Grilling burgers for a backyard barbecue or party is always a good idea, but we’ve all experienced that feeling of dread when they don’t cook as expected. It’s a tricky thing: you don’t want to undercook the burger and serve raw meat to your friends and family, but you definitely don’t want to overcook it and force everyone to eat dry hockey pucks.
So, what’s the trick to creating the best juicy burger recipe? I tested my top three secret methods to get a juicy burger, and one way definitely stood out in the end. Surprisingly enough, it’s simpler than you would think!
Secret Method #1: Make a donut divot
This trick has been floating around the internet for a few years now. The idea is that if you poke a dimple into the middle of the patty, the center won’t bulge up as the patty cooks. In theory, it’s pretty solid: if the burger is a uniform shape all the way around, it will cook more evenly.
What I can say about this method is that it works. Every burger I grill in the future will absolutely have this divot because it makes it so much easier to grill the patties evenly all the way through. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a juicy burger. You can overcook a patty with the divot just as easily as one that doesn’t have one.
Secret Method #2: Salt at the end
Almost every burger recipe calls for salt and pepper, but when you add the salt makes a huge difference when it comes to food science. Salt draws out moisture from proteins, which is why you want to brine pork chops and salt steaks before they hit the grill. With ground meat, though, salting the mixture ahead of time can draw out too much moisture, leading to a dry, dense patty.
Instead of adding salt to my burger mix, I salted the outside of the patties right before they hit the grill. I was worried that the burgers might not taste seasoned, but it actually worked out perfectly. The burger was juicy, and each patty had a deliciously salty crust.
Secret Method #3: Add some mayonnaise
Fat is an essential component of a well-made burger. One of my expert burger grilling tips involves keeping your burger mix as cold as possible. If the fat stays solid until the moment it hits the grill, it will expand rapidly, creating flavor pockets inside the patty. So, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise (homemade, if you like) to your burger mix makes sense: it will increase the fat content in the patty, which could be especially helpful if you’re using lean ground beef or turkey.
This method required a chilling step between mixing the burgers and forming the patties. If I tried to make the patties right after mixing, they felt mushy and stuck to my hands. After an hour in the refrigerator, the mixture was a perfect temperature to form. While the cooked burgers did taste juicy, they also had an odd texture and a slightly eggy flavor that I didn’t necessarily love.
In the end, the salt-at-the-end method won! Holding the salt until the moment the burgers hit the grill allows the salt to season the meat without pulling out all the juices from the inside, resulting in a burger that’s both flavorful and juicy. Who knew it was a simple as that! Of course, it always helps to use the highest quality beef you can find (I prefer grass-fed) and use a thermometer to make sure your burgers hit the perfect temperature.
Want to make your burger taste even better? These 12 tips will get you there.