10 tips for cooking better burgers Memorial Day weekend (2024)

Are you firing up the grill this Memorial Day weekend? You're not alone. It's the perfect time as Memorial Day is the unofficial start to grilling season and the second-most popular time to grill.

The Fourth of July is No. 1

10 tips for cooking better burgers Memorial Day weekend (1)

While the iconic hamburger or, if you prefer, burger, appears simple to toss on the grill and cook, so many times we get it wrong.

So very wrong.

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  • Not shaped right and the burgers end up round like a tennis ball.
  • Handle the meat too much and it's too compact and tough.
  • Grilled too long and the burger is dry.

What's so hard about shaping some ground meat into a patty and cooking it?

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So if burgers are on your menu this holiday weekend or any time of the year, follow these sure-fire tips for burger perfection.

If you need a recipe, check out the Brie Burger with Caramelized Onions below. It's one of my all-time favorites.

More:Memorial Day grilling: 10 tips for making the perfect burgers

What kind of beef should I use?

Choose beef with some fat in it. The ideal choice, most burger experts say, is 80/20 beef chuck. This means it's 80% lean and has 20% fat. You can go somewhat leaner if you like with ground beef labeled 85/15. But if it's any leaner, it's best to add some moisture, like Worcestershire sauce or wine, to prevent the burger from drying out.

Can I grind my own cuts of meat?

You can come very close using a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Choose the cut of meat you want — chuck, round, brisket, short rib, sirloin – and make sure it's super cold. Cut it into 1-inch pieces. Add to the bowl of the food processor and pulse a few times to chop into smaller pieces.

How should I mix the ground meat?

Make sure the ground meat is super cold and mix it gently so it just comes together. Do not overmix. If you overmix the meat (the same holds true when you make meatballs and meatloaf), the meat will be more compact and not as tender.

Should I season the ground meat?

Most sources say to season the ground meat with at least salt and pepper. You can mix it in the meat or sprinkle it on the outside of the formed patties. Don't let burgers seasoned on the outside sit too long because salt will draw out moisture from the meat.

How much beef for each burger?

Plan on a burger that is about 6 ounces before cooking. Use a scale if you have one to make sure burgers are all equal in size. A 6-ounce burger is ample size for serving as your main dish.

What's the best size, shape for a burger?

This is another big rule after handling the meat as little as possible. You want to match the size of the patty with the bun. Plan on shrinkage, so shape the beef patty about ½-inch larger than the bun. A 4-inch in diameter patty, with a dimple in the center that is at least ¾-inch thick will suffice.

Why make a dimple in the patty center?

If you don't do this, the burgers will end up more of a round shape and puff up like a tennis ball. The burgers won't fit the bun and you end up with a top bun that slides off.

How do you make the dimple?

This is an easy tip and not to be skipped. Once the patty is formed, use the back of a soup or teaspoon or your thumb to make an indentation, about 1/3-inch deep and 1-inch wide in the center of the patty. When the burgers cook, the indentation slowly rises and you get a nice, flat even top.

What's the best way to grill?

Burgers like high heat. This helps form that exterior crust. Cook the burgers on the non-dimpled side first over direct heat. Once a crust develops, flip it over and cook on the other side. Do not press down on the burger. When you do this, you're pressing all the juices out.

How long should burgers be grilled?

That depends on how you like them done. The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) safe internal cooking temperature for ground beef is 160 degrees. That means it's well done. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the burger — but generally at least five minutes per side. If you like it at less done than that and depending on the thickness, figure about three minutes per side for medium-rare or 130-135 degrees and 150-155 degrees for medium-well.

Brie Burger with Caramelized Onions and Spicy Mayo

Brace yourself: this burger is a tasty keeper. The creamy and rich-tasting brie meets a spicy mayo.

Serves: 4 / Prep time: 15 minutes / Total time: 35 minutes

1 to 1¼ pounds 90% lean ground sirloin or ground beef of choice

1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

⅓ cup panko bread crumbs

2 tablespoons white wine, optional

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 jumbo onion, peeled, sliced into ¼-inch slices

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (see note)

⅓ cup reduced-fat or regular mayonnaise

3 ounces brie cut into 8 slices

4 thin sandwich buns or bun of choice

4 pieces green leaf lettuce

4 slices tomato

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, wine, salt and pepper. Shape into four equal-size patties about ½1/2-inch thick, making an indentation in the center of the patty; set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion slices, sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté about 15 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Sprinkle with brown sugar and continue to cook until the onions become deep brown in color, about 15 minutes more. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the sweet chili sauce and mayonnaise; set aside.

Preheat the grill to medium-high and oil the grates when grill is hot. Or heat a skillet with a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat. Grill the burgers about four minutes one side, flip and move to a cooler part of the grill and continue cooking, about five minutes more or until they reach desired doneness. Or if using a skillet, turn and reduce the heat and finish the cooking. About two minutes before removing from the grill, place two pieces of brie on top of each burger and allow it to melt.

Build your burger: Toast the buns if desired. Spread one tablespoon of the spicy mayonnaise on each bun half. On the bottom half, place a lettuce leaf and top with tomato and a burger. Place a generous dollop of caramelized onions on top of the burger. Top with other bun and serve.

Cook's note: Look for sweet chili sauce near the Asian ingredients in most grocery stores. You can also use it as a dipping sauce for spring rolls or egg rolls.

From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

494 calories (42% from fat), 23 grams fat (9 grams sat. fat), 43 grams carbohydrates, 32 grams protein, 611 mg sodium, 97 mg cholesterol, 7 grams fiber.

Contact Detroit Free Press food and restaurant writer Susan Selasky and send food and restaurant news to:sselasky@freepress.com. Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.Subscribe to the Free Press.

10 tips for cooking better burgers Memorial Day weekend (2024)
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