When it comes to backyard burgers off the grill, we all want the same thing: a tender and juicy burger that we can really sink our teeth into. There are a hundred and one ways to grill a burger, but here's an old family recipe that guarantees flavorful and juicy burgers every time.
I first learned this recipe standing at my grandfather's knee, fascinated as he made a long "snake" on the counter. After filling the snake with onion and seasonings, he would pinch it closed, separate it into individual patties, and then fry them to a caramelized brown.
This method is more than just a trick to entertain small children — it allows you to pack the burgers full of flavor without the risk of over-handling the meat. Overworked and compacted beef results in a dry, crumbly burger. Handling the meat only minimally ensures a tender texture and juicy bite.
It's also important not to over-handle the burgers once they're on the grill. Flip them just once and take care when you move them so the burgers don't get squished. Never flatten the burgers with the back of your spatula. This just presses out those fantastic juices and doesn't help you get any better char marks.
3 Tips for Juicy Burgers
- Don't over-handle the meat.
- Flip burgers just once on the grill.
- Never flatten burgers with your spatula.
How to Grill Really Juicy Burgers
What You Need
ground beef (80% lean / 20% fat)
small onion, finely chopped
tamari or soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
thin slices melting cheese, such as cheddar, swiss, or American (optional)
hamburger buns, split
Topping options: tomato slices, lettuce, cooked bacon, avocado, sautéed mushrooms, mayonnaise, ketchup
Gas or charcoal grill
Heat the grill. Heat an outdoor grill to high heat (about 450°F), or until you can hold your hand an inch over the grates for only one second. On a charcoal grill, arrange the coals to create a high heat and a low heat cooking zone (direct and indirect grilling). Meanwhile, prepare the burger patties.
Season the beef. Place the ground beef on a baking sheet and gently pat it into a log about 2 feet long. Use your thumb to make a deep trough in the center. Sprinkle the onions evenly into the trough. Whisk the Worcestershire, tamari or soy sauce, and garlic powder together in a small bowl. Sprinkle this over the onions. Finish with a few grinds of fresh black pepper over everything.
Shape the patties. Pinch the ground beef closed around the onions. Divide the meat into 8 equal portions using a chef knife, a bench scraper, or your fingers. Use your hands to gently flatten each portion into a patty about 1-inch thick. Try not to compact or overwork the meat. Let the burgers sit at room temperature until the grill is ready, about 20 minutes.
Grill the burgers. Place the patties on the grill in a single layer. Cook until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until girll marks appear on the second side, about 2 minutes more. If using a charcoal grill, move the patties to a lower-heat (indirect) area of the grill. If using a gas grill, reduce the heat to medium. Grill 2 to 3 minutes more for medium-rare burgers, 3 to 4 minutes more for medium, or 5 to 6 minutes more for well-done burgers. In the last minute of cooking, place a slice of cheese on top of each burger and toast the buns.
Assemble the burgers. Place a patty on each toasted bun and serve with toppings.
Different flavorings: Instead of or in addition to the onions and Worcestershire sauce, try stuffing the burgers with things like fresh minced herbs, barbecue sauce, cubes of cheese, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, crispy bacon, mushrooms, and hot sauce.
Make ahead: The burger patties can be seasoned, shaped, and refrigerated for up to 1 day ahead before grilling. Let the patties sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before grilling to take the chill off.
Storage: Leftover cooked burger patties can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.