Seriously, stop the spatula squish!

By Betty Gold
Updated May 20, 2019

We’ve been waiting for warm weather for many months now, largely because we’re ready to stop having to barbecue burgers in the snow. And at long last, grill season is here. But before you fire up the grill and invite the neighborhood over for a cookout, let’s review the best methods for making burgers. Don't worry, you’ll be turning out perfect patties that you can really sink your teeth into in no time.

Buy better beef

Ground or not, the quality of your beef counts. Rather than buying shrink-wrapped patties in the meat aisle of your grocery store, talk to the butcher at the deli counter about the flavor and texture composition that you’re looking for (or look to reliable vendors like D’Artagnan). We recommend buying beef that’s 80% meat and 20% fat for really juicy burgers—keep in mind that the fat content is what keeps burgers from tasting dry.

Take matters into your own hands

Skip the burger press and form your patties yourself. Why? Because beef is easily over-worked, and when you use your hands, you can make sure you’re applying just enough pressure. Burger presses—and using an overly-aggressive touch—will leave you with tough-tasting meat.

Prolong the preheat

Before you toss your patties onto the grates, let your grill get hot. Like, blazing hot. The intense heat is what gives your burgers their delicious, deeply browned crust— this is known as the maillard reaction. The higher the heat, the more caramelized, complex, and flavorful your patties will be; skip this step and you’ll be tossing soggy, un-seared burgers in the trash. We recommend at least fifteen minutes of preheat time, or until you can hold your hand an inch over the grates for just one second. You can always lower the temp once you start cooking.

Don’t squish ‘em

Avoid the urge to press your patty down on the grill grates! Doing so forces the delicious juices out of the beef and into the barbecue abyss, never to be tasted or delightfully drizzled down your chin again. RIP.

Not so fast, flipper

Similar to the tip above, you want to let your burgers get nicely browned before you turn them over on the grill. You’ll know they’re ready flip when they easily release from the grill grates. If you have to pry or apply pressure, they need more time before being turned over.

Take temperatures

Using an instant-read thermometer is the only way to know you’ve cooked your patty long enough to kill any disease-causing bacteria in the beef. What could be worse than a cookout-wide bout of food poisoning? For safety, the internal temp of your burgers should reach 160°F.