Test Kitchen Tips for the Best Homemade Burgers on the Grill

Be the king or queen of the grill with these Test Kitchen tips for grilling the perfect burger—plus get some of our favorite toppings and serving suggestions.

Biting into a juicy hamburger hot off the grill is one of our favorite parts of a summer cookout. And while homemade burgers are also popular because they're easy to make, it's a sad day when you end up with a dry, flavorless patty. So we rounded up our best burger on the grill tips and tricks to make your backyard barbecue a success. We'll teach you how long to grill hamburgers, share our Test Kitchen tips for the juiciest burgers, and offer a few of our best hamburger meat recipes—because not all ground beef is the same.

Now fire up the grill because we're about to perfect those burger grilling techniques.

pressing patty on tray to grill burgers
Karla Conrad

Tips to Make the Most Flavorful Hamburger Patties

A delicious homemade burger on the grill starts with a great patty. Follow these tips for making the best patties:

  • The Meat Mix: The best hamburger meat for grilling is 85% lean (15% fat) ground beef. This ratio is better than leaner beef mixes because most of the fat drips away during grilling but leaves moisture and flavor behind. If you use extra-lean beef, you'll end up with drier burgers.
  • Buy Good Beef: Make sure your meat is fresh. This may seem like an obvious tip, but you want to use bright pink ground beef without any dark spots or unpleasant odor for the best burgers.
  • Don't Overwork It: When mixing the ground beef with any seasonings or add-ins, work the burger mixture as little as possible. You'll end up with tough burgers if you overwork raw meat.
  • Even Patties: To form equal-size patties, gently pat all your meat into one large square, then cut it into fourths (or more if you're making sliders or a larger batch of burgers). Then roll each square into a ball.
  • Add a Dimple: Pat each ball into a ¾-inch thick circle. Use your fingers to press lightly into the center of each patty to form a shallow indentation. This dimple will prevent your burgers from shrinking while they're cooking and help each patty cook evenly (and it'll make them easier to stuff, too!).
testing doneness of burger on grill with thermometer
Andy Lyons

Burger Grilling Tips

Knowing how to properly make burgers on the grill is just as important as making great patties. When you're ready to start grilling hamburgers for your hungry crowd, keep these tips in mind:

  • Timing: Grill your burgers over medium for about 14 to 18 minutes, turning just once about halfway through cooking.
  • Don't Press Burgers: We know it's tempting, but don't use your spatula to press down on the burger patties while they're on the grill (unless you're making a smashed burger). Instead, just leave them be. Pressing will squeeze out the juices, which you want to stay inside to keep your burgers moist.
  • Flip Smart: Use a spatula or tongs ($24, Amazon) to turn your burgers to help them keep their shape.
  • Test Doneness: Don't worry about the color when deciding if your burgers are done. Instead, insert an instant-read thermometer ($20, Amazon) through the side of the patty, so the point is in the center. When the inside of your burger registers 160°F, it's done and safe to eat, even if there's still a little pink in the center.

Buy It: Weber Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill ($139, Amazon)

Bacon Cheeseburgers with Kentucky Bourbon Sauce
Blaine Moats

How to Serve Hamburgers

The best grilled burgers aren't ready when they come off the grill—now it's time to make them even better by dressing them up with toppers. Go beyond plain old ketchup and mustard by adding fun extras like caramelized onions, onion rings, sautéed mushrooms, sliced pickled peppers, or a smear of peanut butter. You can also experiment with buns like ciabatta rolls and pretzel or sesame seed buns. And if you like adding mayo to your burger, try turning it into a special sauce by mixing in Sriracha, chopped bacon, curry powder, or fresh garlic. There are tons of burger recipes for inspiration, but feel free to get creative and invent your own recipe.

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