How to Make the Perfect Cheeseburger



Nothing says summer better than a thick, juicy cheeseburger sizzling away on the grill. But is your cheeseburger the best it can be? We asked our grilling guru, Fred Thompson, to share his expert tips — and his favorite recipe — so you can savor the ultimate cheeseurger experience.


The cheeseburger is an American culinary icon, and anyone who fires up a grill needs a recipe that honors that status. A good cheeseburger is a pleasure, but a great cheeseburger is an experience, and these tips will show you how to make the best.


Choose the best meat

The fat-to-lean ratio of the meat is critical for a juicy burger. After decades of testing, I have found that equal parts ground chuck and ground sirloin consistently deliver the best balance of flavor and fat. If you want a deeper, richer, beefier flavor, buy grass-fed beef.


Make good-sized patties

Gently shape the meat into patties just until they hold together, and make them thick enough so they will pick up a grill flavor without overcooking. My burgers usually weigh about 1/3 lb. and are 1 inch thick.


Cool down the patties

Chill your patties in the refrigerator—a half hour is good, and an hour is even better—before you grill them. They will hold together better over the fire and cook more evenly.

Prevent a “swollen belly”

Make an indentation in the center of each patty with your thumb. This prevents what I call the swollen-belly syndrome: burgers that are not as juicy as they should be and are puffed up and smaller than you intended.

Get the fire hot

A burger picks up caramelized flavor when it hits a sizzling-hot grill, so I start with a hot fire. You can always adjust the heat afterward.


Don’t press

Never press down on a burger with a spatula when it is on the grill. All that does is push out the flavorful juices.

Don’t overdo the condiments

Let the cheese and the burger shine. I dress my cheeseburger with a little mayonnaise (I’m southern), a tomato slice and thinly sliced onions, which I caramelize if I have the time.


Toast the buns

Give the buns a quick toasting on the grill—this simple step will help boost the burgers’ quality by a mile.


The Perfect Cheeseburger


1 lb. ground chuck

1 lb. ground sirloin

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

6 slices of your favorite cheese

6 hamburger buns, split


Ripe tomato slices; crisp lettuce leaves; red onion slices; bread-and-butter or dill pickle slices; and mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup for serving


Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over high heat. Brush and oil the grill grate.


In a large bowl, using a spoon, not your hands, gently mix together the chuck and sirloin. Run your hands under cold water and then divide the mixture into 6 equal portions. Shape each portion into a patty about 1 inch thick, being careful not to compact the meat too much. (Check to make sure the patties fit the buns, too.) Season on both sides with salt and pepper. Make a depression in the center of each patty with your thumb. Refrigerate until the grill is ready.


Place the patties, indent side up, on the grill directly over the fire and cook, turning once, until they are nicely charred on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, place a cheese slice on each patty and put the buns, cut side down, along the edge of the grill, then cover the grill. After about 2 minutes, the cheese should be melted and the buns toasted.


Place the burgers on the bun bottoms and place the tops alongside. Set out the condiments for diners to add as desired. Serve at once. Serves 6.


Grilling authority Fred Thompson shares more than 100 delicious recipes in his book Williams-Sonoma Grill Master. The iBook version includes exclusive videos; to buy, search “Williams-Sonoma” in iBooks on your mobile device.

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