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Grilling Basics: 6 Tips for Perfect Burgers Every Time

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and it also marks the unofficial start of hamburger grilling season. If you haven’t grilled in a while, and you’re feeling a little rusty, here are six grilling tips to make sure that your burgers turn out fantastic.

1. Don’t overseason. People like to add a lot of stuff to burgers so they feel like they’re doing something, but if you have good high-quality ground beef, you don’t really need anything but a little salt and pepper.

2. Form your burgers the right way. Don’t over-handle or over-pack the patty. A more loosely packed burger holds its juices better, so don’t handle the burger any more than you have to. Also, try making a little indentation in the middle with your thumb. That way, when the center thickens up when you cook it, you end up with a burger with a relativley even size all the way across.

3. Use high heat. If you’re using a charcoal grill, use plenty of coals and give them a long time to get hot enough. Try holding your hand an inch or two above the grilling surface. If you can’t hold it there for more than a few seconds, you’re ready.

4. Never press your burgers with your spatula. A lot of people are tempted to press their burgers with a spatula to see how much juice comes out to test for doneness. But when you do this, you end up with dry burgers. At my high school job at Fuddrucker’s, this was a fireable offense. To test doneness, press the burger gently with your finger to feel how firm it is.

5. Don’t overcook. Depending on your meat and your grill, cooking times will vary, but you want to make sure not to overcook. Even if you or your guests like it well done, no one wants a dry, blackened burger. On our grill, it’s usually about 6 minutes total cooking time for rare, 8 for medium, and 10 for well. Yours might be different, so keeping an eye on them is the best thing to do.

6. Let your burgers rest. Giving your burgers a couple minutes to rest lets the burger reabsorb the juice and makes for a better burger.

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