Grilling burgers is one of our favorite pastimes, and we tend to go to a different zone of rest and relaxation when we grill outdoors. That leaves a common question among many grillers about the techniques and ways to grill a burger properly.
Above all, many want to know how to tell when a burger is done on the grill, whether they have a thermometer handy or not. That’s probably why you are here, too. Let’s not waste any more time chatting and get right down to business.
How do you tell when grilled burgers are done?
To tell with a thermometer, insert the probe into the center of the burger and look for an internal temperature of no less than 160°F. Some take the temperature from the top, but we recommend holding the burger perpendicular to the grill and going in across the side.
Knowing the internal temperature of the food you are grilling, whether we’re talking juicy burgers, thick-cut steak, or fragrant pork chops, will help to ensure the best results. If you are serious about grilling, be sure to get one.
However, we realize that this advice may or may not be helpful in your situation—and that a good percentage of you want to know how to test burgers for doneness without a meat thermometer. We have it all for you.
After a month of testing and many undercooked, perfectly cooked, and overcooked patties, we have found the best methods to determine when a burger is done without a burger.
To determine if a burger is cooked without a meat thermometer, observe the color, the juices, the feel of the meat. A cooked burger should pop (not sink) immediately after being pressed down, have clear (not bloody) juices, and be gray to brown (not pink) on the inside.
We can advise you on which burgers are better, store-bought or homemade. Not to mention learn everything you need to know about grilling burgers that will get you excited and ready to fire up the grill!
Stick with us; we will go more into depth as you read along and offer some helpful tips at the end that you and your grilling buddies may not know about grilling burgers.
Telling If Burgers Are Done, With or Without a Thermometer
Both of these methods will produce a cooked burger that is safe to eat. However, using a meat thermometer is the most accurate way to tell if a burger has reached a safe temperature. Use these methods at your own risk, and always remember to cook burgers properly to avoid foodborne illness.
Grilling burgers with a meat thermometer:
- Burgers are best grilled over direct, medium-high heat. So preheat your gas grill to about 400°F or wait for the coals to ashen over;
- Place the burger on the grate and allow it to cook for about 3-4 minutes per side (the thicker the patty, the longer it takes);
- Insert the probe of your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, either from the top or from the sides;
- Wait for 2-3 seconds to get a good reading. The internal temperature should be at least 160°F to be considered safe to eat;
- Remove the burger from the grill when it has reached the desired temperature and allow it to rest for 2-3 minutes before serving.
Grilling burgers without a meat thermometer:
- Once again, make sure your grill is hot before cooking your burgers. Preheat it to medium-high heat or wait for the coals to ashen;
- Place the burger on the grill and leave it to cook uninterrupted for about 3-4 minutes per side;
- Look at the burger to see if it has changed color. Take note of the sides of the meat that they are brown and not pink;
- The burger should be a nice, juicy brown color when cooking. You may also cut a slit at the top center of the burger to check the inside, but be careful not to release all the juices;
- Remove the burger from the grill when it has reached the desired color and allow it to rest for a few minutes before serving.
Can Burgers Be Pink on the Inside?
Most food safety experts will agree that it is not okay to have pink inside the burger when grilling.
When a burger is cooking on a grill, the meat proteins absorb energy from the heat and begin to shrink and thicken. Once they start losing structural integrity, they also lose their ability to hold on to liquids within the cells.
Thus, this causes juices from within the burger itself—in addition to any other added liquids—to be squeezed out by contracting protein fibers, only adding density and flavor from caramelizing sugars of charred exterior portions of cooked beef.
When a cook sees that a burger has been “juiced,” that surface area is no longer producing appealing flavors or textures through browning reactions, and that moisture content is reduced unevenly.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service recommend that human beings consume burgers with an internal temperature of at least 160°F to ensure the safety of E. coli, Salmonella Typhimurium, and other pathogenic bacteria.
A meat thermometer is the only way to accurately tell if meat is adequately cooked through appearance, texture, or temperature. Thus, it would be best not to have pink inside the burger when grilling because it could result in under-cooking.
Even though consuming undercooked beef can lead to sickness due to mishandling of pathogens caused by temperatures too low for lethal cell destruction (and leaving viable cells), many Americans eat undercooked ground beef believing that it will make them sick.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that each year 48 million Americans, or one in six, get sick from foodborne illnesses, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. Ground beef is a common source of these illnesses, and it is not worth the risk.
To Grill Store-Bought or Homemade Burgers?
In this day and age, it’s easy to just grab a frozen burger from the store and throw it on the grill. However, if you’re willing to take a little extra time, homemade burgers can be far more delicious than store-bought ones.
When cooking burgers on the grill, many factors come into play that affects both taste and texture. The thickness of patties affects how fast they cook, with large thick burgers taking longer to cook through than smaller thinner burgers (this means they also require lower heat).
Another factor is the choice of meat; which meat should you choose? Hamburger, chuck, or brisket are all popular. Vegetarians beware, most store-bought burger meat is NOT vegan! Do not make the mistake of assuming.
So, which one is better?!
Many people love frozen packaged ground beef, seasoned with typical salt and pepper for taste.
People will often say that this burger has a unique flavor because it usually contains added ingredients such as onion powder, garlic powder, and sugar. However, some purists will disagree because they believe that those additions mask the flavor of the beef.
On the other hand, making your own burgers at home allows you to customize the ingredients to your liking. You can add any spices or flavors you want, and you control the quality and type of meat you use. As a result, some people believe that homemade burgers are always better than store-bought ones.
Special Tips In Conclusion
Each grilling technique is extraordinary. Whether you have a meat thermometer or not, or you prefer frozen burgers or homemade, these are some excellent tips for providing you with the best-grilled burger for your feast:
- Homemade burgers are thick. To keep them from shrinking, take your thumb and press down in the middle of the burger before (not during) cooking. This will keep their shape to provide meat for every bite of a hamburger;
- Going with the frozen burgers for large gatherings may be better to cut down on time. It will also leave less of a mess to clean from preparing the meat in the kitchen;
- Keep an eye on the juices that come from the burger. It will tell you when it is done because all pink and red colors will dissipate and turn clear;
- Grill the burgers low and slow for a thorough cook inside. High heat will scorch the outside while leaving the center undercooked.