With summer fast approaching, it’s time to bust out your favorite gas grill or charcoal grill to cook up the season’s favorite meals. You probably think that grilling burgers couldn’t be too hard but even if you made good burgers, there are a few tweaks that you can apply to completely change your burger game. Here, we share the best temperature to grill burgers and turn tasteless ground meat and dry burgers into juicy burgers.
Table of Contents
The Best Way to Make the Perfect Patty
You might be shocked to see that you’ve been making burgers all wrong but with just a few tips, you can create medium-rare burgers that can rival even the best burger patties from the top restaurants! While cooking burgers isn’t that hard, it does require you to nail the basics so you can grill just like a pro. The fat content in your meat, the steps you take in preparing each burger patty, the burger temperatures, and knowing the cooking times will make a huge difference.
Choosing the Right Beef
When you want to serve a delicious burger, you’ll want to look for ground chuck because it contains higher amounts of fat. This keeps the burger moist and delivers a great flavor while at the same time being affordable compared to other cuts of meat. Look for raw meat with a 15 to 20 percent fat content, which is the perfect mix for making the perfect hamburger.
You can mix a wide range of ground meats to achieve various flavors; try combinations such as ground pork and beef, or even chorizo and beef to make your own meat. Just make sure that you keep the fat content within the 15% to 20% sweet spot.
Making Your Burger Patty
But what can you add to your patty to make sure that it all sticks together? The truth is that you don’t need to add anything — unlike meatballs or meatloaf that need a binder like breadcrumbs to stick, this is not necessary. Good quality beef from your grocery store with the right fat content is all you’ll need to create the best burgers!
Preparing Your Patty for Grilling
You might think that there’s no wrong way to grill burgers, but you’ll be surprised how much better your grilled burger will be by following the simple steps below.
- Remember not to cut fat off: Fat is an essential part of adding flavor to your burger. Even if you are fat-conscious, you’ll find that grilling experts will stick to 85% lean ground beef. You can also look for other options such as “double ground beef” which will give you a better mix of meat and fat to work with.
- Chill your burger patties: Be sure to make your patties ahead of time and refrigerate them — this will help keep their form as you grill them. You can also run your hands under cold water before you start making patties when you work during summer. It’s also best not to handle them too much because this can compress your meat and will result in melting the fat.
- Brush your burgers with olive oil: Before you start grilling any kind of burger, be sure to give it a brush of olive oil. This will ensure that your patties won’t stick to the grill and take a nice sear, which will seal all the juices inside.
Burger Temperature Guidelines
First of all, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), any ground meat should be cooked until it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Doing this ensures that lingering bacteria such as E.coli will be eliminated and that your meat will be safe for consumption. Ground poultry will need to reach at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be safe for consumption.
But if this is the case, you’re probably wondering why steaks can be consumed medium-rare at a lower temperature of 130°F. This is because of the behavior of the actual bacteria — they don’t live at the meat’s surface and won’t migrate anywhere else or burrow inside the meat. As such, when steaks are seared at a high temperature, all surface bacteria are instantly eliminated.
The medium temperature inside the steak will be safe to eat because there aren’t traces of bacteria inside. But once you take this steak and put it through the grinder, harmful bacteria will be mixed up through the meat in and out of your burger. This is the reason why your temperature needs to reach 160°F at the center of your meat, which ensures that all bacteria are eliminated.
To get an accurate measurement of the grill temperature, be sure to invest in a reliable instant-read thermometer for meat. Always use your thermometer on the thickest area of the meat — doing this will ensure that your food will stay away from the low heat zone. Ensure that you clean and sanitize your thermometer after each and every use.
If you choose to grind your own beef at home, be sure to refer to the temperature guide below to make sure you reach the appropriate temperatures for your tastes.
- Rare: This refers to temperatures between 120°F to 125°F; burger patties should never be cooked and eaten at these temperatures for your own safety.
- Medium rare: Temperatures between 130°F to 135°F which is the minimum safe temperature that’s safe to eat, provided that you take the proper precautions.
