Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 31, 2012

Burger boot camp: Here's how to get 'em right


— I have a good friend who is a regular reader of my column. He said something that I have heard on occasion from other readers via email. “Dave, almost every article you do is for charcoal. I don't do

charcoal, I do gas.”

Tex, (that's my friend's name) this article is for you and all those grillers who have not yet taken the leap to a charcoal grill. We are going to discuss the basic, classic, grilled burger.

When outdoor cooks attempt to make a grilled hamburger, the end result can be less than desirable.

Many times the burger resembles an oddly shaped meatball, crusty black on the outside and

undercooked on the inside. That's a problem waiting to happen. If you follow the basic skills outlined in this column, you will say “good-bye forever” to the oddly shaped grilling embarrassment.

1. The first step is to buy good ground beef. Too lean and the burger will be dry. Too much fat and you will have severe burger shrinkage and a possible fiery inferno on you hands. What you are looking for is 80 – 20, meaning 20 percent fat content.

2. This could be the most important step. After seasoning the beef with your favorite spices (personally I stick to salt, pepper and a little Worcestershire sauce) create a ball barely larger

than a baseball. This should be around 1/3 of a pound. Do not squeeze it together too tightly.

Flatten it out on a cutting board to the shape of a normal burger. Now, make the middle one

third of the burger thinner than the outer two thirds of the burger. The reason you do this is while cooking, the meat pulls inward, which is why most people end up with a meatball.

You can see this technique at Once you get there, search for


3. Preheat your grill to medium heat. Make sure you take a steel brush and clean the grate once it is nice and hot. Now, take an old towel and carefully apply olive oil to the grate.

This helps eliminate potential sticking, which will destroy your burger. When I use a gas grill, I have one area of the grill set up with no heat. You will see how helpful this is in a bit.

4. Place the patties over the heat and DO NOT GO ANYWHERE. On a gas grill, flame ups will

occur. Don't go inside for water, an adult beverage, or to check a sports score. Grilling a burger doesn't take long, so stay with your burgers and FOCUS. One thing I have noticed is that people like to play with their burgers once they are on the grill. The only time you will touch your burger is to turn it, or to move it to the cool area of your grill if flame ups occur. You will

know it's time to turn your burger when juices start forming on the top of the meat.

Depending on the thickness of your burger, this will happen after five minutes or so.

5. When you turn the burger count on a big flame from the juices that have formed. Don't freak out and pour water on the flame. Feel free to move the burgers to the cool side until the flames subside. Oh, and do not ever squish your burger to flatten it out. You create flames and you are forcing out the moistness of the meat.

Cooking the second side will take roughly one-half the

time of the first side.

When doing gas, you can shut the lid if you prefer. It might speed up the process a bit. But, unlike charcoal, placing the lid on the grill does not eliminate the flames.

Personally, I grill on gas with the lid open so I can see what is going on. They say to cook ground beef to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. I go to 150 degrees Fahrenheit myself, which is a medium burger. I know, I'm a rebel. Take the burgers off

the grill and serve with your favorite condiments.

So there you go Tex, and all gas grillers, an article just for you on how to grill the perfect burger!


Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes a column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at