Sharpen your grilling skills! These 10 simple tips for grilling burgers and steaks will help you cook juicier, tastier meat.
Thanks to the Ohio Beef Council for sponsoring this post!
Last month I traveled to Colorado with the Ohio Beef Council to visit a cattle ranch and feedlot (more on that in a future post) and learn about cattle farming. Our group also spent a day at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, including time in their culinary center with the chefs. It’s long been a goal of mine to learn how to grill a better burger–and a better steak, which I inevitably overcook. So I was thrilled to pick up a slew of tips (ie: learn what I was doing wrong, which was all the things). In the weeks since, I’ve been putting my newfound knowledge to work at our backyard grill, eventually earning this compliment from my 13 year old: “Mom, this it the best burger you’ve ever made.” Here’s what I learned:
10 Tips for Grilling Burgers and Steaks
1. Clean the grates before you start. Dirty grates are not only gross, but they’ll also give your food a charred flavor you don’t want.
2. Set your grill to medium heat. You’ll know it’s ready when you hold your hand a few inches above the grates and feel heat coming off the grill. Keep in mind that the back of the grill is hotter than the front. So if you want your steaks or burgers to cook evenly, place them in the same location on the grill.
3. Pat your steaks dry. If you’ve marinaded your steaks (or if they’re damp), pat them dry with a paper towel before placing on the grill. Too much moisture on the steaks can cause them to steam or spark flames.
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4. Don’t overwork ground beef. Overworking ground meat will toughen it up. To form burgers, roll the beef into a meatball, then gently press into a patty. Using your thumb, create a slight indentation in the center so your burgers don’t puff up in the middle.
5. Only flip steaks and burgers once. Or at least try really hard to only flip once! Every time you flip the meat, you lose some of the juice. How to know when your burger or steak is ready to turn: It will come cleanly off the grill with the spatula. If it’s sticking to the grates, don’t flip it yet.
6. Salt meat AFTER cooking. Salting before can pull out moisture. (Mind blown with this one–I had always salted meat first!)
7. Create fancy grill marks. To get those steakhouse-style grill marks on your meat, use tongs and turn the meat from 10pm to 2pm partway through cooking.
8. Avoid the dreaded spatula squeeze: Don’t press down on your burgers or steaks as they’re cooking–you’ll squeeze out some of the juices!
9. Use a meat thermometer to determine when your steaks & burgers are done. Don’t be like my former self and cut into them to peek at the color, allowing precious juice to escape. Color doesn’t tell you the whole story anyway. Instead, insert a thermometer into the center. Remove burgers when they’ve reached 160 degrees F. Remove steaks when they’ve reached 10 degrees lower than the target temperature for the doneness you like best:
- Medium rare: Remove at 135 degrees F (so it reaches 145)
- Medium: Remove at 150 degrees F (so it reaches 160)
- Well done: Remove at 160 degrees F (so it reaches 170)
After you remove your steak or burger from the grill be sure to let it rest for 5—7 minutes to let it finish cooking. This will also ensure you have a great juicy steak or burger.
10. Toast your buns: Place your hamburger buns on the grill briefly so they’ll be crisp, not soggy, when you pile on your burgers and toppings. This quick step makes a big difference!
Here are more tips for cooking beef–including selecting the right cuts–from Beef It’s What’s For Dinner.