How to Grill the Perfect Burger, According to a Chef

The season of tailgating, cookouts and pool parties isn't quite complete without burgers sizzling on the grill. While hamburgers make for a simple dish, you can dress them up with some unique or flavorful condiments to add some flair to your summer gathering.

Grill burgers with salt, pepper and garlic to maximize the meat's flavor. (Image: arinahabich/iStock/GettyImages)

Kirk Biondi, the corporate executive chef at Ted's Montana Grill, has some tips and tricks to try at your next cookout. Whether you want to dress your sandwich up or down, consider this advice for grilling your best burger yet.

Burger Ingredients

  • Ground beef or hamburger: There's actually a difference between the two terms! Beef fat may be added to a hamburger patty but not to ground beef, according to the USDA.
  • Spices: Salt, pepper and garlic work best, but you can customize according to your preferences.
  • Burger bun, toppings and condiments: Cheese, over-easy egg, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup and mustard. Biondi suggests brioche for a great gourmet burger bun.

How to Grill Burgers

  1. Choose your raw meat with caution: At the grocery store, freshness is the most important factor, Biondi explains. Ask the butcher for freshly ground meat and avoid purchasing pre-formed patties. Refrigerate raw meat as soon as possible and keep it in a Ziploc bag to avoid juices leaking onto and contaminating other foods. Don't leave raw ground beef at room temperature for longer than two hours, recommends the USDA.
  2. Preheat your grill: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat or 375 degrees Fahrenheit. If you're using a charcoal grill, stack more coals to one side to increase the heat while leaving the other side with fewer coals (to use for indirect cooking). With a gas grill, use all the burners to increase the heat to the proper temperature and then shut off one section when you're ready to cook. Then, lightly oil the grates.
  3. Form the ground beef: Form the ground beef (or bison, if you like!) into a loose-shaped patty. It should have rough edges and should never be too compressed or overworked, Biondi recommends.
  4. Season your burgers: Holding the burger over the grill, use your preferred blend of salt, herbs or spices to season one side. Place the seasoned side down and season the other side (facing up) over the grill, says Biondi. "By seasoning over the grill, the excess seasoning hits the hot grates or charcoal and lets all the neighbors know you're grilling up some great burgers!"
  5. Grill your burgers: Cover the grill and cook the burger for about three to four minutes. Then, uncover and gently flip the burger, moving it to the cooler side (if you're using a charcoal grill). Don't press the burger with the spatula, as it will force the juices out. After flipping the burger, lightly season it for the third time. Cover the grill and cook the burger for another two minutes.
  6. Add cheese: Open the grill and add your cheese of choice. Close the grill one last time for about two minutes to allow the cheese to melt. Once the burger reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the grill and place it on the bottom of a toasted bun. Dress it up with your desired toppings and enjoy!

Dress Your Burger

Fresh and homemade sauces can take your burger to the next level, says Biondi. Make your own garlic aioli or pair a fruit jam with spicy relish, he recommends. "At Ted's Montana Grill, we use blackberry jam on one of our most popular burgers."

Also consider adding grilled vegetables like sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions or grilled peppers. If you prefer your food spicy, add some fresh cilantro and jalapeño peppers or some hot sauce.

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