No one wants to choke down a tough, crumbly, dry hamburger, so learn these 7 simple tricks for making a perfect, juicy grilled burger every time.
If grilling season is still in full swing, so (assuming you can find ground beef at the store), there are probably plenty of burgers in your immediate future. Feel free to play around with the usual formula, but whatever you do, don’t let it be an overdone, leaden disc of sadness. Ensuring tender, juicy burgers and not dry, dense hockey pucks has to do with both sourcing and technique.
Some say you shouldn’t actually grill burgers (more on that below), but we say if you do, just do it right.
Tip #1: Avoid extra-lean grinds. The higher the fat content of your ground beef, the moister the patty. A burger with beef that’s 80 percent lean (i.e., 20 percent fat) is luxurious and juicy.
Tip #2: Minimal handling is just as important. Form the patties gently, compressing as little as possible (this applies even if you’re making a smashburger—more so, maybe, in that case). Just as overworking pastry and dough will make it tough, so will over-handling your meat. (While we’re on the subject of handling meat, proper food safety technique will also help prevent foodborne illness, the bane of any BBQ.)
Tip #3: Make an indentation in the middle of each patty. Just press your thumb (not too firmly) into the meat and the divot will prevent it from puffing up and will allow it to cook evenly. This one is endorsed by Jon Lemon, culinary director of Bareburger; see more BBQ tips and tricks from chefs.
Tip #4: Don’t press the patties with a spatula as they cook—that just forces out the juice. Your spatula is strictly for flipping, and only once.
Tip #5: Keep in mind there’s carryover cooking time, so pull the burgers off the grill just shy of your target doneness. They’ll be just right when they hit the table. Conversely, pull them off when they already look perfect, and by the time they hit your bun, they’ll be overdone.
Tip #6: If you just can’t resist buying lean ground beef, try adding a bit of water to it. A little extra moisture helps even well-done burgers stay juicy and tender, even if they’re made from 90 percent lean ground beef. Mix in 1/4 to 1/2 cup water per pound of ground beef before forming your patties to reap the tenderizing benefit of H20. Some chefs tuck an ice cube into the middle of the patty for the same effect.
Tip #7: Try stuffing it with cheese and adding fat via toppings. The classic Juicy Lucy is a great option for anyone who wants a really luxurious burger, since it’s full of molten cheese
Along those lines, adding fatty, moist condiments like aioli, bacon jam, ripe tomatoes, and sliced avocado will help boost your burger’s juicy factor (and flavor), but can’t totally save a bone-dry patty, so follow the tips above to ensure your burgers stay perfectly moist on the grill, and then go to town with the toppings.
There are those (chefs included) who advocate against cooking burgers right on your grill grates, as you can lose a lot of the flavorful juices and fat—which sometimes also causes flare-ups that char your meat to a crisp (in a bad way). Many suggest placing a cast iron griddle on your grill for cooking burgers to get a perfectly seared crust and juicy interior, and maybe still a lick or two of smoke.