Can You Grill A Great Burger On A Gas Grill? Yes!
Those of us who identify as carnivorous are particular about our grilled burgers. They have to be perfectly seasoned and seared on the outside–even a little crusty—with a juicy interior, and served on a well-chosen bun (also grilled) with our favorite condiments and embellishments.
Can you cook a righteous burger on a gas grill? Absolutely. In fact, when you need high but predictable heat to grill food directly, there’s nothing like a gas grill to deliver it.
How to Grill Hamburgers on Gas Grill
Using our tricks (see below), you can even sneak a little wood smoke goodness into the meat.
1. Start with quality meat.
Many people don’t realize there’s a difference between ground beef and hamburger. Ground beef is simply that—a cut of beef that’s put through a meat grinder, intrinsic fat and all. Hamburger, on the other hand, though also ground, can have fat from other cuts added to it to reach desired meat/fat ratios.
For juicy burgers, we recommend a ratio of 80/20. Leaner mixtures just don’t deliver as much flavor and will be drier when grilled. If you have a meat grinder, you can custom grind your own burger blend. Or some butchers will do this for you. Good candidates include well-marbled cuts like chuck, brisket, sirloin, and short ribs.
2. Chill your meat mixture well.
Chill your meat mixture well, and keep it chilled until it hits the grill; this maintains the integrity of the fat. Using a light touch and cold hands (repeatedly run them under cold running water before handling the meat), form the mixture into equal-size balls, each 7 to 9 ounces. Shape the balls into patties that are about 1 inch thick with a diameter 1 inch larger than the bun. (The patties will shrink as they cook.) Using your thumbs or the back side of a spoon, make a shallow dimple in one side of the shaped patties. This will prevent them from “puffing” as they cook.
3. Season the burger patties generously.
Next, generously season the patties with coarse salt and black pepper or your favorite rub. (For burgers, I’ve been loving Steven’s Project Smoke Santa Fe Coffee Rub. It really magnifies the beefy flavor of the meat.) Arrange the patties on a plastic-lined platter or sheet pan, cover with more plastic, and if you have time, return them to the refrigerator for at least an hour to put a good chill on them.
4. Prep your gas grill.
In the meantime, heat your gas grill to high, or if it runs really hot, as some gas grills do, medium-high. As always, scrape the grill grate clean with a wooden scraper or non-shedding wire grill brush and oil it well with vegetable oil. Some grill masters like to oil the outside of the burgers before they land on the hot grate; that’s up to you. We don’t bother.
5. Add optional wood smoke flavor.
If you’d like to lay down the incomparable flavor of wood smoke, you have options:
- If your grill has a dedicated smoker box, fill it with smoking wood chips as per the manufacturer’s directions. As burgers cook in mere minutes, there’s no need to soak the chips first.
- Nestle 1 or 2 chunks of smoking wood under the grate and directly over the burners.
- Enclose smoking wood chips or pellets in an aluminum foil pouch made from a 12 inch piece of aluminum foil. Poke holes in it with a skewer or a fork and place it on the grill grate (to the side of the burgers) or directly over the burners.
- Generate smoke with a tube smoker, which is filled with sawdust or pellets and placed directly on the grill grate. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
6. Grill burgers on the gas grill.
Arrange the burgers (dimpled side down) on the screaming hot grate. Leave about 30 percent of the grill grate food-free, a “safety zone” where you can move burgers in case of flare-ups. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they’re seared. Use a thin-bladed spatula to turn them (never press on them, or you’ll lose juices to the fire), and grill for 4 to 5 minutes more, or until the burgers reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. (The FDA does not recommend the consumption of rare ground meat.) Insert the probe of your instant-read thermometer through the side toward the center for the most accurate reading.
If you want cheese on your burgers, top with a thin slice of a good melting cheese the last minute or two of grilling. Transfer the burgers to a clean platter. While they rest, grill lightly buttered buns on the grate until toasted, one to two minutes. Assemble the burgers and dress as desired.
Speaking of cheese, one of our favorite burgers is Steven’s Inside-Out Cheeseburger with Made-From-Scratch Ketchup. Find the recipe here.