A big, juicy burger is a central element to any cookout or barbecue, and getting it right can make the difference between making the cookout a big hit or a big flop.
Regardless of preferred doneness, everyone loves a burger that’s juicy and tender inside, but unfortunately turning your patty into a horrible burnt mess is too easy a mistake to make.
When learning how to grill a burger according to each guest’s preference, this requires both a little background knowledge, and a little skill, along with observation skills and an eye for detail.
And you don’t need to look any further than this article for all the information you need…
In this article, we’re going to cover the most common mistake in grilling burgers, and what you can do about it.
This is then followed by an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to cooking the perfect burger patty, followed by how to reach the various stages of doneness.
Please feel free to scroll ahead to any section that jumps out at you. Here goes.
The Biggest Mistake You Can Make When Grilling Burger Patties – And The Secret To Cooking Them To Perfection
No matter how good your burger patty recipe, if it’s not grilled correctly, it will be heading for the trash.
When you set out to grill the patties by eye, that’s the most common mistake anyone can make.
Judging when to stop grilling a burger patty based solely on how it looks as you grill it is a sure way to mess the whole thing up and ruin your meat.
It’s going to sound obvious when I say it, but it’s important, so I’m going to say it anyway. Going only by how the patty looks on the outside only tells you how it’s cooked on the outside.
And the problem with that is that it gives you no real indication of how well it’s cooked on the inside.
A patty may look perfectly cooked on the outside, but that doesn’t mean that when you bite through it, you won’t be left with a mouthful of raw, uncooked meat.
However, I’m very pleased to inform you that you can prevent such a scenario from happening to you or your guests, and the solution is really very simple…
All you need is a meat thermometer like the one on this link. This is a digital one, which I prefer, or you can get a regular one. You can pick one up for a relatively cheap price.
Or you could even invest in one that works with an app on your smartphone, like this one.
Once you have a meat thermometer to hand, you can take readouts of the patty’s internal temperature and know exactly how cooked it is on the inside, all without having to cut the patty open to take a look at how red it is.
How To Grill The Best Burger
As promised, here’s your easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to cooking the perfect burger patty.
This is the generic two-step method, and we will be covering how to cook to a certain doneness a little later.
It is important that you grill your burger patties on a grill that has been properly cleaned since its last use, so that you avoid your patties inadvertently coming into contact with any unwanted food bacteria.
Fire up your grill, so that you have one low heat section and one high heat section. Brush the grill gates with olive oil.
Prep the burger patty by brushing it with a little olive oil and apply your seasonings on both sides (e.g., salt & pepper, or anything else you’d like to add).
Start by grilling the patty in the low heat section, while you allow the heat to build up in the high heat section.
(It’s important that you do not put the patties straight onto the high heat, because this could make the patty so crusty and hard that it’s actually inedible.)
Keep checking the internal temperature of the patties using your chosen meat thermometer. Simply place the thermometer so that the end reaches the innermost part of the patty.
(If the patty is quite thin, then you may have to place it horizontally.)
Keep your hamburger internal temperature chart to hand so that you can see when each patty has reached the right temperature for the desired level of doneness.
Once the patty has reached the desired internal temperature, it is now time to transfer the patty to the high heat section of the grill, and cook it on both sides to the desired outer doneness.
It’s important at this stage that you do not press down on the burger with your spatula because this will squeeze out juice and moisture.
When you are satisfied with both the internal temperature and the outward appearance, you can now let the patty sit on a platter for a few minutes before serving.
How To Cook The Burger By Doneness
Everyone differs in how they like their meat cooked. Some like it so barely cooked that the juice comes running out when they take a bite.
While at the other end of the spectrum, some people like their meat seared and almost burned.
But the good news is that you can get the patties cooked to anyone’s expectations, so long as you follow our guide and know what the internal temperatures should be for each category of doneness.
All you need is a meat thermometer and the timer function on your smartphone.
Aiming For Rare
If someone says to you that they like their burger patties rare, this does NOT mean that you do not need to grill them at all. Raw and undercooked meat may contain harmful bacteria.
For those who like their patties rare, you need to grill it for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, and aim for an internal temperature no higher than 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
This will give you a patty with a perfect outer part, and while still leaving the patty slightly raw.
The patty will have a warm red color and will feel a little soft and spongy to the touch.
Achieve That Medium-Rare Burger
A medium rare burger is for those who like to have the best of both worlds.
Their burger patties are perfectly juicy and tender on the inside, while the outside is lightly charred and golden brown.
All you have to do to achieve this effect is grill the patty for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until it reaches an internal temperature between 125 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
When done correctly, this patty will be slightly spongy to the touch, and will be pink to red inside when bitten into.
Achieve That Medium Burger
To get a medium cooked burger, sear the outside of the patty for 4 minutes on each side and aim for an internal temperature between 145 and 154 degrees Fahrenheit.
Achieve That Medium-Well Burger
To get a medium-well cooked burger, sear the outside of the patty for 4 to 6 minutes on each side and aim for an internal temperature of about 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Work It To Well Done
Some people like their burger patties as cooked as can be without actually burning the patty to a crisp.
The characteristics of such a patty would be a very dark, almost black color on the outside, no hint of pink on the inside, and a very firm texture when pressed.
To achieve this effect, you will have to grill the patty for at least 6 minutes on each side, reaching 12 minutes in total.
Continue to cook the meat until the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Armed with these instructions, you can now go ahead and cook your patties to the satisfaction of all your guests, no matter what their preferred level of doneness – enjoy your cookout!
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