Fire up the ‘cue, it’s National Burger Day—though we hardly need a holiday to celebrate burgers. Whether for a weekend cookout or a quick weeknight dinner, burgers are a favorite meal, especially through summer, so we might as well learn how to grill them perfectly. These 6 tricks will help you get a juicy, tender burger each time. And we even threw in a few burger recipes for inspiration. Because there’s never too much burger.
Related: The best burgers from around the world.
How to grill burgers perfectly: 6 expert tips
After working on a burger episode for the Martha Stewart Show with Emeril Lagasse, I picked up a few tips for how to grill burgers perfectly every time. The best part is that following along does not require a culinary degree. For the vegetarians and turkey burger lovers, you are not forgotten—just skip down to the recipes below.
1. Buy quality meat. It sounds obvious, but it’s the best thing you can do to improve your burgers. Ask a butcher to grind the meat for you. (Or, grind your own!) The key factor is the meat to fat ratio: A beef blend should have 15-20% fat (read as 85/15 or 80/20) for the juiciest burgers.
2. Season well. With quality meat, the only seasoning you really need is kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Don’t be shy—liberal seasoning brings out beefy flavor—but don’t preseason either. Give a nice coating to the exteriors of the patties right before grilling.
3. Make an indent. Gently press your thumb in the center of the patty to make an indent. The burger will expand once placed on the heat, and this will prevent it from looking like a meatball.
4. Don’t overwork it. When making patties, form them loosely. You want your burger to be tender and yielding with each bite, not compact and thick. Ewwe.
5. No squishing! Don’t flatten the burgers with your spatula. You’ll press out all those wonderful juices.
6. Don’t overcook. Timing depends on many factors, so use a thermometer if you want to be accurate. Aim to take burgers off around 135-140 degrees for medium-rare or 150-155 degrees for medium. The burgers will rise in temp a few degrees after you remove them from the grill and allow them to rest, which you should for a few minutes before serving.
How to grill burgers perfectly: 6 mouthwatering recipes
The name of this recipe–The Burger Lover’s Burger–at Epicurious (above & very top) is no joke. If you and your family are serious burger enthusiasts, this recipe shares a helpful, straightforward method for grinding your own meat, using either a grinder or food processor. It also includes tips for talking with your butcher if you’d rather she do it for you, as I do.
If you’re feeling a little bored by your burger routine, and the kids aren’t exactly adventurous, try these Cheese Filled Burgers with Barbeque Ranch Dressing at Domestically Speaking. Stuffed with Colby and Monterey Jack, these burgers are like a beautiful mashup of a grilled cheese and a burger. The simple ranch and barbecue sauce adds another boost of flavor that makes these burgers a no-brainer.
The Southwestern Turkey Burgers with Guacamole and Spicy Aioli at Joyful Healthy Eats will end the discussion on whether turkey burgers are boring or not. Diced onion, cumin, and cilantro bring subtle but awesome flavor to the burgers and the creamy guacamole on top is a must. When I make these, I keep things even easier by blending a little hot sauce–Cholula is my favorite–with the mayonnaise for a short-cut aioli. For the kids, I just mix a little ketchup and mayo.
If you think making a veggie burger on the grill is impossible, I’m with you. But the Easy Grillable Veggie Burgers at the brilliant Minimalist Baker are here to set us straight. With a hearty mix of beans, rice, breadcrumbs, and BBQ sauce, these sturdy patties hold up on the grill and are chock-full of flavor. As with all veggie and turkey burgers, make sure to oil the grates of the grill before cooking.
Watch the kids go bananas when they see that the buns on the Waffle Fry Slider Burgers at Neighborfood Blog are actually french fries. Courtney makes these in a skillet, but they’d be equally delicious on the grill. Just check for doneness another minute or two before your regular grilling time.
Related: More delicious burger recipes
Fried Mozzarella and Caramelized Peach Caprese Burgers at Half Baked Harvest are the burgers to make if you are grilling to impress (even if just yourself). I mean, fried mozzarella? Hello! Even if you don’t fry the mozzarella, the layers of cheese, grilled peaches, basil and beef make up a dreamy taste of summer.