Ten Tips for Better Burgers

Just in time for summer's burger season, ten easy tips for grilling juicy burgers.

TIP #1 GOOD MEAT Good meat makes a difference. For a few months, we’ve been devouring pound after pound of corn-fed, pasture-grazed locally raised beef. Honestly? With good meat, you could dispense with TIPS 2 through 9, it’s that good, even salt and pepper can be superfluous.

TIP #2 WORCESTERSHIRE Gently work a little Worcestershire sauce into the meat. It adds moisture and depth to the meat. Then season the meat with salt and pepper, no more.

TIP #3: MAKE 'EM THICK Form the hamburger patties quite thick, this helps the cooked burgers stay juicy.

TIP #4 ADD SMOKE About 15 minutes before starting to grill, place water-soaked hickory, apple or cherry wood chunks on the grill away from the meat. A log works too if one happens to be handy.

TIP #5 ICE WATER * Dip each burger into a big bowl of ice water for 30 seconds before dropping onto the grill. Sound crazy? It sure does. We’re not sure what it does, exactly, but it does something that sure works!

TIP #6 BUTTER * As soon as the burgers are on the grill, brush the top sides with melted butter. When they’re turned, brush the flip sides with butter too. This adds both flavor and moisture to the meat. Be aware: as the butter drips below, flames will rise up. This adds flavor, a slight char that’s wonderful.

TIP #7 COOK SLOWLY Even on a hot grill, the burgers take 20 – 25 minutes to cook.

TIP #8 TOAST the BUNS Brush the cut side of the buns with olive oil (or leftover melted butter, if you like) and then toast, either on the grill or inside in a skillet. If needed, keep warm in a warm oven, just be sure to put the buns back together so they don’t dry out.

TIP #9 LIBATIONS Open a big zinfandel or a pinot noir.

TIP #10 SHARE WITH FRIENDS! Burgers this good create their own occasion! Invite a few friends for supper, see if they don’t just start calling your burgers the “World’s Best Burgers”.

INSPIRATION * TIPS #5 and #6 come directly from Food & Wine’s terrific June 2009 grilling issue. I can especially recommend the cover burger (pictured with TIP #10) a small production to make which gathers big reviews. We especially like the tarragon-scented Russian Dressing.

YOUR BURGERS Do readers have tips to offer for making great burgers? Just leave a comment so that others can learn from your experience!

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This is perfect, I just sent the link to my son who is having a huge barbecue this weekend. PS Great pics.
A small tip that really helps is to make a small thumbprint indentation or well into the center of the uncooked burgers. That way when they are on the grill or pan cooking they do not get that swollen appearance that makes oval or sort of football shaped burgers - they remain flat.
Hmmm...I wonder what the water does to the burgers? Interesting. I'm trying that Russian dressing the next time we grill hamburgers - sounds wonderful!
I'm having a backyard burger bar at the end of the month for my team. I always use Worcestershire and add additional seasonings. I like the cold water idea, I think I'll try it.
Everyone is bringing toppings such as avocado & maria's salsa spread for the taco burgers, mozzarella and pizza sauce for the spaghetti burgers, and bacon, onion, and BBQ sauce for our Kansas City rub burgers. Yum!
Sharon - Thanks!

David ~ Your tip is on my 'next time' list, thanks much!

Sally ~ My sense is that it cooks the meat more evenly.

DeeHutch ~ Don't forget that butter!
Ice water firms up the meat and makes the fat cold - so that when you throw it on the grill, the fat melts slowly instead of just dripping quickly through grates.

um yeah. that sounded good.

David -- I find that the dip is only needed if the patty is overly worked/massaged/kneaded when it's formed. If you just barely touch it, the bulge doesn't happen.

I find the best burgers are seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Don't overwork the meat when forming the patty or it will be tough. And don't smush the patty once it's on the grill, it just presses all juices out.

I like the idea of dipping the burger in ice water! Good tip.

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna