There are countless methods to grill and top a burger, but one thing they all have in common is that they must be cooked to the correct temperature for food safety. We’ll go through our burger temperature guide, how to use ground meat safely, and our favorite way for grilling the ideal burger. 

Begin with a squeaky-clean grill

When cooking dinner on the grill, start with a clean grill with oiled grill grates, just like you would when cooking dinner on the stovetop with a clean pan and a little oil. Start by washing your grill grates with a grill brush to remove any built-up debris from previous meals. Then oil the grill by dipping a folded paper towel in oil and rubbing the oil-soaked towel on the grates with grilling tongs.

Temperature guide for grilled hamburgers

First and foremost, all pre-ground meat must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F, according to the USDA. Any lingering bacteria will be destroyed, and the meat will be safe to eat. To be deemed safe, ground poultry must reach a temperature of 165°F.

So, why can medium-rare steaks be consumed at 130°F? It has something to do with the way germs behave. Bacteria on the surface of a steak or a whole piece of meat do not migrate or burrow into the meat. As a result, all surface bacteria are eliminated when a steak is seared at high temperatures. Because there are no bacteria inside, the medium-rare inside is safe. If you’re unsure about the freshness of your steak before cooking it, there are a few telltale indications to check for to identify the difference between a good-to-eat piece of meat and a rotten one. When you grind the same steak, the bacteria is distributed throughout the flesh, both inside and outside the burger patty.

This is why the internal temperature of ground meat must reach 160°F. It guarantees that any germs spread during the grinding process have been eliminated and that the meat is safe to eat. This will ensure that the meal remains within the safe temperature range. Between each use, make sure the thermometer is cleaned and sanitized.

What are the dangers of eating ground beef?

For a variety of reasons, ground beef is far more susceptible to contamination than entire pieces. Unless the label specifically states otherwise, pre-ground beef can be produced from many animals. Even 1% of contaminated meat will infect the entire batch if numerous cows are processed into one final product.

The germs are distributed throughout the meat being packaged and shipped to market, both commercially and directly to customers, as a result of this grinding and processing. When this happens, both grocery stores and restaurants are at risk of providing spoiled meat.

USDA and temperature recommendations for cooking

Some chefs believe the USDA requirements are overly strict, yet they are in place to protect the public from foodborne illness and disease. Restaurants and chefs collaborate with the USDA and local health officials to follow these rules and manage any exceptions, such as fermentation.

A restaurant must establish and implement a HACCP plan before serving a menu item that the USDA may consider high risk. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP, is an internationally recognized system for reducing and controlling the risk of food safety risks. Let’s imagine a chef wants to offer a burger that’s medium rare, or 130 degrees Fahrenheit on the inside. To lower the risk of sickness, they must first collaborate with their local health authority and agree on a HACCP plan.

The proposal would have to stipulate that only meat ground in-house can be cooked and served medium rare for this issue to be approved. To be safe, any pre-ground beef must still be cooked to 160°F.

Decrease contamination risk

When it comes to making burgers, there are a few easy procedures that we can all take to decrease the danger of contamination. Take the following advice:

  • Ground beef should be kept cool and within the temperature safety zone of 40°F or less.
  • Separate the raw meat and produce prep stations and utensils.
  • Hands must be washed before and after handling raw meat.
  • Before and after preparing foods, clean and sterilize kitchen surfaces.
  • Separate ready-to-eat foods from raw foods and their juices.

Ground beef ratio

You can prepare delicious turkey, portobello, or salmon burgers. But if you’re a beef-loving Texan like me, ground beef is the way to go! Let’s talk about fat ratio now that we’ve identified the type of beef. While it comes to burgers, most research suggests that the more fat, the better; after all, it cooks out when it’s on the grill.

However, the 80/20 ration is the most common across the board. However, I’ve recently started using 85/15 and prefer it. You still get a delicious, juicy, flavorful burger, but with a little less fat. There will be no dry burgers here! If your store doesn’t have an 85/15, buy one package of 80/20 and one package of 90/10 and combine them. It’ll be fantastic!

