Grilling Great Hamburgers

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes

Serves: 4

After careful testing, Cook’s Illustrated recommends the ideal burger to weigh 6 ounces and measure 1/2 -inch-thick, 4 1/2 inches in diameter, formed with a slight depression in the middle, so that the edges are thicker than the center (the edges are 3/4 inch thick, the center 1/2 inch thick). Weighing the meat on a kitchen scale is the most accurate way to portion it. If you don’t own a scale, do your best to divide the meat evenly into quarters. Toasting the buns is an easy extra touch; just split them open and lay the halves cut-side down on the grill rack for the last 45 to 60 seconds of the hamburgers’ cooking time.

(This recipe was reprinted with permission from Cooks Illustrated, July. 2000).


1 1/2 lbs 80% lean Niman Ranch ground beef

1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Vegetable oil for oiling grill rack

Buns and desired toppings


  1. Ignite about 6 quarts (1 large chimney or about 6 pounds) charcoal and burn until coals are completely covered with thin coating of light gray ash–20 to 30 minutes. Spread coals evenly over grill bottom, position grill rack above the coals, and heat until medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill surface for no longer than 3 or 4 seconds).
  2. Meanwhile, break up the Niman Ranch ground chuck with your hands in medium bowl. Sprinkle salt and pepper over meat; toss lightly with hands to distribute seasonings. Divide meat into four 6-ounce portions. Gently toss one portion of meat back and forth between hands to form loose ball. Lightly flatten into patty 3/4 inch thick and about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Gently press center of patty down until about 1/2 inch thick, creating a slight depression in each patty; repeat with remaining portions of meat.
  3. Scrape hot grill rack clean with wire brush. Lightly dip wadded paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe grill rack. Grill patties, uncovered, without pressing down on them, until well seared on first side, about 2 1/2 minutes. Flip burgers with metal barbecue spatula; continue grilling about 2 minutes for rare, 2 1/2 minutes for medium-rare, or 3 minutes for medium. Serve immediately.