The Perfect Grilled Burger

Want to know a secret? I'd rather grill than cook on the stove. Seriously!! I can be found grilling in freezing rain or a summer storm. When the weather is a beautiful 80 degrees, windstill at sunset...AND I'm is perfect! We eat burgers a lot. My kids request burgers when I don't know what else to cook. Of course, we have our own beef that we raise and process at a local meat locker, so we have excellent ground beef always available in our freezer. We even have some of it made into patties. Those are okay when you want to feed the troops fast--I just pull a package of 10 patties from the freezer and defrost them in the microwave for 10 minutes and pop them on the grill still slightly frozen. But, honestly, those patties are usually a bit tough. For really good burgers, you have to make them by hand!

Most importantly, the beef must be about 80% lean--and NO MORE! I know, I know...that seems pretty fatty. But the fat is important in a patty--as it cooks, the fat adds moisture to the burger. Quite a bit of the fat does cook away, as you can tell when the patty is on the flames up a lot more than a lean patty!  So step #1 is to head to the store or local meat locker and get 80% lean ground beef. (I know you can use turkey, salmon, soybeans...all kinds of other things, but this is a cattle ranch, remember!?) How much do you need? I like to make 3 patties per pound of ground beef. Any smaller, and they don't fit the bun! Any bigger and it just seems too big. But my teenage boys might eat 2 burgers anyway. So figure 3 to 1 pound.

The next step is important! Make sure your hands are clean because you must form the patty with your hands. Work the meat into a ball by squeezing it back and forth in your hands a bit. Don't work it too long, but the goal is to have it all hang together without too many cracks in the patty when you flatten it. So it needs to be worked a bit in your hands. I should mention that I don't mix anything into my patties...many people do, such as seasonings or herbs. I've seen an awesome burger recipe with mushrooms and cheese in the, do what you want with that. I'd love to hear what you mix into your burgers--leave me a comment!

Back to my recipe:  When you have 1/3 pound of ground beef worked into a ball, flatten it into a uniform hockey puck/disc shape. I'm not very picky about much and I am certainly not a perfectionist anymore (5 kids, remember?) but patties that are thicker in the middle than the edges drive me nuts!! They fit the bun better if they are flattened to the same thickness throughout the patty. Some people swear that you must make a small depression in the middle of the patty, but I've found that if you just take the time to flatten it well, the patty will cook up just right. Also if there are any cracks in the surface or edges of the patty, smooth them together with your hand or fingers. Any cracks will allow more juice to seep out of the burger. That's a bummer!

Now, it's time to light the grill. I admit it...I'm a gas grill lover. I know, many people swear by charcoal and I do love the flavor of charcoal. I also love smoke pellets---but I just don't have the patience to wait for the charcoal to be ready when I've got three starving teenage boys watching my every move! So I do cook with charcoal from time to time when I'm extremely organized, but that is very rarely the case. The gas grill is perfect for us.  My thermometer on my grill is broken...probably because I use it nearly every day. So I don't rely on it at all. I start the grill up on high for a few minutes then turn it down to low medium for the actual cooking. The idea is to cook the burgers SLOWLY. If you cook them fast on high heat, they will be charbroiled on the outside and raw on the inside. That is not safe with ground meat. We'll talk about it in a bit, but you need to cook the patty to 160 degrees in the middle to be safe.

Back to the grill:  so when the grill is heated to medium and I brush off the debris with a good grill brush, I put on the patties.  Now, my grill cooks faster in the back right hand matter which way the wind is blowing. So I never leave the grill while cooking.  In my experience, it doesn't matter how many times you flip a burger, just never, NEVER, NEVER EVER push it down with the flipper! It is hard to resist, I know. But when you do, you see the juice run out of it! Obviously, if the juice runs out of it, it isn't IN it. So, don't ever flatten the patty while it is cooking. When the burger is nearly done, insert a meat thermometer in the middle of the patty from the side to make sure it is 160 degrees. You can't be sure it is cooked enough by just the color of the meat--it can be brown in the middle even if it is not 160 degrees.

As it is nearing 160 degrees, we like to sprinkle our burgers with our homemade seasoning. Check the recipe here for our Super Secret Seasoning.  If I forget to use our seasoning, the boys add it themselves as they top their burger. Also an important food safety not put the cooked burgers on the same platter that held raw burgers. Ground beef is usually bacteria-free, but if there happens to be any bacteria like E-coli, it is killed by cooking. Good food safety doesn't stop with the processing and packaging, but is also a responsibility of the cook!

My favorite burger has lettuce, cheese, ketchup and mayonnaise (no NOT Miracle Whip) and a slice of a homegrown beefsteak tomato--sometimes we'll go crazy and make some bacon and mushrooms to put on our burgers. But usually the good old standbys are just what we want. I just planted the beefsteak tomato plants in our garden, so there are obviously no tomatoes available yet. But we'll enjoy these burgers tonight before the boys play a home baseball game. MMMmmm....I love summer!!


  1. I was raised on a cattle ranch, as were my kids and now Grandkids. We NEVER tire of burgers either. I printed off your season-mix recipe. Going to give it a try on steaks. Angus steaks..does it get any better??

  2. Great post! My family would much rather grill than cook on the stove as well. We're outside grilling during a blizzard! And we love our homemade burgers from our own beef. I'll have to share my mom's burger recipe on my blog,

  3. Bet your hubby loves that you do the grilling! At Successful Farming magazine and Agriculture Online we put together a Father's Day gift-giving guide perfect for the hard working man. We hope you can check it out on our website:

  4. Yumm! We grill in all types of weather too, theres just nothing like it, everything taste better grilled!! :)

  5. we love burgers too but have to go to the meat market to buy them. my hubby likes me to grate a carrot, potato, onion and a little bit of fine chopped cabbage in the meat, add an egg and make the patties, they are very juicy and we have a meal in the burger. my grandkids don't always want a veggie but likes a burger so this way they get both. love your blog.

  6. Ellie K: That sounds great! I will have to give that a try!!


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