For years, grilling with gas has hampered my ability to cook the perfect burger. You know – the burger that’s equal parts juicy, flavorful, and most importantly, well-done. While they were okay-ish on flavor, my burgers were always drier than the heart of a haystack and ventured into the realm of over-done. Every. Single. Time.
But not anymore.
After several weeks of experimentation and lots of burgers grilled, I have finally harnessed the power of my six burner Brinkman gas grill and come up with a list of tools and techniques needed to cook the perfect burger.
The following is based on ground beef burgers that are ¾ of an inch to one inch in thickness.
Ground beef that’s not too lean, but also, not too fatty.
I have found through trial and error and a few unfortunate flare-ups that the beef needs to have enough fat to produce some juice, but lean enough to not render out causing the flames and teeny-tiny charred burgers that only take up a fraction of your bun.
There’s usually some variety when it comes to the lean-to-fat ratio of the ground beef available in your grocer’s meat case. The ratios are those funny looking fractions you see on the package label. Ground beef will most commonly have lean-to-fat ratios of 70/30, 80/20, or 93/7. The bigger number is the percentage of lean meat and the smaller number is the percentage of fat.
When I am prepping ground beef burger style, I steer clear of 70/30 ground beef on account of it being too fatty. And I almost never buy 93/7 because it’s too lean. Like Goldilocks, I prefer ground beef that is just right, which to me is somewhere around the 80/20 to 85/15 range of lean to fat.
Want to be double sure your burger takes up your entire bun? Dent your patties.
In addition, to choosing ground beef that is just right in the way of leanness, putting a little dent in the center of your patties will also help keep them from shrinking and bulging up in the center during the grilling process. I don’t know about you, but I’m not the fondest of pudgy little burgers that result in beefless bites of bun.
PS – Foregoing the dent and just smashing the bulge down with a spatula is NOT an option. The smashing gets rid of not only the bulge but also the juiciness. And remember, perfect burgers are equal parts juicy, flavorful, and well-done.
Some seasoning – or not.
Seasoning is mostly a personal thing and not a necessity. Most of the time, I generously season both sides of our burgers with Tom’s Steak Rub. But how I season my burger ultimately comes down to my mood on any given day. Sometimes I prefer to do just a pinch of salt and pepper. And other times I like my burger au naturale.
A clean, pre-heated grill with lubricated grates – all burners turned on and set to a medium-high flame.
The cleanliness of the grill will prevent grease fires and out of control flare-ups. Sometimes, I get lazy about cleaning my grill and almost always regret my laziness upon firing up the old Brinkman.
Clean lubricated grates will prevent the burgers from sticking when it’s flip time. Lubrication also helps keep up the integrity of your grates and prevents premature rusting. I usually preheat my grill, run my grill brush across the grates, and lubricate using tongs to run a vegetable oil soaked folded up paper towel up and down the grates.
Those beautiful grill marks and tasty crust come from the medium-high flame over which the burgers are cooked for the first six minutes of grilling.
A cell phone.
Yes – a cell phone. You need a cell phone because your phone (unless it’s not smart) will have the tunes and the timer you need to cook the perfect burger.
So, maybe the tunes aren’t exactly a necessity. But, good tunes do make grilling that much more enjoyable. I turn on my Pandora shuffle and it makes my eclectic music loving heart so happy. The timer, however, does play an integral role.
As soon as the patties hit the grates over that medium-high flame, I start the timer. After three minutes, I flip the patties and reset the timer for another three minutes. The end of the second three minutes is where the next tool comes into play.
A meat thermometer.
If you know me, or have been reading this blog for very long, you know that I am a food safety enthusiast. And you may also know, if you follow me on Instagram, that I’m so enthusiastic about food safety that my meat thermometer can sometimes be found hanging out in my sweatshirt pocket.
That is because using a meat thermometer is THE only way to determine level of doneness. And, burgers are only guaranteed safe when a meat thermometer inserted right in the center of the patty reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
I’m not going to say that my discovery of a little cooking method known as indirect heat has been a lifesaver because that might be slightly excessive. But, it sure has been a burger saver. It helps me get my burgers to that well-done 160 degrees without drying out and/or burning my beef.
So, after the second three minute timer goes off, I insert my meat thermometer into the center of my burgers. If they haven’t quite reached the 160 degree mark, I turn off the center burners of my grill and place the burgers over the inactive burners. The outside burners are still going strong with a medium-high flame, but the heat that the burgers are experiencing is the less intense indirect kind of heat.
Once on indirect heat, I set my handy-dandy timer for two minutes. When the timer goes off, I do another temp check. If the burgers still aren’t there, I flip them. Rinse and repeat until the burgers reach that very important, safe and savory temp of 160.
So, there you have it. Those are the tools and techniques that have helped me achieve burger perfection on my gas grill. What about you? Have you mastered the art of the perfect burger? Do you use any tools or techniques not listed here? If so, drop them in the comments below – I’m always up for learning how to further perfect the perfect burger.