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close-up picture of three hamburger patties on a lit grill

How to Grill Hamburgers (Recipes Kids Should Know Before Leaving Home)

By Jane Maynard

Did you know Americans eat on average three hamburgers per week? That equals more than 50 billion burgers per year in the United States! Since hamburgers are clearly popular, it goes without saying it would be a good idea to know how to grill one up yourself! And while there are over 50,000 hamburger restaurants in the country, being able to make your own burger at home is not only delicious but most often times healthier. So, that’s why we think it’s a meal a kid should know how to make before leaving home.

Picture of Grilled Hamburger on a Bun with Condiments and Chips

In the recipe below we will describe in detail how to cook a hamburger outside on a grill as well as on the stovetop in a frying pan. It’s good to know both ways since you may not always have access to an outdoor grill. The directions aren’t all that different and both techniques make for a great burger.

Hamburgers on the Grill with a label "Recipes Kids Should Know: Grilled Hamburgers"

Hamburger Grilling Tips:

1. When buying ground beef, you will see numbers on the package like 80/20 or 90/10. These numbers indicate the ratio of lean meat to fat – 80/20 ground beef has 80% lean meat and 20% fat. We recommend choosing 80/20 when making hamburgers.

2. Don’t over mix the hamburger when forming your burger patties! They will be more tender the less you handle the meat.

3. The only seasoning you need is salt, and you should add the salt just prior to cooking the burgers. Salt is perfect for creating great flavor in hamburgers, but it can remove moisture if it sits on the meat too long. I also like to season burgers with black pepper but wait to sprinkle it on until after the burgers are cooked – pepper is a volatile spice, which means it loses its flavor when cooked. Always add pepper at the end of cooking for maximum flavor!

4. It doesn’t matter if you make thick or thin burgers…just make them how you like them! Remember, though, that thinner the beef patties will cook faster, so you will need to adjust the cooking time.

5. Don’t smash the burgers when they are cooking! Not smashing will help retain all those delicious juices inside the burger.

6. You only need to flip the burger once during cooking.

7. If you want to make cheeseburgers, add sliced cheese to the top of the burgers during the last minute of cooking.

8. Toasted buns are the best! You can put them in a toaster or just throw them face down directly on the grill during the last minute of cooking the burgers.

picture of hamburger buns on a grill

Tips Specific to Using an Outdoor Grill

  • When using an outdoor grill, gas or charcoal grills both work great. For both, you should cook the burgers over high heat. Make sure you have an adult helping you at the grill, especially if you are using hot coals.
  • Before turning on the grill, soak a paper towel with a neutral cooking oil, like canola or vegetable oil, and rub the grill grates with the oil. This will help the burgers not to stick to the grill.

picture of hand swiping grill with vegetable oil on paper towel

  • If you are cooking your burgers on the grill, use a long-handled spatula that is made for grilling. Grill utensils are made to withstand the hot heat of the grill, and the long handles keep your hands safe from the flames.

picture of three raw hamburger patties on a grill about to be flipped with a grill spatula

How Long to Cook Hamburgers for Different Doneness

One more thing…how long should you cook your burgers? That depends on how you like your burger cooked! But what does that even mean? Some people like their burger barely cooked, so the meat is mostly red, which is called “rare.” Other people like their burgers cooked so they are completely brown all the way through, which is called “well done.” Most people like burgers cooked somewhere in the middle, either “medium-rare,” “medium” or “medium-well.” The advantage to cooking a burger so there is some red or pink inside is the burger will not dry out. A well-done burger tends to lose moisture and I think taste drier and tougher.

Hamburgers on a plate by the grill with toasted buns

Below is a list of the different ways to cook a hamburger, with the accompanying temperatures. Please note that the USDA recommends ground beef be cooked to at least 160º F to ensure safety when eating. Our family cooks burgers in the Medium-Rare to Medium range because it just plain tastes better. There is higher risk for food-borne illness, so your family will need to decide what is right for you. Consumer Reports has a great article with methods for cooking burgers as hot as 160º F but still having them taste good – click here if you are interested!

