Don’t Overthink Grilling Hamburgers


We all want to have the perfect hamburger.  Grilling hamburgers isn’t as tough as you may think!

We all want to impress the people we grill for, as well as ourselves.  Right?

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Most people, anyway.

Should I grill with the top up?  Top down?  Certain temperature?  Certain charcoal?

Is there a long list of things I need to consider in order to cook the perfect hamburger?

Nah, not really.

Like with many things, simplicity is key.

What kind of meat to get?

I personally prefer to use a ground round cut, which is roughly 85% lean meat and 15% fat (85/15).

Out of one pound of meat, I like to make three patties.  This makes your patties about 1/2″ thick.

If you prefer a slightly thinner burger or want more burgers, make four patties per pound of meat.

For grilling, 85/15 meat is the sweet spot in my opinion.

Anything more fatty will lead to more flare-ups and the fat drippage will cool down your coals and will prematurely cut down your cook time.  Not to mention fattier meat tends to shrink more, and you’ll end up with the dreaded hockey puck burger.

Anything less fatty than 85/15 meat (for example, 90/10 or 93/7) will lead to a dry, spongy burger.

Remember, fat is flavor, but there is a limit.  85/15 is the best compromise.

Firing Up The Grill

The first thing you want to do is fire up the grill.  Especially if you’re using charcoal, you’ll want to give yourself up to two hours to get everything prepped and cooked before serving your food.

Fire up your charcoal.  Whether you use lump charcoal or briquets, it doesn’t really matter that much.  Lump charcoal will burn hotter and will product more embers.  But the extra heat, to me, leads to a better burger and a better sear.

Put your charcoal in a pyramid, light it up, and let it burn until it turns white.  When it’s ready, the vast majority of the charcoal will be red hot or white hot with little to no smoke.  Just nice heat.

Spread the charcoal evenly across your bottom grate.  Put on the top[ grates and let burn for about 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, it’s time for meat.  You’ll want those top grates nice and hot–don’t try to grill on cold grates.

When the meat meats the grates

Before putting the burgers on the grates, you’ll want to do some last-minute burger prep:

1.) Put an indentation in the center of the burger with your thumb about three-quarters of the way through the patty.
2.) Flip the patties over.
3.) Sprinkle your seasoning of choice liberally over the non-indented side of the burger.
4.) Place the burgers seasoning side down on the grates.  They should audibly sizzle when placed on the grates.
5.) Sprinkle more seasoning liberally on the other, indented side of the burger.

After a few minutes the juices from the burger should start to pool up in the indentation of the burger.  Once that happens, now is the time to flip the burgers.

Cook another two minutes for rare, three minutes for medium-rare, four minutes for medium, five minutes for medium-well, and six minutes for well.

If you’re cooking for everyone at a picnic and don’t want to risk the burgers being too pink, simply wait for the juices to run clear.  Otherwise, a light pink juice will indicate medium-rare to medium and a red juice will indicate rare.  Very lightly pressing the top of the burger witrh your spatula will let just enough juice run out of the top to tell.  But be careful to not let too much juice run out the burger.


Once done cooking, now is the time to add the cheese if you want it.  Move the burger to the cooler side of the grill and put a slice of cheese on it.  Close the lid of the grill, let sit for 30-45 seconds.

If the cheese isn’t all the way melted at the end of the 30-45 seconds, that’s fine.  Remove the burger from the grill anyway–the cheese will continue to melt to the patty.

You can prepare the finished product right away–no need to let the burgers rest.

Serve with any of your preferred condiments.  Enjoy!

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