How to Make an Insanely Delicious Burger

Just a few simple tricks and techniques keep juicy patties from turning into hockey pucks.
Published May 20, 2016
4 burger patties cooking on an outdoor grill4 burger patties cooking on an outdoor grill

Great burgers are the foundation of a classic backyard barbecue (along with the backyard, of course). But they can go horribly wrong. The challenge is to make sure your burgers stay juicy and flavorful so they don’t become dried-out pucks that taste like cardboard. Building a better burger isn’t about what’s piled on the outside, but rather (like people), it’s what’s on the inside that counts (we know—deep!), no matter if you’re using ground beef, turkey, pork, or chicken. With our trade secrets in mind, anyone can become a true Burger King (or Queen). 

In a nutshell, burgers put you in a bind because they must be cooked to fairly high internal temperatures (140°F to 165°F) to kill off any bugs. Those high temps, however, can cook the juices right out of the meat. On the surface, that problem is solved by using high-fat ground meats. The more fat in the mix, the juicier the burger over the heat. However, all that fat adds PersonalPoints values, and you don’t want that. So to keep your burgers juicy and low in PersonalPoints, use lean meats and the following two secret ingredients.

Secret ingredient No. 1: Mushrooms

’Shrooms are so full of natural moisture that they’ll baste the patties from the inside out while they cook. In a food processor fitted with the chopping blade, grind 1/4 pound of mushrooms until they are coarse like sand. Mix the mushrooms into 2 pounds of lean ground beef, white-meat turkey, white-meat chicken, lean pork, or veal.

Bonus trick: Mushrooms add lots of moisture to ground meat, but they also add color. With beef, veal, and pork, use darker ’shrooms, such as portobello, cremini, or shiitake mushrooms. With chicken and turkey, use white button, oyster, or porcini mushrooms.

Secret ingredient No. 2: Condiments

Instead of wasting the juices of your favorite condiments on the outside of your burger, cook them right into it! Before grilling, broiling, or frying your meat, mix in 3 tablespoons of any of these condiments:

  • Mango chutney
  • Bottled barbecue sauce
  • Jarred salsa
  • Dijon or deli mustard
  • Honey mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Thai peanut sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Bottled sweet-and-sour sauce (sometimes called duck sauce)

Fire ’em up!

Once your 2 pounds of ground meat is mixed with the mushrooms and condiments, divide it into 8 equal balls. Flatten each to about a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Use your thumb to make an indentation in the center on one side of each patty. This little well will keep the patties from balling up over the heat.

Heat your grill to high, or preheat your broiler to high and set the rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. Arrange the patties directly over the heat on the grill or on a large rimmed baking sheet to go under the broiler.

Important note: There’s no point in pushing down on burgers as they cook, unless you’re a pyromaniac who likes to see flames shoot up. You’ve worked to keep the juices and flavors in your burgers, so leave them be until you’re ready to turn them, unpressed.

For beef and veal, cook the burgers until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a patty registers 145°F, about 8 minutes, turning once.

Cook chicken, turkey, and pork burgers until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a patty registers 160°F, about 12 minutes, turning once.

It’s burger time! Make sure you’ve got lots of chopped lettuce, sliced tomatoes, shredded carrots, and sprouts to go on whole-wheat buns with the patties—and an ice-cold beer at the ready.

Related:  23 Grilled Burgers and Sandwiches