Dizzy Pig's tips to great hamburgers

Hamburgers are delicious, especially when done right. There’s a reason they are one of the most popular foods to cook on the grill. Not all hamburgers are great though, and everyone has had a burger that didn’t live up to expectations. If you are going to go through the process of preparing burgers, firing up your grill, and setting out toppings, you really want them to shine.

We’ve put together a collection of tips and tricks to elevate your burger to mouth-watering status on your next cook.

The Meat

If you don’t want a burger that feels like cardboard in your mouth, you need some fat. Preferably at least 20%, like an 80/20 mix.

Because fat = flavor

Ground beef is best bought from a trusted source that grinds fresh daily. Grinding your own beef is a great way to go, plus you know exactly what you are getting. Chuck is always a solid choice for ground beef, but many cuts can be good as long as they have some fat. For a true gourmet experience, try a brisket and short rib mix.

Forming Patties

When forming your burgers, one of the first things to consider is the size of your bun. Meat will shrink when they cook, so make your patties a bit larger than the bun. The thickness of the burger is a personal preference, but we’ve found that ¾ inch is a good size to shoot for.

Try not to pack your burger too much, but you are definitely going to need to press it a little while forming to get it to hold together nicely. And it’s true…making an indentation in the center is a great way to assure you end up with a nice flat burger instead of a big meatball!

Seasoning

Burgers are the perfect canvas for adding flavor. It’s difficult to beat the flavor of a layer of Dizzy Pig’s Cow Lick Beef Rub for seasoning, but at the very minimum, you need salt and a dusting of black pepper. Don’t salt your burgers until just before grilling, though.

Other Dizzy Pig Seasonings people love on burgers:

Grilling

Okay, now that you’ve got your burgers formed and seasoned, it’s time to cook!

The key to cooking a great burger is to cook it hot enough that you can build a well-browned flavor crust on both sides while having the middle done perfectly at the same time. You can do this in a pan on the stove or on a griddle, but there is nothing quite like a burger cooked directly over a fire. And charcoal imparts the best flavor – you know it!

The secrets to truly great homemade burgers are:

  • Get your fire hot enough to get good browning in 5-6 minutes on the first side. On our Big Green Egg cookers, we’ve found a grilling temperature of 450-550°F to get the job done, but make sure you have a good hot fire whatever you are cooking on
  • Only flip once, no matter how strong the urge to flip is
  • The second side generally browns quicker – usually about half the time as the first side
  • It goes against our natural thinking, but use higher heat for thinner burgers. That way you can brown quickly without overcooking. Aim for 3-4 minutes per side.
  • Thick burgers need more time to cook all the way through, so dial your fire back a bit if they are over an inch thick. That’ll give them a little more time to cook through as you build up your flavor crust and char.
  • An instant read thermometer will help you cook your meat to a safe temperature. For commercial ground beef, USDA recommends cooking to an internal temperature of 160°F to kill all bacteria. But 160°F is a fairly well-done burger. If you want a safe burger done medium (140-145°F) or medium rare (130-135°F), it’s really best to grind your own beef.

There are some other things to keep in mind as you set out to create YOUR perfect burger. Being prepared just makes the process smoother, and lets you focus on cooking the burgers perfectly and being ready to eat when they come off.

Other Tips

  • Don’t put the cheese on too early! Cheese usually takes less than a minute to melt on a hot burger on the grill, and the last thing you want is for the cheese to drip on your fire and create a nasty smoke
  • Prepare all of your toppings ahead of time — before you start cooking
  • Toast your buns for better flavor and a little crunch
  • If toasting buns on the grill, keep a close eye as bread browns really fast
  • Consider savory toppings like bacon, ham, fried egg, prosciutto, mushrooms
  • Plus creamy toppings like cheese, mayo, aioli, avocado
  • Then cool crisp toppings like tomato, lettuce, spinach
  • And tangy toppings like pickles, relish, pickled peppers – and there’s nothing wrong with ketchup

We hope our secrets to juicy, mouth-watering burgers will help to elevate your burger game this BBQ season!