Grind your beef yourself

If you grind your own burger meat, you can somewhat bend the restrictions now that you know the regulations about premade meat. When purchasing pre-packaged ground meat, you have no way of knowing which animal pieces were used or how long it has been on the market.

For two reasons, if you purchase a well-marbled chuck steak and ground it up shortly before grilling, the risk is managed and decreased. One, you know precisely what cut of meat you’re working with, and two, you don’t give bacteria a chance to multiply by heading right to the grill. You can cook your burger to a medium rare internal temperature of 130°F to 135°F by grinding your own meat from entire cuts.

Advantages of grinding your own meat

It’s not just for medium-rare burgers that you should grind your own meat. Along with safety and control, it provides a plethora of other advantages.

Quality and freshness

Prepackaged ground meat from the grocery store is unlikely to be as fresh as you imagine, and whatever you grind yourself will be far superior. Your self-ground beef will be as fresh as possible, resulting in improved quality and flavor. As it would if it were sitting on a grocery store shelf, the meat hasn’t had a chance to lose taste.

Customizable meat 

Off-the-shelf choices may state “butcher blends” or “special grind,” but this does not reveal which cuts of meat are used. You have complete control over what goes into your burger when you grind your own meat. You may combine the juicy short ribs with a meatier sirloin to produce taste nuances that aren’t possible with pre-ground meats. You can play around with different flavor combinations once you’ve mastered grinding your own meat.

Affordability

The long and short of it is that grinding at home saves money. To cover labor and processing costs, pre-ground meat is marked up in price. Save money by grinding at home.

Burger formation

The ultimate burger must be shaped in a specific way. Simple, in my opinion, is superior. Allow the meat’s flavor to speak for itself. 

  • Don’t handle or stir the meat too much. It will toughen and dry out more quickly.
  • To get the exact burger form every time, use a burger press. This is the one I use, and it can be adjusted to 1/4, 1/3, or 1/2 pound patties.
  • The bigger the better. When you put the burgers on the grill, keep in mind that they will shrink. As a rule of thumb, I make the patties 3/4′′ larger than the bun itself.

Dimpling patties

Burger recipes can be found all over the Internet and in cookbooks that teach you to form an indentation in the center of the patties, usually the size of a thumbprint or a tablespoon. Dimpling is used to prevent the burger from ballooning up in the middle. Is it, however, truly effective? I wanted to avoid puffing like everyone else, but I also wanted to reduce shrinking with my burgers, so I tried it out.

A thumbprint or tablespoon indentation stopped the burgers from ballooning up in the middle, but they still shrank. Making a large, shallow indentation in the patty, on the other hand, worked perfectly. Instead of a donut, consider a salad plate. The outer 1/2-inch of the patty should be slightly taller than the middle.

One more suggestion: rather than smashing the patties together in your hands, lay about 5 ounces of meat on a parchment-lined pan or dish. Make a large shallow depression (“dimple”) in the top of the burger with one hand while pressing your other hand against the sides to form a circle. This forms a depression in the ground beef without overheating or overworking it.

Is there anything I can add to my burgers to help them stick together?

When making meatballs or meatloaf, I normally use an egg or breadcrumbs to help the mixture hold together. Burgers with a good grade fat content of 15% to 20% fat, on the other hand, shouldn’t need anything to keep them together. That will happen on its own. There’s also no need for exotic seasonings. I like to season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder on occasion.

How long should I grill?

Always keep in mind that this is only a recommendation; every grill is different, and every burger is distinct in size and thickness. Measuring the inside temperature of a burger using an Instant Read thermometer is the key to determining its doneness. Preheat the grill to high and place the patties directly on it.

Heat until the burgers are done to your liking: 

  • Cook for 4 minutes total (125°F) for rare burgers.
  • Cook for 5 minutes total (135°F) for medium-rare burgers.
  • Cook for 6 to 7 minutes total (145°F) for medium burgers.
  • Cook for 8 to 9 minutes total (160°F) for well-done burgers.

