Summer is approaching quicker than Justin Beiber’s next meltdown, and it’s time to throw on your apron, shine your tongs and fire up the grill. Whether that grill is a George Foreman in your dorm room, a classic Weber hand-me-down or public grill at the beach, these tips will ensure you end up with the juiciest burgers in town and invites to all your friends’ BBQ parties.

Pick your meat like you pick your Tinder dates: carefully

  • Elementary school teachers were right, you do need ratios in real life: Choosing meat with the proper fat to lean meat ratio is the most important decision you make in the entire grilling process. While we applaud your efforts to be healthy and cut out fat, the perfect burger requires a little bit for flavor and moisture.  The ideal ratio is 20% fat to 20% lean meat. This keeps the burger from drying out and tasting like the dreaded veggie burger.
  • Be like Wendys and go fresh, never frozen:
    Fresh v Frozen Burger

    Photo by Marissa Sherman

    You’ve probably put in the effort to get at least two thirties of Bud Light Lime and some potato salad and a berry crisp for this BBQ, so why not spring for fresh meat? Try to buy fresh whenever possible and avoid frozen, pre-made patties with added chemicals and fillers. Pro Tip: If you don’t use up all the meat, refrigerate it and use within 1-2 days. Or freeze it in foil or a plastic bag and use within 4 months.

Handle that meat like a baby

Burger in Hand

Photo by Marissa Sherman

    • The less you handle your meat, the better:  With clean hands, tear your meat into chunks and place in a large bowl. Add whatever seasonings your heart desires and lightly fold together. Then gently form into a patty the size of your palm. Pro tip: Keep your hands damp when handling meat to prevent sticking.
    • Place a thumb print in the center of the paddy: Creating a dimple in the center of your meat helps for even cooking and avoids burger shrinkage or plumpage. So go ahead, pretend to be Umami Burger and brand that burger with your thumbprint.
Putting Salt on Patties

Photo by Marissa Sherman

    • Listen to an expert: less is more. While you may be tempted to go all Top Chef on your diners and explode their taste buds with crazy ingredients like kale or bacon fat, don’t. Everybody loves a good burger because it is simple and tastes like meat. So follow the advice of burger master, Chef Bobby Flay, and stick with salt and pepper. Otherwise your burger becomes a meatloaf, and the only time you should eat meatloaf is when you’re visiting Grandma.
Burger Patties Pepper and Salt

Photo by Marissa Sherman

Step back from the grill and nobody gets hurt

  • Hold the spatula to look important, not to abuse your meat: Trying not to press down on your burger patty and watch the flavorful juices ooze out might be harder than eating 3 sour warheads at once or sitting through an entire episode of Long Island Medium. Pressing down on your patty leaches the juice which is what provides flavor and keeps the meat from drying out. So place it on the grill and go reward yourself with another beer.
  • Flip once and done: Nobody likes a charred hockey puck of what was once grade A beef, so use your watch, or in this day and age your iPhone timer, and cook your patty to perfection. For crowd pleasing grill marks, flip the patty only once so it develops a beautiful crust.
    • Cook 2 minutes per side for rare
    • 3 minutes per side for medium rare
    • 4 minutes per side for medium
    • 5 minutes per side for well done

Don’t let your burger go naked

  • Forget gluten free and paleo trends and toast that bun: A few minutes before your burger is done cooking, open up your buns and place it face down on the grill for a light toast.
  • Spread your buns: Using a spread like mayo, guacamole or ketchup and mustard helps lock in the burgers juices and prevents your hands from getting covered in burger runoff juice.