Always start with a clean grill. It will help keep your burgers from sticking to the grate and give them the grill marks everyone wants to see on a great burger. So scrape off any food left from your last cookout and lightly oil the grates using a cooking spray or a paper towel coated with cooking oil. Heat your grill to medium, you’ll want it to be 325-350 degrees.
Using meat with a higher fat content will give you a more flavorful burger but they will also shrink a little more while cooking. An 80/20 mix is ideal, 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat. If you are grilling lean meat like wild game, ground chicken, or turkey you will need to add in some olive oil or my personal favorite bacon grease to the mix.
Adding in flavor. You can change the taste of your burger by mixing in almost anything. Some suggestions are:
- Fresh or dried herbs and spices.
- Fresh, dehydrated, or jarred garlic or onions.
- Seasoning packets for making soups, salads, or dips also work well for adding great flavor. Onion soup mix or dry ranch dressing packets are one of my favorite additions.
- Many sauces can also be mixed in with the meat, make your own or use prepared. You can add any BBQ sauce, Steak sauce, Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Marinara sauce, Hot sauce, Salad dressing, etc.
- Other add-in ideas include, crumbled bacon, ham, pepperoni or salami, chopped mushrooms, chopped bell or jalapeno peppers, sliced olives, diced tomatoes, egg, bread crumbs, cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, or salsa. I’ve even heard of people adding in peanut butter so pretty much anything you can think of.
You can mix shredded cheese directly in the meat mix or stuff just the middle of the burger with it. Or add it on top when the burgers are almost done cooking.
The only thing you don’t want to add to your mix is the salt. Salt will remove the moisture from the raw meat and they will dry out while cooking, so doesn’t add the salt until the meat is on the grill.
Don’t over mix your meat. Crumble the ground meat add in any of your favorite flavorings and gently mix with your hands or a fork. The more you handle the meat the tougher and denser it will be. Gently form your meat into patties, ideally 3/4 inch thick. Use your thumb to make an indention in the center of the burger to help keep them from puffing up in the middle while cooking.
Give whatever flavors you add some time to soak into the meat. You can do this before or after forming into patties. Cover your meat mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors time to blend. Or if you form into patties first you can put them on a plate and separate them with wax paper to keep them from sticking, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour to several hours.
When your grill is heated to medium 325-350 degrees you can add the patties. Many experts say to close the lid and keep it closed during cooking, saying that it lessens cooking time and retains moisture. But if your meat is thin you will need to cook with the lid open to keep them from overcooking.
The hardest part is to not mess with the burgers while they are cooking. Do not press them down with your spatula, do not poke them with a fork, do not turn them repeatedly. You will lose moisture and flavor if you do. Try to flip them only once during the cooking process.
Determining done-ness should be done with a meat thermometer. Beef should be cooked to 160 degrees and poultry to 170 degrees. Check the burger temperature in several spots, as the temperature can vary throughout the burger. If adding cheese do so when the burgers are one to two minutes from being done.
Add your favorite toppings and enjoy the best burger you’ll have all summer.