Grilling Great Hamburgers

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

Cooking Instructions

  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 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.

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