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How to grill the best burgers: Secrets to the perfect patty

Don't ever serve a hamburger on a regular bun that hasn’t been toasted.
/ Source: TODAY

Grilling can be a bit intimidating, but with a few tips, you can make this your summer for sizzling success. Wondering where to begin? Let's tackle the basics first: burgers!

TODAY Food spoke to barbecue expert Rick Browne, author of “The Ultimate Guide to Grilling,” to dive into his ultimate tips for this classic ground meat patty that, when topped with condiments and cheese, tastes like taking a bite straight out of summer.

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Choose the right cut

Not all ground beef is created equal. In fact, when you’re shopping for ground beef, you’ll see that most packages list a ratio of lean to fat. And this matters.

“To me, any burger that is made with less than 80/20 hamburger meat is a waste of time,” Browne said. “We are not eating burgers every day, but when we do, we want them juicy and moist.”

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He added that 20% fat is the standard for restaurants and burger competitions. Having a nice amount of fat means it melts and leaves air pockets, so the burger is less dense.

“You need that because the fat gives you flavor, it gives you moisture, and it keeps the burger light in the middle so it’s not all compacted," said Browne.

Prepare the patties

Season the ground beef with a teaspoon of salt per pound of meat, some fresh pepper and any other dried seasonings you like. Gently form the meat into balls, and then flatten the balls.

“Don’t press it down with your hands and squeeze it,” Browne warned.

Some experts recommend putting a dimple in the middle of each patty so the center doesn’t bulge when you cook it, and Browne agrees it’s not a bad idea — but it won’t make or break your burger.

Get grilling

Once the patties are formed, place them on a well-oiled hot grill over direct heat for about three minutes. Turn them and continue to cook over direct heat for about three more minutes. Move the patties to indirect heat and cook for an additional two minutes on each side. This will get them to medium-rare, which in Browne's professional opinion, is the optimal temperature to enjoy a burger.

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If you'd like to ensure the patty meets the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommendation of cooking ground beef, pork, veal and lamb to an internal temperature of 165 F, Browne says to stick a thermometer into each patty sideways so it registers the temperature in the middle of the hamburger. If you prefer your burgers well done, Browne says you can preserve some of the juices by making thinner patties, which will allow the meat to cook faster.

Serve 'em up

When the burgers are cooked, remove them from the grill, cover them with foil and let them sit for another minute or two.

As for the bun, Browne left us with an important tidbit of information:

“Do not ever serve a hamburger on a regular bun that hasn’t been toasted.” Why? “The minute you bite into the burger the juices start to flow and the bun will fall apart,” he said. “A couple of contests will disqualify you if you don’t do a toasted bun.”

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