When a wafer-thin fast-food burger just won’t do, you know it’s time to fire up the grill and get to cooking. While grilling the perfect burger may not technically be rocket science, we think it comes close. You have to know what you’re doing to grill up the kind of juicy, succulent, mouthwatering burger that you’ll be dreaming about for the next week.
For those who find themselves challenged in the burger-flipping department, here’s where to begin.
1. Choose the right meat
You may think the fancier the better, but when it comes to burgers ground chuck is best — and avoid super-lean beef. You want a fat content around 15-20 percent, so your burger will stay tender and juicy after its trip to the grill.
2. Make your own
Pre-formed, frozen patties save time, but they’re just not worth it. The meat is often tough from being overworked and compacted, and you won’t be able to control the seasoning that goes into the meat. Stick to forming your own patties for best results, and wet your hands to keep the meat from sticking to you.
3. Season wisely
You may be tempted to add ketchup, eggs or even breadcrumbs to your burger in order to get it to stay together. But that’s meatloaf, folks, not a burger. Keep your mixed-in seasonings simple, and don’t add salt until right before the burger goes on the grill. Otherwise, it can leach out the juices from the meat, leaving you with a dry burger.
4. Keep it loose
A perfectly formed puck of beef may look great, but once it’s cooked it can wind up tough and rubbery. That’s because the heat that results from over-exuberant mixing causes the fat in the beef to emulsify, leaving you with a dense patty. Instead, loosely pack the meat into patties using a gentle touch. You’ll be rewarded with a burger that’s perfectly juicy and tender.
5. Refrigerate first
Once you’ve got your “special seasoning” down, it’s once again time to give it a rest. Let seasoned patties sit in the refrigerator for several hours to hold their form and allow all flavors to intermingle. For organizational purposes, patties can be stacked neatly on a plate, separated with wax paper and covered loosely with plastic wrap in the fridge.
6. Stop the dreaded dome
We’ve all suffered through a burger shaped like a dome, raw in the middle and overcooked on the edges. Avoid this pitfall by creating a small indent in each patty before it goes on the grill. This will ensure that as the meat expands from the heat, the center will stay even with the edges.
Next Up: Don’t let it stick