Grilling burgers is a top American summer must-do, but if you haven't mastered the perfect burger yet, fear not, because we are here to turn you into the Burger Champaign of the neighborhood.
Can I let you in on a little secret?
The best burgers are not cooked all the way. There! I said it! Well-done burger patties have no business sitting on my buttered brioche buns. It's medium all the way for me and I'm here to explain (and hopefully change well-doner's minds) the temperature to cook your burgers to, and for those wary about medium burgers, a simple way to pasteurize your burgers and kill off any lurking bacteria.
A Burger Is As Good as Its Beef
The best burgers start out with the right meat. You want to use good quality ground meat, but don't just go for the package at the grocery store marked ground beef. Look for ground chuck with between 15 and 20 percent fat content.
I suggest looking for ground beef at either your local butcher or at the Farmer's Market. I recently got a chance to try local aged ground beef from a farmer and the difference in flavor between it and the ground beef from the grocery store is astonishing.
Once you have the meat, it's time to fire up the grill. Regardless of whether you're using a gas grill or charcoal grill, make sure the grate is clean and well oiled. You don't want your burgers to stick when you flip them over (and flip them one time only).
Rare, Medium, or Well-Done?
Growing up I was under the impression burgers were only prepared one way: cooked entirely through with scorch marks on both sides. However, once I got older and started cooking for myself, I learned that is not always the case. In fact, 60% of Americans don't like well-down burgers according to Burger Republic.
The reason for all these well-down burgers falls under two categories: culture and health concerns. The second is where things get a little sticky because yes, if you want to kill dangerous pathogens and bacteria, you'll need to cook your ground beef to 165F according to the USDA. Anything other than well-done is completely up to the cook's discretion.
If you take a look at the temperatures according to the doneness, well-done is the only doneness that satisfies this.
How Long To Grill Burgers
MEDIUM-RARE: 125 to 130 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes per side
MEDIUM: 135 to 140 degrees, 3 to 4 minutes per side
MEDIUM-WELL: 145 to 160 degrees, 4 to 5 minutes per side
WELL-DONE: 160 degrees and up, 5 minutes and up per side
Unless you pasteurize the meat.
ThermPro suggests the best way to cook burgers to temp without turning them into a crisp is to employ a pasteurization method. Simply cook the burgers until they reach 138F then remove them from the grill, cover them in aluminum foil, and place them in a 140F oven for 12 minutes. Keeping the burgers at this temperature will effectively kill the bacteria, making them safe to eat.
J. Kenji López-Alt from Serious Eats suggests using a Sous-Vide as a way to pasteurize burger patties as another option.
So You Want A Juicy Well-Done Burger
I understand if you aren't on the "medium-rare" train yet. I get it! So I rounded up a fun little trick to keep your burgers juicy.
Master Chef judge Graham Elliot explained the trick to Fox News and it's super simple. "Make your patties, then put your little ice cube in there, and then when you grill it, it keeps it moist and keeps it from getting dried out."
As the hamburger patty cooks, the ice melts slowly, keeping the burger moist. Watch the high heat if you have a high-fat burger. Fat dripping onto the fire can cause flare-ups, which although it gives you a nice crust on the burger, can cook the outside while the inside is still cold.
A great burger is a juicy burger, so in addition to the ice cube trick, don't press, flatten, or cut into the burger while it's cooking. Leave it alone except to flip it (one flip only); to check doneness, use a meat thermometer.
Once you've cooked the beef, don't forget the rest of what makes a better burger. You want a hamburger bun with the right texture, something that can stand up to a juicy hamburger patty but doesn't overwhelm the taste of the meat. And don't forget good condiments. Whether you're going with the classic American cheese, Heinz 57, lettuce, and tomato combo, or something more adventurous like smoked cheddar, barbecue sauce, and red onions, put the good stuff on your burger.