During the cooking procedure, only flip the burgers once. At no point should you press down on the patties.

Temperature rules for determining when a burger is done

Remember that any ground beef below 160°F is considered hazardous by USDA guidelines.

However, if you’re grinding your own beef at home, use the following temperature range to ensure your burger is cooked to your liking:

  • Well done: 160°F to 165°F;  It’s rough and typically dry. If you’re using store-bought ground beef, cook it to this temperature or pasteurize it for at least 12 minutes at 140°F.
  • Medium well: 150°F to 155°F;  There will be a small amount of pink in the center of this burger, but the outsides will be dried out.
  • Medium: 140°F to 145°F; the Inside of the burger is slightly pink.
  • Medium rare: 130°F to 135°; You can cook and eat at this temperature if sufficient safeguards are taken.
  • Rare: 120°F to 125°f;  For safety reasons, you should never cook or eat a burger at this temperature.

Grilling using charcoal vs. grilling with gas

Because of the added flavor and charring that occurs with those grills, wood or charcoal is always the best choice for grilling burgers. If you’re using charcoal, you can add various types of wood to add smokiness and improve the overall flavor of the burger.

Millions of Americans, on the other hand, prefer gas grills since they are simple to operate and leave less of a mess. You can still make a fantastic burger on a gas grill, don’t worry!

  • It is best to use a chimney starter if you’re going to barbecue with charcoal or wood. It’s a tall cylinder or box with holes in it. The embers are repositioned on top of crumpled paper in the bottom. Place the chimney starter on the grill’s bottom grate and light the paper. In 15 to 20 minutes, you’ll have hot coals.
  • Open the lid, turn on the gas, and light the grill if you’re using a gas grill. Before adding your patties, preheat your grill to 450 to 500 degrees.

What’s the best way to make a burger?

We’ve all seen the backyard griller who simply puts unseasoned prepared patties over high heat. This is a recipe for a hamburger that is overdone and dry as a hockey puck. We’ll teach you a two-step process for controlling the temperature of your burgers and achieving the ideal doneness you desire. Check out our smoked burger recipe or our smash burger recipe for a quick and delicious alternative.

Two-stage cooking method

The two-stage cooking method is exactly what it sounds like: cooking in two different heat levels. A lower-heat side of the grill will be used to control how quickly the burger cooks, while a higher-heat side will be used to seal in the juices.

  • Place the burgers on the unheated side of the grill for the initial stage of cooking. This allows the burgers to cook at a slower, more controlled rate due to the ambient heat from the hot side.
  • Move the burgers to the high-heat side of the grill once they are within 20°F of your ultimate intended temperature and sear them until they reach your desired temperature.

Cooking burgers in two stages provides you a better chance of hitting your goal temperatures and doneness. When compared to direct grilling, there is less heat carry-over. Due to residual heat momentum, a burger pulled at 153°F and cooked just over direct heat would reach temperatures above 160°F. With two-stage cooking, the heat momentum is reduced, giving you more time to remove the burgers from the grill without overcooking them.

Grilling burgers: tips and tricks

As you might expect, I’ve made thousands of burgers over the years. Some of it is rather good. Some of it is bad. But I’ve perfected the art of grilling burgers, and I’m going to share all of my secrets with you!

