Prepare to amaze your friends and family with these juicy and mouthwatering hamburgers made on a charcoal grill! This guide has everything from my secret recipe for tips to lighting and grilling without flames or burning the burgers!
Step 1: The Perfect Hamburger Recipe
There are many different recipes you can use to make the hamburgers. My favorite and classic recipe includes these ingredients:
2 pounds ground beef (80-90% lean - if you use leaner beef cooking times may vary)
1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten lightly
2 tbsp barbecue sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
Your favorite hamburger seasoning (I really like Weber's Burger seasoning for convenience, but you can also make your own by mixing salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, paprika, and seasoned salt together)
You can also try some of the other homemade hamburger recipes I use if you want to try something new or different.
Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl.
Step 2: Shape the Patties
This is the secret to making hamburgers that grill perfectly. You will want to shape your patties to be less than 3/4 of an inch thick and poke a small hole through the center. Thinner patties will cook faster, thicker ones may take longer and have the possibility of becoming charred before they are cooked all the way through.
When you poke a small hole through the center of the burger, you can be assured the center will cook all the way through and in most cases you won't even know the hole was there when you are finished cooking! (Especially if you cover it with cheese!)
Step 3: Prepare the Grill
Grilling on charcoal takes a little patience, but after practice and experience you will be much more comfortable with it.
The easiest charcoal to use is the instant lighting type that requires no lighter fluid. If you use this kind of charcoal, you will save a lot of frustration if this is your first time grilling over charcoal! It is not the "best" if you ask any grilling expert, but it is the best if you are hungry and want to cook fast!
Before starting make sure you follow basic safety tips: do not grill indoors, keep the grill at least 5-10 feet away from other objects, do not let kids or pets play near the grill, and have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case.
To light the grill, you will want to place a piece of crumpled newspaper on the bottom and then cover it with between 50-60 charcoal pieces (depending on the size of your grill) arranged like a pyramid. Light the newspaper with a long match or barbecue lighter and the charcoal pieces should also catch on fire. You will want to keep the lid open and let them burn until they begin to ash over.
This usually takes between 10-15 minutes depending on weather conditions and how much charcoal you have used. You are ready to cook on them when they are slightly ashed over (white in color) and glowing hot. Spread them out across the bottom of your grill and you're ready to get started!
Step 4: Get Grilling!
There are many different methods to cooking burgers on the grill, but one foolproof method I have found is to start by placing them on a metal aluminum tray until the very end. This will prevent them from sticking to the grill as well as from falling apart. It also reduces how much they burn on the outside from flames flaring up from dripping grease. It is not necessary, but if this is your first time it may be a good precaution.
You will want to cook them for about 5-8 minutes on each side. You'll know they are ready to flip when the bottoms look nearly halfway cooked. When cooking, you will want to close the lid of the grill to help keep heat from escaping and cook the burgers more quickly. Just be sure to check them to make sure they do not burn. The time will largely depend on the thickness of the patties and how hot the grill is.
Once the burgers are just about done, you can then remove them from the foil pan directly to the grill grate if using a pan. This will give you that "charcoal flavor" and the grill marks. This is also a good time to add cheese and let it melt onto the burgers.
Hamburgers are done when they are cooked to an internal temperature of 160-165 degrees. A reliable digital meat thermometer for $20 can be a worthwhile investment if you grill meat often and will save you the worry from under cooking or over cooking foods. It is the only true way to know for sure if a hamburger is done or not. If you poked holes in the burgers before like I recommended, you will likely notice the holes have pretty much disappeared.
For more about food safety and meat temperatures, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has important information you should read about internal meat temperatures. A burger that looks brown inside does not always mean it has reached a safe temperature!
Step 5: Serve and Enjoy!
Once the cheese is melted and the burgers have reached a safe temperature, you are ready to serve them and enjoy! Remove them from the grill and serve on your favorite buns with your favorite toppings. You may enjoy lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickles, relish, onions, or even mushrooms and hot peppers. The sky's the limit - just about anything tastes great on these burgers!