I like to use an instant-read cooking thermometer to keep track of how cooked the burgers are. You can just poke a little hole and see how the burger is doing, but a thermometer is fast and accurate. Simply stick the thermometer in so the tip is in the center of the burger.

  • Rare: Mostly red inside (internal cooking temperature 120º – 125º F)
  • Medium-Rare: Pink throughout the inside (130º – 135º F)
  • Medium: Just a little pink in the center (140º – 145º F)
  • Medium-Well: Almost brown throughout, just a smidge of pink (150º – 155º F)
  • Well: Brown throughout (160º – 165º F)

Grilled Hamburger on Bun Plated with Chips

There are tons of burger recipes out there as well as variations on the techniques we share below. We are sharing a very basic but delicious approach to cooking hamburgers, but once you have that down feel free to experiment. Happy grilling!

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How to Grill Hamburgers

close-up picture of three hamburger patties on a lit grill
  • Author: Jane Maynard
  • Yield: Serves 3-4 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of 80/20 ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

If using a gas or charcoal grill:

  1. Heat grill for 5-10 minutes at high heat.
  2. While grill is heating up, place ground beef into a mixing bowl. Add salt and mix with hands until salt is evenly mixed through but no longer. Do not overmix.
  3. Divide meat into 3 or 4 evenly-sized pieces (depending on how big you want your burgers). Form each piece into a ball and then flatten it out into a patty shape. Making the burgers 1/2″ – 3/4″ in thickness works well. You can make them thinner if you like, just remember they will cook faster.
  4. Place burger patties on the grill. Cook on the first side for 3 minutes for medium-rare, 4 minutes for medium, and 5 minutes for well done.
  5. Flip burgers once and finish cooking on the second side an additional 3 minutes for medium-rare, 4 minutes for medium and 5 minutes for well done. Use the temperature guide above to determine if the burger is done. Using an instant-read cooking thermometer is super helpful because cooking times will vary depending on how thick the burgers are and how hot your grill is.
  6. If desired, add cheese during the last minute of cooking.
  7. Remove burgers from the grill, sprinkle with some pepper, and enjoy!

If using the stovetop:

  1. Heat pan over medium-high heat (around 7 on a knob that goes from 1-10). Cast iron pans are the best but use whatever frying pan is your favorite.
  2. While the pan is heating, place ground beef into a mixing bowl. Add salt and mix with hands until salt is evenly mixed through but no longer. Do not overmix.
  3. Divide meat into 3 or 4 evenly-sized pieces (depending on how big you want your burgers). Form each piece into a ball and then flatten it out into a patty shape. Making the burgers 1/2″ – 3/4″ in thickness works well. You can make them thinner if you like, just remember they will cook faster.
  4. Place burger patties on pan. Cook on the first side for 3 minutes for medium-rare, 4 minutes for medium, and 5 minutes for well done.
  5. Flip burgers once and finish cooking on the second side an additional 3 minutes for medium-rare, 4 minutes for medium and 5 minutes for well done. Use the temperature guide above to determine if the burger is done. Using an instant-read cooking thermometer is super helpful because cooking times will vary depending on how thick the burgers are and how hot your grill is.
  6. If desired, add cheese during the last minute of cooking.
  7. Remove burgers from the pan, dab with a paper towel if they are super greasy from the pan, then sprinkle with some pepper. Enjoy!

More Meals Kids Should Know to Make Before Leaving Home:

1. How to Make Potato Salad
2. How to Make Macaroni Salad
3. Yummy Roasted Vegetables

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About the Author

Jane Maynard

Jane Maynard is a mom, wife, graphic designer and blogger living in the San Diego area in sunny Southern California. Jane started her food blog This Week for Dinner 9 years ago and has be...

Jane Maynard is a mom, wife, graphic designer and blogger living in the San Diego area in sunny Southern California. Jane started her food blog This Week for Dinner 9 years ago and has been posting weekly meal plans ever since, in addition to recipes, travel, kitchen tips and more. Jane writes for the food sections of several websites and is always busy cooking up something new! Jane is pretty much obsessed with chocolate chip cookies and does not want to fix that about herself.

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