Making burgers for a backyard barbecue or family gathering is always a good idea, but we’ve all experienced that feeling of dread when they don’t cook as expected. It’s a tricky thing: You don’t want to undercook the hamburgers and serve raw meat, or overcook them and force everyone to eat hockey pucks.

So, what’s the trick to creating the best burgers ever? We’ll teach you how to make juicy burgers with our pro tips to follow before, during and after cooking.

Tip #1: Pick an 80/20 Beef-to-Fat Ratio

Making a juicy, flavorful hamburger starts with using the ideal beef-to-fat ratio. In this case, we recommend an 80/20 ratio—that’s 80% beef to 20% fat; just enough fat to make it juicy. You can use a 90/10 ratio if you like, but remember that the leaner the beef, the less flavor and juice you’ll get to enjoy later on.

Tip #2: Salt Right Before Cooking

Almost every burger recipe calls for salt and pepper, but when you add the salt makes a huge difference. Let’s explain the science: Salt draws out moisture from proteins, which is why you want to salt or brine meat long before it hits the heat. With ground meat, though, salting the mixture ahead of time can draw out too much moisture, leading to a dry, dense burger. Instead, sprinkle the patties with salt right before you cook them. They’ll wind up juicy with a deliciously salty crust.

Tip #3: Baste with Butter

Of course, adding more fat to the hamburger patties will also help make them more juicy. If you’re making burgers on the stovetop (hopefully, in a cast-iron skillet), start by dolloping a few tablespoons of butter into the skillet, then basting the patties with the melty goodness as they cook. If you’re grilling, periodically brush the burgers with melted butter.

Check out our recipe for homemade butter burgers if you want to learn more about this method.

Tip #4: Don’t Press on the Patties While They Cook

When you do this, you’re quite literally squeezing the juices out of the hamburgers. You’ve probably seen people do this while they tended the burgers at a cookout, but don’t follow suit. If you keep your spatula to yourself, those succulent juices will stay inside the patties instead of spilling out over the grill grates or into your pan.

Tip #5: Let the Burgers Rest

Letting burgers rest for about 5 minutes before serving allows the juices inside to redistribute before you bite into them. Otherwise, the juices will drip right out onto your plate (or your hands) as you bite or cut into the meat, losing the juiciness that you worked so hard to retain.

More Tips for Making a Juicy Burger

Keep the meat mixture cold until you’re ready to cook. If the fat stays solid until the moment it hits the heat, it will expand rapidly, creating flavor pockets inside the patty.
Don’t overwork the meat when making the patties. The more you handle the meat mixture, the tougher the patty will be once it’s cooked and tucked into a bun.
Use a burger mold or a lid to make uniform patties. This way, they’ll cook more evenly. (This is one of our favorite burger tips.)
Don’t move the patties around too much while they cook. This is the secret to getting a flavorful sear and salty crust. If you’re grilling, don’t disturb the patties until they’ve developed grill marks. Then move them to indirect heat to finish cooking to your desired internal temperature.
Slather on the sauce. Of course, barbecue sauce or aioli will add flavorful moisture to your burgers. But one of our favorite burger toppings: an over-easy egg. The yolk will spill out with the first few bites you take. After that, you can dip your hamburger into the yolk that dribbled onto your plate. The mess is 100-percent worth it.

Next Up: These tips will help your burger taste better.

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