Grill the Best Burgers

Tips for the best-tasting burgers.

Burgers are America’s favorite grill food, and now turkey burgers share the spotlight with beef. Here we offer old and new classics for both kinds of burger. In this article you’ll learn the differences between grinds, cooking for the grill or stovetop, how to test for doneness, and how to use ground turkey for delicious burgers.

Which Ground Beef?
Ground round: Top round is the leanest cut of beef, with bottom round not far behind. Both make dry burgers.

Ground sirloin: Made up of 85 to 90 percent lean meat, ground sirloin makes dry, compact burgers.

Ground chuck: This sinewy shoulder cut is the number-one choice for burgers because it’s so succulent and flavorful. Instead of settling for packaged, pre-ground chuck, have it ground to order. Ask the butcher to trim off as much excess fat as possible before it goes into the grinder. Three ounces of well-trimmed chuck contains 7 grams of fat (3 saturated) and untrimmed chuck nearly twice that.

Regular hamburger: This mix of trimmings has the most fat of all the grinds, which means that the burgers shrink as they cook. Don’t be misled by a package that says “75 percent lean.” That means it’s 25 percent fat; too much for anyone.

Cooking Burgers
Shape the meat into neat patties 1-inch thick at the center. Handle them gently or the burgers will be compact and crumbly. Place the meat on a grill rack coated with oil or nonstick vegetable spray and set 6 inches above a hot fire.

For well-done burgers, grill 4 minutes, until browned. Carefully turn and brown the other side, about 3 minutes. Do not press the burgers with a spatula while they cook or they will lose juices and flavor.

When cooking, use a stovetop grilling pan with grids molded into the bottom, if possible. It will prevent burgers from steaming in their own juices.

Safety First
The US Department of Agriculture recommends that all ground beef be cooked well done. Disease-causing organisms (live E. coli bacteria) found in undercooked ground beef can cause food poisoning. To make sure burgers are well done, cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 160 to 165°F. Or make a thin cut in the center of the burger. If the hamburger is well done, the juices will be golden or clear.

Turkey, Too
To cut way down on fat, use ground turkey instead of beef. Ground white meat makes the lowest-fat burger of all, but a combination of ground white and dark meat turkey makes the best burgers.

To boost the juiciness of turkey burgers, work 1 tablespoonful olive oil or a chopped onion sautéed in a tablespoonful of oil into a pound of meat.

Bump up the flavor of ground turkey with 1 tablespoon Worcestershire or bottled steak sauce. Or boost flavor by adding 2 tablespoons bottled chili or barbecue sauce to a pound of turkey meat. For a different accent, work 2 tablespoons Chinese plum sauce and 1 teaspoon minced fresh gingerroot into the burger and substitute scallions for onion.