Ten Tips for Better Burgers

Who needs a drive-through or a pricey gourmet burger when right at home, just a few easy techniques can transform a good burger into a better burger and even a great burger? Here I'm sharing the handful of tips we use for burgers on the grill and cooked inside.

Ten Tips for Better Burgers ♥ KitchenParade.com. Simple tips for juicy burgers from the grill and inside.

Simple Tips for Burger Perfection. Easy Techniques, Fresh & Family-Tested. Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special.

Good Burgers vs Great Burgers

Sure, a good burger is a good thing. And sure, it's easy to throw a little meat on the grill and call it a burger.

But a great burger is 80% of the way to a party. A great burger is worth learning how to cook well. A great burger is worth matching up to family preferences and personal effort.

Me, I'd like us to be famous for great burgers!

So over the years, we've perfected our technique to fit us. We're not into stacked-high "garbage" burgers or huge heart attacks on a plate, just good burgers turned great.

I'm thrilled to share our methods here, maybe they'll work for you too?! Or maybe they'll inspire you to think through your own special techniques.

Either way, it's a burger win!

Happy Burgers, All!
~ Alanna

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Ten Tips for Better Burgers ♥ KitchenParade.com. Simple tips for juicy burgers from the grill.

Simple Tips for Better Burgers

TIP #1 GOOD MEAT Good meat makes a difference. For a few years, 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. It's also fun to experiment with different meats, bison and lamb are favorites here.

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. After that, don't rush it. Even on a hot grill, thick burgers take 20 – 25 minutes to cook.

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 small log works too if one happens to be handy.

TIP #5 ICE WATER * Just before cooking, dip each burger into a big bowl of ice water for 30 seconds. 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. But all's good, this adds flavor, a slight char that’s wonderful.

TIP #7 SURE, COOK 'EM INSIDE! Some times, it's just too blazing hot to cook outside. Some times, it's pouring rain. Some times, it's just too much effort to fire up the grill. But Do.Not.Fear. Just quickly brown the burgers on cast iron on a hot stove, then move to the oven at about 300F/150C to finish. We also love to start the burgers on the grill, then finish them inside in the oven, this is especially useful for someone who has trouble over-undercooking burgers. Just use a digital thermometer (affiliate link) to cook the burgers to temperature, the safe internal temperature for ground beef and lamb is 160F/70C and for ground poultry is 165F/75C.

TIP #8 TOAST the BUNS If you do just one thing, 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. Or Old-Fashioned Homemade Lemonade! Or my favorite beer and diet ginger ale, it's in this collection of Thirst-Quenching, Low-Cal, Low-Alcohol Drinks.

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

YOUR BURGERS Who has a tip or two or three to share with other Kitchen Parade readers? How do YOU make a better burger?! Just leave a comment so that others can learn from your experience!

INSPIRATION * TIPS #5 and #6 come directly from a terrific Food & Wine grilling issue. I especially recommend the cover burger: it's a small production but gathers big reviews. We especially like the Russian Dressing with Tarragon. For awhile, it was the "house burger sauce".

How to Set Up a Burger Buffet

If you have a kitchen island or a long counter, clear it for a burger buffet! That way all the food is out and obvious, no passing, everybody takes what and as much as he/she wants.

Arrange the plates, food, cutlery in this order with left to right or right to left.

  • The Dinner Plates
  • The Toasted Buns
  • The Burger Platter
  • The Condiments & Relishes
  • The Side Dishes
  • The Napkins/Cutlery

Here are a few more buffet tips. We serve buffet-style even for small gatherings so I've gotten quite good at this!

  • It takes people a big to figure out the buffet system so fix on the best way for things to work for you, then stick to it.
  • If there's a line, some people might grab their drinks rather than just wait.
  • People really appreciate knowing what's what – for a small group/small meal, I just tell people when we gather to eat, for a larger group/larger meal, cardboard placards help. This is especially useful for people who are accustomed to foods easily identifiable by their packaging – but for our homemade foods, no packaging. But it's also useful for those who are "food curious" and are just really interested in what's being served.
  • Put plastic/washable placements down, one for each food "station" – arrange them longways at an angle, you can fit more in. Put serving utensils and hot pads in place on the appropriate placemat before the food is out, that way you aren't scrambling later.
  • Put the food toward the back of each placemat, this leaves room in the front space for people to put their plates down while adding condiments, etc.
  • If any appetizers are left over, refresh a bit and add them to the buffet line too.
  • If you can, set up drinks in a separate spot away from the burger buffet, self-serve is the way to go. I often put the napkins and cutlery near the drinks.