- Medium: Burgers with medium doneness will be slightly pink inside, with an internal temperature of 140°F to 145°F.
- Medium Well: With a medium-well burger, you’ll find that it has a bit of pink in the middle but will have dried out on the outside and will be at a temperature between 150°F to 155°F.
- Well Done: Well-done burgers will usually have a very dry and tough consistency. If you work with store-bought beef, you’ll need to cook it between 160°F to 165°F. Alternatively, you may pasteurize your meat at 140°F for a minimum of 12 minutes.
Grill Temperature Guidelines
In general, burgers need to be cooked on medium-high heat at approximately 375°F to high temperatures at 400°F. While most gas grills will have a built-in grill thermometer, it’s also helpful to have an instant-read meat thermometer for your grilling needs. As mentioned above, the USDA guidelines recommend that all ground meat be cooked to 160°F.
This temperature ensures that all meat you serve will adhere to the food safety guidelines, by eliminating all kinds of bacteria that may be harmful to our health. Moreover, meat continues to cook even as it rests, so it’s common to take them off the grill at just under 160 degrees Fahrenheit. While this might be fine with beef patties, turkey burgers will need to reach 165°F.
If you want to make grilled salmon burgers, you’ll need to keep it on the grill until it reaches the internal temperature of 145°F. No matter what kind of burger you cook, the key to getting the right temperature every time is with the help of an instant-read thermometer. Even if you were cooking a veggie burger, this tool will give you the right amount of time left for your burger to cook.
How to Grill the Perfect Burger
You’ve probably seen how other people will haphazardly throw their premade, unseasoned patties directly into high heat — this only results in overcooked, dry, and grainy hamburgers. Below is a two-step process that will allow you to maintain the temperature of each burger and achieve the right doneness you want to achieve. Surprisingly, you can get great results when grilling your burgers straight from the freezer, but we’ll focus on the simple steps of this cooking process.
Two-Stage Cooking Method
This method works by using two heating stages, you’ll be able to create the best hamburgers. As such, you’ll need to set up your charcoal grill or pellet grill with one side on a lower temperature to control your cook time, while the higher temperature will be used to sear your juices inside. During the first part of your grilling, put your burger on the lower heat to allow the indirect heat from the hotter side to cook your burger slower.
Once you’re 20°F from the final temperature you want to reach, move your burgers over to the hotter side of your grill to get the grill marks you’re looking for and to reach the desired temperature. This two-stage method for cooking ground beef is a great way to nail your target doneness and temperature, with less heat carried over compared to direct grilling. Even if you pull out your burger at 153°F when cooked with direct heat, your medium-well burger would still reach 160°F as a result of residual heat.
Tips for Grilling Burgers
You’ve probably made hamburgers throughout the years, or this could be your first time — lucky for you, we’ve compiled a curated list of all the best tips for a flavorful burger.
- Season every patty: Despite what most people do, don’t make the same mistake by adding the seasoning to the meat and then mixing everything in a bowl. When you do this, you only over-handle the meat which leads to a dry and tough burger.
- Keep things simple: If you’re working with quality meat, don’t be tempted to overload it with all kinds of herbs and spices. All you really need is black pepper, salt, and garlic powder to bring out the natural flavors of your meat.
- Press on the center of the burger: As soon as your burger hits the grill, it’ll seize up and shrink, causing the middle of your burger to puff up. Using your thumb to press down on the center of the patty will help your burger cook evenly and keep your patty nice and flat.
- Stop touching your burger: Remember that the more you move your burger, the more juice is lost, which will only make it dry. Grilling gurus recommend keeping your burgers on for 2 to 3 minutes for each side to achieve the perfect sear before flipping it over once. This is the only time you should touch your burger to get optimal results.
- Always use a meat thermometer: Be sure to check the internal temperature of your burgers before you serve them. Below, we discuss in further detail to help you, but as a general rule, every grill will be different and the thickness of your burger will also be a factor with the final temperature.