  • In the middle, press down. As soon as the burgers touch the grill, they stiffen up and begin to shrink, causing the burger’s core to inflate up. You may help create an even burger by pressing the burger down in the center.
  • Maintain a straightforward approach. You don’t need to use a lot of spices if your meat is of good quality. I keep it basic by using only salt and black pepper. On occasion, I will also add garlic powder.
  • Season each patty with salt and pepper. Don’t season the meat first, then mix it in a bowl. I’ve seen this done before, and it only results in overhandling of the flesh, resulting in a tough, dry burger.
  • Don’t get your hands on it. The more you tinker with the burger, the more juice it releases. For best results, grilling experts recommend searing for 2-3 minutes per side and flipping only once.
  • Burgers should never be pressed down. I honestly have no idea why people do this. When you press down on a burger, you are physically forcing the juice and moisture out of it, resulting in a dry burger. DO NOT PRESS YOUR BURGERS DOWN.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the meat. Before serving, make sure your burger is at room temperature. I can tell you typical grilling temperatures and timings, but every grill is different, and every burger thickness is different as well. As a result, utilizing a meat thermometer to ensure that your burger reaches the appropriate temperature is critical.
  • Allow it to rest. Any protein cooked on a scorching hot grill will seize and the juices will pool in the center. Allow it to rest for at least 5 minutes after removing it from the grill; this will allow all of the liquids in the center to redistribute throughout the burger, ensuring that every mouthful is juicy.

Burger toppings

You can’t go wrong with the classics, but it’s also fun to experiment with toppings and construct burgers that seem like they’re from a restaurant or even a burger bar. 

  • Classic: Serve with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles on a toasted bun.
  • Baja Style: Top with lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole, and pickled jalapeños on a toasted bun.
  • Bacon Cheeseburger: Top with melted cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, and grilled onions on a toasted bun.
  • Keto Style: The ideal approach to make a burger keto is to serve it on a “lettuce bun” with cheese and bacon to increase the “fat” and decrease the carbs.
  • Low Carb: Put the burger on a lettuce bun and add your preferred toppings.
  • Texas BBQ: Top with melted cheddar cheese, smoky barbecue sauce, grilled onions, and pickles on a toasted bun.
  • Mushroom Burger: This is served on a toasted bun with melted Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms and onions, and a creamy horseradish sauce.

FAQs

When should the buns be toasted?When should cheese be added?

A minute before the burger is done cooking, add the cheese. Swiss, cheddar, and Havarti are among my favorite cheeses.

When should the buns be toasted?

I’m a fan of toasted brioche buns. They’re buttery and robust enough to hold all of my condiments and burger, but they also squish down and bite through easily. Butter the top and bottom of whatever buns you want, then place them on the back of the grill, away from direct heat, until golden. When you have a minute remaining on the patties, start toasting the buns.

Is it okay if your burgers have a pink tint to them?

Yes, if you prefer your burgers grilled less than well done. The center of the burger should be pink, indicating that it is rare; the center should be brown, indicating that it is well done. In the center of a medium-rare burger, the meat will still be pink and juicy, but a medium-well burger will be largely brown.

Is it possible to verify for doneness without using a thermometer?

Yes, but it takes time to master and isn’t as precise. Press the burger gently in the middle to see how mushy it is. When your hand is flat, a rare burger will feel soft, similar to the fleshy area between your thumb and palm. The stiffer your burger is, the more cooked it is. A medium burger should feel like pressing your thumb to your ring finger on one hand and feeling the same part of your hand between the thumb and palm on the other.

Is it possible to prepare burgers ahead of time?

You can form and season your burger patties up to 6 hours ahead of time and keep them refrigerated until ready to grill, covered in plastic wrap. However, I recommend allowing them to come to room temperature for 10-15 minutes before putting them on the hot grill to ensure consistent cooking.

What should you do if the weather refuses to cooperate?

We love burgers that have been grilled outside, but when the weather is terrible, that isn’t always possible. In that scenario, you can always prepare your burgers on the stovetop in a cast-iron skillet.

Simply spray a little olive oil into a heavy-duty pan set over high heat, then sear the steaks the same way you would burgers by placing them in the pan and leaving them alone! Treat them like any fine steak, leaving them alone for at least 3-5 minutes to produce a lovely crust on one side before flipping and grilling on the other, just like on the grill.

Last words

You now have the knowledge to make the ideal burger patty every time you fire up the grill. Don’t be afraid to experiment with grinding meat and blending several pieces together, and if you come up with a winning combination, we encourage you to share the love!