Don't Forget the Side Dishes!

A burger can be a meal in itself so for balance, think about salads and sides that lean into veggies, even, LOL if they're tucked into a big bowl of noodles aka the Best-Ever Macaroni Salad.

Start with my huge collection of Favorite Summer Salad Recipes. It's super-organized so you can zoom right into what you've got in mind or just scroll through waiting for the right salad to jump up and demand, "Pick me! Pick me!"

Cooler Corn: How to Cook Corn in a Beer Cooler (or use same great technique on the stove!) ♥ AVeggieVenture.com

Fresh Three-Bean Salad, another easy summer salad ♥ AVeggieVenture.com, made skinny with less oil and less sugar. WW Friendly. Gluten Free. Low Carb. Vegan.

Bloody Mary Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, a vegetable-packed jello salad, perfect for potlucks, dieters and healthy eaters. Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly.

Favorite Summer Salad recipes ♥ KitchenParade.com, a huge super-organized collection of healthy salads for quick lunches, salad suppers, potlucks and parties.

Experiment with Burger Condiments

It's easy to pull bottles of ketchup and mustard from the fridge and me, I'm still working on the house "special sauce". Maybe I'm trying to match McDonald's ditty! Who remembers? "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun."

But these are fun!

Famous Mustard Sauce (Carolina BBQ Mustard Sauce) ♥ KitchenParade.com, Carolina BBQ mustard sauce from a handful of pantry ingredients, use as an ingredient and a condiment!

Green Mayonnaise ♥ KitchenParade.com, a whole new way to think of mayonnaise, blended with spinach and fresh herbs.

Homemade Basil Pesto ♥ KitchenParade.com, extra basil flavor thanks to no cheese, mixing technique.

Experiment with Burger Relishes

For anyone who's bored with everyday ketchup and mustard, it's worth planning ahead to have a good homemade relish ready to spread across a good burger.

Our family favorite is a labor of love, we call it Sharon's Pickle after my cousin Sharon who loves it so-so much but it's really a Ripe-Tomato Relish with Peaches & Pears.

Look for jars of interesting relishes at farmers markets and specialty shops too.

Sweet Corn Relish, perfect for summer sandwiches and salads ♥ AVeggieVenture.com. No canning required. Budget Friendly. Great for Meal Prep & Summer Food Gifts. WW Friendly. Vegan. Gluten Free.

Tomato Ginger Jam ♥ AVeggieVenture.com, an unusual but delicious stovetop jam, no canning required.

Green Chile Sauce (Salsa Verde) for Green Chile Burgers ♥ KitchenParade.com. Budget Friendly Meal Prep. Vegan. Low Fat. Low Carb.

Our Favorite Burger Recipes

My husband is prone to burger experimentation, he's always trying out some new something or other.

Maybe that's genetic? Our grandson Jackson invented the Oil Tanker Burgers and it's our current favorite burger. What makes it so good? Everyday condiments, but all in the right order.

Me, I like to take the best of the best from all this burger creativity and share it here for everyone else to try too!

Oil Tanker Burgers, another special summer burger ♥ KitchenParade.com, extraordinary burgers from ordinary condiments. Weekend Easy, Weekend Special.

Green Chile Burgers ♥ KitchenParade.com, authentic green chile burgers, a specialty from New Mexico.

Chicken Burgers with Fresh Spinach, Feta and Garden Tzatziki Sauce ♥ KitchenParade.com, Greek-style chicken sandwiches served with an updated Greek tzatziki sauce. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2009 & 2022 (repub)

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Sharon5/18/2009

    This is perfect, I just sent the link to my son who is having a huge barbecue this weekend. PS Great pics.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.


  7. 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