Burgers are a staple food during the summers due to how quick and convenient they’re to prepare. But they often end up tasting dry and stale because most people, especially rookies, don’t know what temp to grill burgers at. They either make them overcooked or too hard to chew.
From the right temperature to the right technique, in this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about grilling burgers so you can get the flavor, texture and taste – all on point.
Let’s dive straight into it!
What Temperature to Grill Burgers?
The reason why burgers are such a popular dining choice is that you can throw it together in a maximum of 30 minutes and have it ready to serve when the guests start pooling in. But there are a few things to take care of when you’re cooking and grilling a burger.
The first is the temperature that it’s being cooked at. For instance, if your patty is made out of store-bought beef, it should be ideally cooked at an internal temperature of 160°F to be actually considered safe to eat and not cause any variety of food poisoning.
That’s primarily because the meat you buy from the market contains several kinds of bacteria that can only be killed off when they’re seared/grilled at high temperatures. When cooking with meat, you should be aware of the processes it goes through. Store-bought meat is usually ground industrially, so hygiene might suffer.
So to ensure that it is safe to eat, you must cook it at least at 160°F. In addition to that, you also have to avoid overcooking it. Ideally, take the meat off the grill after 8 minutes. Grill it at 3-4 minutes per side, depending on how thick the patties are.
How to Tell if the Patties are Ideally Grilled?
The patties should ideally have a golden-brown sear. This indicates that you can now stop grilling as they’ve reached the right temperature. You could even take them off a bit earlier and let them cook while they rest so that all the flavor and moisture are retained.
If you’re planning to cook with proteins such as a chicken or turkey, temperatures and cooking times can vary. If the protein you’re cooking with is chicken, you need to take it off the grill after 5 minutes tops, with charring it 2-3 minutes per side, cooking it at the standard grilling temperature. You must allow the chicken to rest or it will dry up and toughen.
As for a protein like a turkey, it may take a longer time to cook, taking up to 10 minutes to cook perfectly (however, if you have an electric grill, make sure to lower the temperature by 10-15°C so that it doesn’t dry up.)
Alternatives to Pre-Made Meat
Moreover, an alternative that we suggest is that instead of buying pre-made meat from the market, you could instead grind the meat yourself for the burgers. If you purchase pre-packaged meat, you are not aware of what cuts were used, what seasonings (preservatives in this case) were used.
And if this intimidates you, don’t you worry, this guide has you covered. So what you can instead do is go to the store and purchase a healthy, thick, well-marbled chunk of meat and you can grind meat a few minutes before you throw those patties onto the grill.
By doing that you can ensure that the meat is hygienic, seasoned well and packs loads of flavor by incorporating different ratios of cuts and fat, since you’re grinding it yourself (keep in mind that the fat ratio to aim for is around 15-20%).
Another added benefit of doing this step yourself is that you could cook this patty to a lovely medium-rare at around 130–135°F. This way you minimize a margin of error because you know what you’re working with.
Note that the main reason we suggested the grilling temperature to be 160° F is because that’s considered to be the safety point to kill the bacteria in store-bought meat. But now that you’re preparing the meat yourself, you can maintain high hygiene standards.
How to Make the Patty Stick Together?
If you’re prepping meat, you might have the question that “what should I put in the meat so the patty sticks?” The answer is very simple: nothing. You really don’t want to overwork the meat so that it loses its texture, especially when it cooks.
The fat in the meat is supposed to do enough to bind it together. You do not need to add in an egg, breadcrumbs or any other condiments. However, what you can do (and this is completely optional) is that you can perhaps add in crushed black beans or chickpeas to play around subtly with the flavor and texture.
3 Golden Tips to Remember While Grilling Burgers
But before we delve into the actual instructions of cooking the burger, let us reinforce some important tips.
- Please don’t keep touching, flipping or pressing the burger patties while they’re being grilled. This is the key rule if you want juicy and moist burgers. Most of the moisture will evaporate off of the patty as it’s being pressed down. The same happens if you turn them excessively.
- Another tip to properly know at what temperature to grill burgers would be investing in a food thermometer. As we discussed earlier, to know that a burger is cooked to its finest, the internal temperature of the patty must be around 160°F. So once it does reach the temperature, it’s wise to remove it from the grill and let it rest before you assemble your burger.
- Coming to the external temperature to grill the burgers, it should be on medium-high heat at around 375-400°F. This should make sure that your burgers have a nice and hot sear to them that seals in all that smoky flavor.
How to Season the Burger Patties?
Another topic of contentions seems to be the seasonings. Should you season your burgers before you cook them? Do you put the meat in a marinade? Do you season them only on the outside when they’re cooking?
But well, the popular verdict seems to be that it’s better to season your burgers on the outside only, with a generous serving of freshly ground black pepper and salt (before you pop them on the grill) so it develops this thick, flavorful crust that packs in both the heat from the pepper and also that much-needed umami flavor in the patty.
