The Secret to Grilling Burgers That Are Always Tender and Juicy

updated May 22, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Loading up your grill with burgers seems like a no-brainer — everyone loves a grilled burger piled high with cheese and pickles and slathered with mayo and ketchup. But for the novice grill cook, burgers can be surprisingly difficult. Their wide surface area and thinness makes burger prone to overcooking. And, even worse, their juices can cause flareups that burn their tender exterior.

You can hedge your bets a little by adding grated butter to your patties or filling them up with cheese, or you can take a more direct approach and master the ideal grill temperature and time on each side for juicier burgers.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

This Is the Best Temperature for Grilled Burgers

Grill your burgers over too high a heat and you’ll end up with dry, burnt burgers; too low and they’ll be placid and rubber. The sweet spot for grilled burgers is 375°F to 400°F, which for most gas grill is medium-high heat. For charcoal grills, make sure you fill the grill with two to three quarts of lit charcoal spread into an even layer. Make sure you’re preheating your grill long enough to ensure that both the grates and the interior of the grill are hot before you begin. Grill the burgers directly over the heat source (rather than cooking them over indirect heat).

This Is How Long to Grill Burgers

With your grill at the ideal heat for burgers, paying attention to the time you cook each side of your burger patties will help you determine their doneness without a thermometer. A quick reminder: The FDA recommends that commercial beef be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F for safety, but if you prefer a medium-rare burger (and trust you beef source) you can begin removing your burgers from the grill when they reach 145°F. Below are quick guidelines for the total amount of cook time your burgers will need on each side.

Grilled Burger Cooking Times

  • Medium-rare (red in the middle): 3 minutes each side.
  • Medium (pink in the middle): 3 to 4 minutes each side.
  • Medium-well (a bit of pink in the middle): 4 minutes each side.
  • Well-done (no pink): 10 minutes each side.