- Give it time to rest: Any kind of protein placed on a hot grill will expand and all its juice will travel to the center of the patty. But when you take it off the grill and allow it to rest for 5 minutes, you allow the juices to become evenly distributed around the burger. This means that every bite you take will be juicy.
How to Grind Your Own Burgers
The important thing to remember when it comes to the grinding process for your own burger is the bacteria and food safety guidelines issued by the USDA. Ground meat will provide more opportunities for bacteria to grow, and may lead to more foodborne illness. The same thing applies to purchasing ground beef that doesn’t clearly specify the cut of meat it comes from, or how long it’s been since it was ground.
If you’re grinding burgers from a fresh type of meat like a chuck, then you’ll be able to consider grilling it to medium heat between the temperatures of 130 to 135 degrees and higher if you want them more well done. But as a rule of thumb, you’ll want to stick to these cooking times for beef burgers to get the right doneness when you want to cook using high heat. Because every grill will be different from each other, you’ll want to use a food thermometer.
- Rare for a total of 4 to 5 minutes at 120 to 125 degrees
- Medium-rare for a total of 6 to 7 minutes at 130 to 135 degrees
- Medium for a total of 8 to 9 minutes at 140-145 degrees
Grinding Your Own Beef
Because you’re now familiar with the rules involving prepackaged meats, you can now slightly bend the rules if you’re looking to grind your own meat for your burger recipes. By getting your hands on a good chuck steak to grind it just before cooking it on the grill, you’ll be able to minimize and control any risks for these reasons:
- You’ll know the exact cut of beef that you’re cooking
- Putting it straight onto the grill will ensure that bacteria won’t have the chance to spread
Moreover, grinding your own meat from a whole cut will let you cook a medium burger with temperatures between 130°F to 135°F. But grinding meat on your own isn’t just for the purpose of getting medium-rare burgers; you can also reap other benefits such as temperature control and food safety, which are listed below.
- Quality and Freshness
Unfortunately, the prepackaged ground meats you see at grocery stores aren’t that fresh — in fact, anything ground at your house will be much fresher. Because your own ground meat is much fresher, it will provide you with better taste and quality. Plus, your meat won’t lose its flavor quickly because it wouldn’t have been sitting on some shelf.
- Customized Meat Blends
Options you get from the shelf may have labels such as “special grind” or “butcher blends,” but these will have random cuts used and you’ll have no way of knowing what’s inside. Grinding meat on your own will give you control over what will go into your cooked burger. You may also experiment by combining a meaty sirloin with tender short ribs while creating flavors that you can’t get from stores.
- It’s Cost-Effective
Grinding meat at home will allow you to save money since store-ground meat will have marked-up prices to cover both the processing and labor costs. When you grind meat at home, you can save not just money, but also trimming that would have gone to waste if it were processed in the shops. Once you’re able to grind your own meat effectively, you can also save more by combining pricier cuts with cheaper ones.
Associated Risks with Ground Beef
Unfortunately, ground beef can be more susceptible to contaminants when left at room temperature for a long time. This is because pre-ground beef is often processed from multiple cows unless its package states that it was taken from a single source. If many cows were used to process the final product, even 1% of contaminated meat will spread to the rest of the batch.
The grinding process will then distribute the bacteria all over the meat as it’s packaged and sent to both direct consumers and commercial establishments. Should this happen, then restaurants and grocery stores will end up serving tainted meat. The good news is you’ll be able to avoid all these dangers by grinding your beef at home, which will keep you safe and worry-free.
Conclusion on the Best Temperature to Grill Burgers
When it comes to the right hamburger grill time, you need to determine the best temp for your patties, and you may also opt to close the grill lid to adjust the heat as needed. Some of the best things you can do to give your burger a kick are to sear them on your grill grates, add Worcestershire sauce, and use wood chips to give your creations a smokey flavor. By adhering to the tips above, you’ll be sure to serve the best burgers that will make you the envy of your neighbors.
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