Here's the Beef on the Perfect Burger According to Pitmasters

When it comes to the perfect burger, keep one word in mind: intentionality.

The burger is a simple sandwich in form, but actually takes a lot of skill and art. NO ONE wants to eat a dry burger that is smaller than the bun.

As summer is coming to a close, but the tailgating and partying begin, firing up the grill and cooking burgers is going to become a weekend ritual. So, in this article, I am going to share some burger secrets from pit-masters that will take your burger game into the end zone!

Choose Your Ground Beef

When grilling a burger, Pat Martin of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, suggests avoiding the fatty beef. This will help prevent flare ups. A good beef to select would be ground chuck 80/20 or 85/15. Leaner meats will dry out and fattier meats can cause a fire! 

If you plan on cooking them on a griddle or cast iron skillet while at the tailgate, it would be a good idea to choose 75/25. Usually, the plan is to make smash burgers when using these tools.

The idea would be to have a fattier content beef because you will lose a lot of those juices when you smash the patty at a high heat.

Shape Your Patties

Once you have chosen the right ground beef mixture, it is time to shape the patties. When making the patties, you have to resist the urge to make HUGE patties. The swell, you lose control of the patty, and having a half-pound, unevenly cooked burger is not enjoyable.

If you have a scale, you want to aim for around six ounces per patty. You will ball them up to about the size of a baseball. Don't worry, you will flatten them later.

If you have one, use a burger press to make uniform patties. I like to use the Ultimate Burger Press. It works, almost, too good! 

WHATEVER YOU DO, do NOT over season the patties. What do I mean by this? Nothing BUT salt should touch the raw meat. This may seem counter intuitive, but pit-masters alike will tell you it can impact the texture and the cooking of the product. It can even make it tougher. Myron Mixon says, "If you want to add a seasoning blend, do it when the burgers are on the grill and they've cooked a little while. Basically before and after flipping."

Grillionaire Pro Tip: Press your thumb into the center of the patty to make a small divot in the center. This will help prevent shrinkage or swelling while on the grill.

After your press the center, salt the patties and place them in the fridge to cool before throwing them over the live fire.

Tips for Cooking Directly on the Grill Grates


You will want to have your grill on a high temperature. Whether charcoal or gas, make sure the grill is hot! Wipe down the grates with a high smoke-point oil, such as grape seed oil. Bring the patties out of the fridge and let them come up to room temp. Wipe away any moisture that the salt pulled out of the patties will the fridge or cooler.

Grillionaire Pro Tip: Use the same oil to give a LITE coating around the edge of the burger. This will help the burger from getting burned. Don't put too much or you are bound to have flare ups.

Salt your patties again and throw the burgers dimple side down. LEAVE IT ALONE after that. One thing I like to use is a fish spatula to tell me if the burger is ready to flip. It will generally take about four to five minutes and the crust will begin to form and that makes them easier to flip.

If you DO use some seasoning outside the salt, put it on the burger about three minutes into the cook. This will help it absorb but not change the texture. Then when the patty is flipped, you can season the cooked side as well.

Once you flip your patties, move them to a cooler side of the grill and close the lid. Cook them for about ninety seconds and then move the burgers over to the hot side of the grill. THIS is the perfect time to add cheese so it can melt.

Let them cook for about another minute, pull them off, and let them rest.

Assembling the Burger

Everyone will assemble their burgers differently. It is all on taste and preference. Science will tell you that your patty will shrink about half an inch while cooking, so find a bun that fits the burger. Your burger should be slightly larger than the patty.

When shopping for buns, find one that has some texture to it. This will only make it better. You can even toast the buns on the grill for an added crunch!

Grillionaire Pro Tip: When assembling your burger, you want to use the condiments like a glue for your burger. This way, everything stays in place, and you get the same thing every bite. 

For example, put lettuce on the bottom and then your patty. Assuming there is cheese on the burger, use that as the glue for the onion and tomato slices. On the top portion of the bun, paint it with sauces (ketchup, bbq sauce, mustard). Then crown it with three pickle slices (you don't want any overlap because you want the same bite each time).

So there you have it! The secret to the perfect burger is out!

Until next time, make sure you eat well and do well.

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