The Key to Juicy, Well-Crusted Burgers on a Gas Grill? Preheat It Like Crazy

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Burger purists will tell you: the only way to grill a burger is over charcoal. No gas grill on Earth can get as hot or sear burgers as well while keeping them juicy inside.

Problem is, most people own gas grills. And while gas grills are convenient, fast, and can serve more people easily, the purists have a point: gas grills simply can’t get as hot as charcoal. By the time most cooks using gas develop a crust on their burgers, the meat inside the patties is desert dry.

But there is a way to get well crusted, juicy burgers on a gas grill that will make your mouth water. The trick? Preheating your grill for a long time. Here’s how it’s done.

Step 1: Prepare the patties, buns, and fixings

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Photography: Saqib Shafi

Grilling is usually for big parties, so it’s best to have all your burger items prepared and ready to go. For the gas grill, go with five ounce patties by weight (about a heaping 1/2 cup by volume) with a good amount of fat. You need the extra ounce over a 4-ounce quarter pounder (the golden standard of burger sizes) to develop a solid crust while having meat that’s juicy without overcooking. While forming the patties, go ahead and butter the inside of the buns and prepare any vegetables and sauces.

Step 2: Pre-heat your grill until ultra hot (the key!)

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This is the most critical step to nailing a good crust on burgers grilled over gas. Most people simply preheat their gas grills for just a few minutes before cooking. While this may work for cooking over charcoal, this simply isn’t enough time for a gas grill to heat up to temperatures that will sear burgers while keeping the insides juicy. Cook’s Illustrated and Alton Brown recommend preheating your grill for searing purposes for a whole 15 minutes. Sounds like a long time, but by doing so I got my parents’ gas grill to 650 F, just hot enough to sear burgers the way they should be.

 Related: How to clean a gas grill so it can preheat without flaring up. → Read more

Step 3: Cook the patties until you get a good crust on one side

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With your gas grill super hot go ahead and start cooking your burger patties. You’ll hear them hiss when they’re placed on the grates. Since gas grills don’t retain much heat, though, you’ll only really be able to get one side very crusty. So let the first side cook for a good five minutes, then carefully flip them to cook for about another two minutes for medium (135 F), four minutes for medium well (145 F).

Step 4: Cover with cheese when almost done

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Like cheese on your burger? Then use the grill’s heat to have it melted on your burger. For semi-hard cheeses like cheddar (go with extra sharp, aged for a year), add the cheese a good minute before the burgers are done, covering them with an aluminum tray if need be to speed up melting. For American cheese just add a slice as soon as the burgers are done; the cheese will melt super easily. That way the cheese is melted, but not so much that it’s dripping into the grill.

Step 5: Toast the buns while the burgers rest

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The burgers need to rest a bit so their juices stay within them. This is when you want to toast the cut size of your buns directly on the hot grill grates until browned to the level you like. The browning will give the buns more flavor and crisp up the insides to soak up any burger juice, while pleasantly warming the bun through.

Step 6: Bring it all together

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Burger time. A deeply crusted patty topped with beautifully melted cheese on a toasty bun with all your favorite fixings. And you didn’t even use a charcoal grill. What’s more, you can just turn off your burners, clean off any gunk, and be done with it.

So is it as good as a burger cooked over charcoal? I’ll… have to get back to you on that. In the meantime, please excuse me. I have a burger to eat.

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