Braden Family Cookbook

Chuck Braden

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CHARCOAL-GRILLED HAMBURGERS                   Cook’s Illustrated

Serves 4

Weighing the meat on a kitchen scale is the most accurate way to portion it. If you don’t own a scale, do your best to divide the meat evenly into quarters. Eighty percent lean ground chuck is the favorite for flavor, but 85 percent lean works, too. If you start with a chuck roast or steak, ask the butcher to grind it twice and expect some weight loss—2 to 3 percent in our experience—to the grinder. Toasting the buns is an easy extra flourish; just split them open and lay the halves cut-side down on the grill rack for the last 45 to 60 seconds of the hamburgers’ cooking time.

1 1/2 pounds 80 percent lean ground chuck
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for oiling grill rack
Buns and desired toppings

1. Ignite about 6 quarts (1 large chimney or about 6 pounds) charcoal and burn until coals are completely covered with thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Spread coals evenly over grill bottom, position grill rack above the coals, and heat until medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill surface for no longer than 3 or 4 seconds).

2. Meanwhile, break up ground chuck with your hands in medium bowl. Sprinkle salt and pepper over meat; toss lightly with hands to distribute seasonings. Divide meat into four 6-ounce portions. Gently toss one portion of meat back and forth between hands to form loose ball. Lightly flatten into patty 3/4-inch thick and about 4 1/2-inches in diameter. Gently press center of patty down until about 1/2-inch thick, creating a slight depression in each patty; repeat with remaining portions of meat.

3. Scrape hot grill rack clean with wire brush. Lightly dip wadded paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe grill rack. Grill patties, uncovered, without pressing down on them, until well seared on first side, about 2 1/2 minutes. Flip burgers with metal barbecue spatula; continue grilling about 2 minutes for rare, 2 1/2 minutes for medium-rare, or 3 minutes for medium. Serve immediately.


Turn all burners on gas grill to high, close lid, and heat until very hot, 10 to 15 minutes. Follow recipe for Charcoal-Grilled Hamburgers from step 2, grilling patties 3 minutes per side for rare, 3 minutes on the first side and 3 1/2 minutes on the second side for medium-rare, or 3 minutes on first side and 4 minutes on second side for medium.