Some Common Burger Grilling Mistakes — And How To Avoid Them

Some Common Burger Grilling Mistakes — And How To Avoid Them


Grilling season is hear and there is a lot of different things we can cook on the grill. Well, burgers are one of the favorites and there’s little better than a juicy, flavorful burger. Plus, they are super easy, impossible to screw-up, right? Here are some of the common mistakes people make when grilling burgers.

1. Go for the Expensive Meat

Beef Tenderloin is great on the grill, so won’t it make a great burger? The experts say NO, tenderloin is really lean and what makes a burger juicy is fat. Have you ever wondered why In-N-Out, 5 Guys and the other burger joints always taste so good? They run around 40% fat, 60% lean in their meat. That’s a bit much for me (and I’ve never found anything close). The experts say you should look for 15%-20% fat; I’ve found that 15% makes for a very juicy burger, 10% is okay, but any less than that and you start to have dry burgers with no juice left in them. And on the subject of meat, buy fresh ground meat over the pre-formed patties, that way you have total control over the seasonings. And speaking of seasoning…

2. Go Crazy With Seasoning

A big burger needs some big flavor, but don’t go bananas with the seasonings. When you’re working with high-quality meat, sautéed onions mixed in just aren’t necessary — and that goes double for raw onions. Other things you don’t want in your patties: egg, bread crumbs, cumin, taco seasoning, garlic powder, etc. After all, it’s not a meatloaf. But what ever you do, don’t skip on the salt and pepper. I like to season them about 20 minutes for I start to grill them, this allows the salt to melt into the meat. If you can’t do it 20 minutes before, season 1 side just before you place it on the grill, seasoned side down. Before you flip the burger, season the other side.

3. Pack It In

Think gentle when forming your burgers. If you really “pack” them in, you’ll end up with a dense, heavy hockey puck of a burger. Consider the fact that the patty will be eaten on a relatively delicate bun (which we’ll look at in a bit), not on a plate with a fork and knife. Plus, remember, your burger will expand as you grill it, so use your thumb to make a divot in the center of the burger. That way, when patty gets bigger, it’ll stay flat not dome-shaped.

4. A Bun Is a Bun Is a Bun…

I know, a burger is all about the meat but the bread is also important. First, size up your buns: There’s nothing worse than taking a big bite and realizing it’s nothing but bread, no meat at all! To remedy that, make sure your burger is 6 to 8 ounces and that it’s wide enough to reach the outer edges of the bun. I know, I normally preach whole-grain rolls, but that isn’t what makes a good burger bun. Give the bun a gentle squeeze in the store, if there’s no give under your thumb, there won’t be under your teeth either. Soft will win here, seeds are great if you like them, I generally don’t use them.

5. Be Vigilant When Cooking

I’m not saying just toss that burger on the grate and walk away for a 20-minute game of horseshoes. I’m just saying you don’t need to constantly check, poke, prod and flip the patty as it cooks. If you need to check, use a thermometer to check the internal temperature; do not cut into it! You should only touch it three times once it’s on the grill: Rotate it 90 degrees, flip it, and then rotate it once more. If it’s a medium-doneness you want, plan on cooking the burger about 4 minutes per side.

6. Load It Up

This really goes along with #2, over seasoning, resist the urge to “over-accessorize” the burger once it’s cooked. Limit yourself to no more than two condiments and three toppings. Think along the lines of mayonnaise and ketchup plus lettuce, tomato and onion. (If I use anything it’s a little bar-b-que sauce and maybe some onion or bacon and cheese.) If you pack on much more, when you take a bite, the burger will start to fall apart and the patty will get totally lost. If you’re gonna add cheese, make sure it’s totally melty, oozy and hot when you serve it up. (I would put it on after the last rotation and let it melt right in. I put the bacon on and then cheese so the melted cheese holds the bacon on!)


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