Grilling a great burger takes practice. Everyone who is skillful at using an outdoor grill has had an embarrassing moment or two along the way with under cooking and overcooking the meat. There are some tricks that help you to be able to know how to avoid this and cook a great burger on the grill nearly every time.
Form the burgers into thinner patties.
Most people mistakenly believe that a good burger has to be about a half inch or more thick before it is cooked. The problem with thick hamburger is that it cooks very slowly. If you will press the patties down to about a quarter inch thick and make them slightly bigger around, they will cook quicker and still draw up to make the thicker burger that you want. Instead of needing a couple of hours to cook up twenty or so burgers, you can get it done in about 25 to 30 minutes after the fire is hot if you have enough grill space. For a juicier burger, use hamburger that is 73% or 75% meat and the rest fat. Almost all of the fat will cook out of the meat during grilling.
If you are using charcoal for fuel, do not put the grill over the coals until you are ready to cook.
Burgers will stick quicker to the hot metal of the grill. If it is a little cooler, they will not stick nearly as badly. This will keep you from breaking up the burgers when you are trying to flip them. For gas or electric grills, this is not as much of a problem because normally the burgers are added to the grill before it can get hot. With these types of grills, you do not have to worry about the vagaries of the charcoal fire.
Add salt and pepper to the burgers before you cook them.
Not everyone wants their burgers seasoned this way, but most people do. If you will be using a spicy sauce, there is no need to pepper the burgers beforehand. If you do, you risk having grilled burgers that are to spicy for some tastes. For burgers that will not be sauced, the salt and pepper will be welcomed by your guests.
Allow the burgers to cook halfway through before flipping them.
Some people like to flip the burgers many times. The problem is that the burger will not cook all of the way to the center because the heat keeps coming from a different direction before it can penetrate the entire piece of meat. By letting the burger rest on one side until it begins to turn gray or brown around the top edges, you can be sure that the burger is cooked past the middle of the patty. If you want a rare burger, you should just flip it a little sooner. By letting the burger cook longer on the first side, it also allows the meat to become firm, and it is unlikely to break when you flip it.
If you like to cook the sauce onto the burger, never apply the sauce until after you flip the burger.
Because barbecue sauce has sugar in it, it will caramelize and become scorched before the meat can cook. You always want to apply the sauce to the cooked side of the meat. Let it stiffen before you flip the burger the second time, and the sauce will remain on the meat. Once you flip the sauced side to the bottom, quickly sauce the upper side. Using a brush is the best way to apply the sauce, but you can spoon it on if you are careful.
Depending on the heat of your fire, watch how long you let the sauced side of the meat stay exposed to the heat.
Most people who want barbecue sauce on their grilled burgers like it cooked onto the meat. Let the sauce caramelize a little to give it that little extra boost of flavor. It may look slightly black, but just cover it with more sauce. It will taste great. If time allows, the best burgers need to be sauced at least twice on each side.
The second and possibly third layer of sauce does not need to be very thick.
Just paint a little back onto the burger. Let the final coat on top not be turned to the fire. As you take up the burgers, flip them onto the platter with the last layer of sauce from one burger resting on top of the caramelized sauce on the burger beneath it. You may want to add a little sauce to the top of the final burger in each stack on the platter. The darker sauces tend to grill up the best.
If you are not saucing the burgers, try not to overcook them.
Once you flip the burgers the first time, you will want to keep your eye on them. Most people do not like burned hamburgers. To avoid this, after a few minutes, flip one of the burgers back over. Press it with the spatula to see if clear or pink grease comes out. If it is clear and the burger appears cooked, it probably is. Move it to a cooler part of the grill to keep it warm until you are ready to take up the rest of the burgers on the grill.
Repeat this process with each burger until they are all cooked.
If the first burger is finished, all of the burgers will be ready soon. If pink come out of the first burger, flip it back over and let it cook another three to five minutes depending on how hot the fire is. Check a different burger at that time to see how the progress is going. Repeat this process until the burgers are finished.
A good burger deserves a good bun.
If this is a special occasion, buy better quality buns. You usually get what you pay for here. While a good burger will improve a lesser bun, for special times, bring out the good stuff. Your guests will appreciate the little extra taste and texture of a good bun.