Another nifty tip is to use kosher or sea salt so that those larger salt crystals because they do a much better job in bringing those juices up to the surface and making sure that the moisture is retained, resulting in a much juicier burger.
However, if you want to deviate a bit from the classic salt and pepper combo, you’re also free to use other seasonings that are readily available in the market like cajun, fajita, streak or even BBQ rubs that come for cuts like briskets. Or well, you can also experiment a little with your own spice mixtures.
Throw in staples like cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, some herbs like oregano and basil, some salt and pepper and you’re done. You could throw these spices into a bit of oil and lather on the mixture while the patty cooks. The char will lock in the flavor.
How to Cook Burgers on the Grill
Once you’re done with the seasonings, you may put burger patties in the fridge so that they stay intact when they’re being grilled, and the cold fat renders down as it’s being cooked. Next up, to ensure that they don’t stick to the grill, you can oil them lightly with olive oil. Additionally, it’s also a good idea to oil the grill plates themselves.
When it comes to grilling the patty, make sure that the grill is properly heated (but not overheated so your burgers don’t end up having a bitter taste). Once the grill is properly warmed up, throw on the patties and let them cook for about 8-10 minutes if you want them to be rare, but with a hint of pink in the middle and that lovely crisp crust that comes with the hot sear.
But well, cooking times may vary according to the size of the patties so be careful about them, as the thicker a burger is, the longer it takes to cook. As a general rule of thumb, here are the cooking times to keep in mind:
- Rare: 5-6 minutes
- Medium-rare: 6-7 minutes
- Medium: 8-9 minutes
- Medium-well to well-done: 9+ minutes
Also, don’t really worry about if you have to cook the burger with the grill’s lid on or off. When cooking times are fast, like with a burger, you usually cook the burger with an open lid as temperatures are high and if you close the lid, you might risk losing the patty, as it might overcook or dry up.
How to know your Burger Patty is Ready
There are a couple of methods to gauge if your burger is cooked properly (but this is after you’ve let the patty rest for around 2-3 minutes). Like we’ve previously mentioned, the most accurate way to know is by sticking in a food thermometer in the center of the patty and having it at a certain temperature. But if that isn’t available, here are two other methods for you to follow:
1. Observe the Color of the Patty
To follow this method, simply take the burger off the grill and cut it into the patty to see if it has that pink center. That pink center, and a brown crust will ensure that it’s been cooked perfectly, and is ready to be served.
However, if you cut into the patty and find that the meat is bleeding (meaning that there is a bloody red fluid flowing out) this might indicate that you’ve undercooked the meat and a few seconds on the grill will do well to fix that.
2. The Finger Test Method
The other popular method is known as the “finger test”. This is a more simplistic and hands-on method (pun intended) and might take some getting used to. So practically, all you have to do is press a clean finger onto the cooked patty and assess by feeling the firmness of the meat.
The logic is that the firmer the meat is, the more well-done it is, naturally. And here’s a neat trick to help you accurately assess how well cooked it is: holding your hand up, let your index finger touch the pad flesh that’s below your thumb. That’s roughly how soft uncooked, raw meat is like.
Now pinch your left thumb and forefingers together and touch that pad of flesh again. It gets tenser and more solid. The pad is now the firmness of rare meat. Following this, touch your left thumb and middle fingers together, and it’s the firmness of medium-rare meat.
Then test it further by touching your left thumb and ring fingers together, and it’s the firmness of medium-well meat. And if you touch your left thumb and pinky together, the pad is the firmness of well-done meat. And now since you’ve got an idea of the varying densities and textures of the meat, you can test out to see if the patty is undercooked, perfectly cooked, or overcooked.
While it may not be the most accurate method to see if your burger patty is cooked, if you manage to hone it (via practice) it can serve you pretty well.
The Condiments to go Along with your Grilled Burger
No burger is complete without a good burger sauce and some vegetables to cut through with some freshness.
You could cut up a few slices of tomato and onion and throw them on the grill for them to have a little char. And meanwhile, you can quickly throw together a classic burger sauce, with a bunch of staples ingredients. Here’s a short quick recipe, mix these ingredients in a bowl and you have your perfect burger sauce ready:
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
You can choose to skip this one and try out others, like chipotle mayonnaise, or some BBQ ranch sauce, some garlic aioli or any other dressing that you may deem fit, you can find any sauce/topping recipe that further satisfies your taste buds.
Finishing Up: Constructing your Burger
Once you’ve finally grilled the patties, it’s time to move onto the fun part! Putting it all together. Start with toasting your brioche buns on the grill. Then wash your fresh lettuce, get your charred tomatoes and red onions and set aside your burger sauce.
Put your burger patty onto the bun, throw on a slice of cheese for that richness and pile up those veggies. After you’ve done this, transfer your sauce into a liquid dispenser (so you don’t make a mess) and throw on as much sauce as you want. Seal the deal with the top bun and your burger is finally ready.
So not only do you now know what temperature to grill burgers at, but also, how to attain your desired flavor, what condiments to use and everything else needed to smash your next summer cookout!