When the weather heats up and the lure of backyard barbecues takes hold, one craving ousts all others: that for a big, juicy burger. But whether you’re new to grilling burgers or you’re a seasoned pro—or you’re cooking for someone who prefers a different level of doneness than you—it’s a good idea to stop and read through our guide to how to grill burgers (and how long to grill burgers) for optimal satisfaction.
Choose the best burger meat
Ground chuck is a great all-purpose, buy-it-anywhere choice for burger recipes. Whatever you do, look for beef with a fat content of 20%. That 80/20 ratio is the key to a perfect burger that’s juicy but not greasy. Want to try a custom blend? Go for it. Ask your butcher to grind part chuck with short ribs or brisket and live your most bespoke life.
Not grilling beef patties? The alternatives are endless: chicken burgers, turkey burgers, even salmon burgers! Opt for dark meat poultry, fatty fish, or ground pork or lamb shoulder (or black beans and quinoa if it’s a veggie burger you’re after). Note that the poultry or seafood patties should be cooked through completely. Medium-rare is not a good look on a chicken or fish burger. Otherwise, the rules below should apply to these as with any beef burger.
Shape those burgers right
When forming a burger for the grill, aim for a ¾” to 1″ thickness and a 3″ to 4″ diameter. The burgers will shrink slightly as they cook, so you want the raw patties to skew a little larger than the buns onto which they’ll eventually land. Make a small dimple in the center of the patty—this indentation will prevent your burger from puffing up like a balloon, ensuring an even and picturesque patty. Work quickly but gently, and don’t compress the patty too much: The enemy of any burger is overworked meat.
How to season burgers
A big burger deserves big flavor, but that doesn’t mean you need to go bananas with the seasoning. When you’re working with high-quality meat, sautéed onions mixed into the patties just aren’t necessary—and that goes double for raw onions. Other things to leave behind: egg, bread crumbs, cumin, garlic powder, taco seasoning, etc. It’s not a meatloaf, people!
Two seasonings you should incorporate: salt and pepper. Avoid mixing these seasonings into the burger meat, however, since adding salt to ground beef prematurely can toughen it. Instead, season the patties with ample kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper after they’re shaped and right before you plan to take them out to the grill.
How to cook burgers on the grill
Set your gas grill temperature to high heat and give it a few minutes to warm up, or prep a charcoal grill for direct heat. Brush off those grill grates to remove any stuck on bits and use a paper towel, tongs, and neutral oil to slick them up so your burgers don’t stick.
The total time it takes to grill your burger will fluctuate based on your grill temperature and the size of your burger patties. Whatever your idea of a “done burger’ is, use the timing suggestions below as a guideline for your cookout, not a rule.
How long to grill burgers
- Medium-rare: 6–7 minutes total
- Medium: 7–8 minutes total
- Medium-well: 9 minutes total
- Well-done: 10 minutes total