger that is charred black on the outside and is bloody and raw on the inside.  Take the time to let your burgers sit on a kitchen counter for twenty to thirty minutes before you put them on a grill.  This is not enough time for harmful bacteria to multiply but is enough time to allow the burger to come to room temperature.  By not starting with a cold burger it is easier to get the center cooked before the exterior is burned.
  • Season the meat.  Season the entire burger, not just the exterior.  Mix seasonings (salt, pepper, diced onions, chopped bacon, etc) into the ground meat before you form the burgers.
  • Toast your buns.  This is a simple step that many people forget to perform.  A toasted bun is crispy, crunchy on the exterior and warm and soft on the interior.  The textual contrast achieved with a toasted bun really brings something special to a burger.
  • Stuff your burger.  A great way to take your burgers over the top is to stuff them with cheese.  If you fold a piece of American cheese (like Kraft Singles) into a small square it is easy to form your burger around it.  When you grill your burger the cheese inside will melt giving you an inside out cheeseburger.  You can also stuff burgers with topping like caramelized onions or sautéed mushrooms.
  • Grill over charcoal.  I really like my gas grill but when I want a great burger I break out the charcoal.  There simply is no comparison between a burger cooked over charcoal and one cooked over gas. 
  • Use a thermometer.  Avoid the whole “Is it done yet?” question.  Take the guesswork out of burger grilling and invest in a good instant read thermometer.  After about nine minutes of grilling insert the thermometer into the middle of the biggest burger and measure the temperature.  You will be in the Medium Rare range at 140F and Well Done at 160F.
  • Don’t press.  For the love of all things beefy, please don’t be pressing on your burger with a spatula.  Pressing your burger dries your burger out and causes flare-ups on the grill.  Just don’t do it!
  • Good toppings.  After you have gone through all of the work to make great burgers don’t skimp on the toppings.  Get some good Dijon mustard, thick sliced bacon, fresh tomatoes, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, or spicy fresh greens.  Get bold and try a little barbecue sauce and a few pickled jalapenos.   

The two most important tips on this list if you really want to become a master of the hamburger are to grill over charcoal and to grind your own meat.  I hope you have a great grilling season and that you found some of these tips useful.