Grillin’ Burgers in the Wilderness – Like a Pro
Many of our guests have told me, “Fish every day is great…but sometimes we crave a good ole fashion burger or even Surf and Turf.”
So I thought I would share with you my “secrets” to making that burger Professionally Perfect.
Whether you’re new to grilling burgers or you’re a seasoned pro—or you’re cooking for someone who prefers a different level of doneness than you—
Rule#1: Stop guessing when to flip your burger patties. Here’s how to grill burgers—and how long to grill burgers—so they come out perfectly every time.
Rule #2 Choose the best burger meat
Ground chuck is a great all-purpose, buy-it-anywhere choice for burger recipes. Whatever you do, look for beef with a fat content of 20%. That 80/20 ratio is the key to a perfect burger that’s juicy but not greasy. Want to try a custom blend? Go for it. Ask your butcher to grind part chuck with short ribs or brisket and live your most bespoke life.
Not grilling beef patties? The alternatives are endless: chicken burgers, turkey burgers, even walleye burgers! Opt for dark meat poultry, fatty fish, or ground pork or lamb shoulder). Note that the poultry or seafood patties should be cooked through completely. Medium-rare is not a good look on a chicken or fish burger.
Otherwise, the rules below should apply to these as with any beef burger.
Rule #3 Shape those burgers right
When forming a burger for the grill, aim for a ¾” to 1″ thickness and a 3″ to 4″ diameter. The burgers will shrink slightly as they cook, so you want the raw patties to skew a little larger than the buns onto which they’ll eventually land. Make a small dimple in the center of the patty—this indentation will prevent your burger from puffing up like a balloon, ensuring an even and picturesque patty. Work quickly but gently, and don’t compress the patty too much: The enemy of any burger is overworked meat.
Rule #4 Season your burgers properly
Avoid mixing seasonings into the burger meat. Adding salt to ground beef prematurely can toughen it. Instead, season the patties with ample kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper after they’re shaped and right before you plan to take them out to the grill.
How to cook burgers on the grill
Set your gas grill temperature to high heat and give it a few minutes to warm up, or prep a charcoal grill for direct heat. Brush off those grill grates to remove any stuck on bits and use a paper towel, tongs, and neutral oil to slick them up so your burgers don’t stick.
The total time it takes to grill your burger will fluctuate based on your grill temperature and the size of your burger patties. Whatever your idea of a “done burger’ is, use the timing suggestions below as a guideline for your cookout, not a rule.
How long to grill burgers
- Medium-rare: 6–7 minutes total
- Medium: 7–8 minutes total
- Medium-well: 9 minutes total
- Well-done: 10 minutes total
While approximating grill times can definitely help you grill hamburgers to temp, using an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature is the surest way to know that your burgers are cooked to perfection.
- Internal temperature for burgers
- Medium-rare: 130°–135°F
- Medium: 140°–145°F
- Medium-well: 150°–155°F
- Well-done: 160°F
Other than occasionally checking the temperature, leave the patties alone once they hit the grill, aiming for one single flip halfway through the cook time. Resist the urge to press on the patties, which can cause flare-ups and lead to dry burgers, and you won’t be sorry.
If you are looking, you ain’t cooking!
Tips for building better burgers
For perfect cheeseburgers—because who doesn’t want a cheeseburger—slap on a slice of cheese once you flip the burgers and cover the grill for the last minute of cooking. American cheese is classic and is unmatched in meltability, but you can substitute cheddar for something sharper, or go with pepper Jack, Swiss, Muenster, or whatever cheese you love. Keeping the heat trapped in the grill will make the cheese melt quickly and evenly, meaning it’ll be perfectly gooey by the time the burger finishes cooking.
Also important: Don’t leave your hamburger buns in the dust (i.e., in their plastic bag). Show the buns some love by placing them on the hot grill for a few minutes to develop delicious char and toasty texture.
Last but not least, dress the buns with a special burger sauce. Our favorite calls for the basics: mayo, ketchup, a bit of relish, and some Worcestershire. Or riff away and choose your own condiment adventures.
Krista’s Kitchen is a creation of Krista Cheeseman who with her husband Alan Cheeseman own and operate Wilderness North. Krista’s Culinary Arts Degree and Food Management Certification makes her the perfect match for the foods and meals prepared for Wilderness North guests.