How to cook hamburgers

The American cookout classic. Hamburgers are easy to grill but can have two problems: a burned exterior and a raw center. The key to getting it right? A two-zone fire and a little attention. Here’s all you need to know to expertly grill a burger .

Get the right ground beef.

It’s critical to start with the right type of meat. Don’t skimp on the fat. Look for a mix of 80-percent lean beef and 20-percent fat for a juicier, more flavorful burger. Season with salt and pepper, but use a gentle touch, as over-mixing or compacting the ground meat will result in dense, firm burgers.

Form the patties.

The ideal burger patty size is about six ounces — roughly between the size of a baseball and a softball. Once the ball is formed, flatten it out in your hands or on a cutting board until it’s about three-fourths of an inch thick and circular in shape. Put a slight indentation in the center of the patty, as this keeps the patty from swelling up and becoming too round during cooking. Refrigerate the patties until ready to cook.

Arrange the coals.

Fire up bbq. Configure the coals for a two-zone fire, with coals covering about half of the grill. You want the coals at a medium-high temperature, meaning that you can carefully hold your hand above them for five to six seconds before pulling it away. If you need to increase or decrease your temperature, do so now. Add the grate above them and let it heat up.

Sear and flip.

Sear the burgers directly over the coals until brown and crispy on the bottom, about four to five minutes. Be careful not to char the meat or press down on the patties with a spatula while cooking, you’ll squeeze out all those flavorful juices. Flare-ups will happen. This is just the fat rendering and dripping onto the coals. Simply move the burgers to the other side of the grate until the flames subside. Use a long-handled metal spatula to flip the burgers only once. Then sear the other side to lock in the juices.

Move and cover.

Once the burgers are seared, reposition the burgers so that they are no longer directly over the coals, place the lid atop the BBQ and continue cooking until they reach the desired temperature. It’s always a good idea to use a meat thermometer to confirm the temperature.

Perfecting your creation with cheese and buns

As the burgers approach completion, now is the time to add cheese, if desired. You want to give it enough time to achieve melty goodness, so plan ahead. And don’t forget to butter and toast those burger buns. Watch them closely — they burn fast.

Serve immediately.

There is no need to “rest” a burger. Put it right on those toasted buns, serve with bbq sauce and enjoy

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