Hamburgers are not just a summertime staple. Fact is, Americans consume on average three hamburgers a week. But did you know that burgers can give you a serious case of food poisoning when not cooked safely?

In this guide, we talk about hamburger temperature and give you a detailed guide on how to grill the best burger.

Hamburger Temperature

Listen:

Undercooked ground beef can be hiding dangerous bacteria like Salmonella and E. Coli. That’s why you need to cook hamburgers to the correct internal temperature of 160 degrees or higher to wipe out food illness-causing bacteria.

Achieving safe temperature with steak and ribs is a no-brainer, but it’s a whole other story when it comes to burgers.

Here’s how to cook burgers safely at home.

USDA Cooking Temperature Guidelines

USDA guidelines are put in place to ensure meat reaches a safe internal temperature that is hot enough to kill bacteria and harmful germs that cause food poisoning. For ground meat and meat mixtures, beef, pork, veal, and lamb, should reach an internal temperature of 160F. Ground turkey and chicken should reach 165F.

Restaurants that serve high-risk items work alongside the USDA and local health departments to adhere to the set guidelines. In addition, they should also create and implement a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Plan (HACCP). Such a plan outlines a system for mitigating and controlling the risk of food safety hazards. 

Hamburger Temperature Guide

Burger Temperature Guide

First things first. You need to cook Store-bought ground beef until it reaches an interior temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius).

Here’s why.

Bacteria from raw meat are often found on the surface of the meat. When the meat is ground, the bacteria mix in the meat. That’s why you can eat a medium-rare steak safely because all the bacteria are on the surface, and they die once the meat is seared.

However, with ground meat, the bacteria are mixed throughout your patty. And since you need to kill the bacteria to make the burger safe to eat, the store-bought ground beef temperature must reach 160F.

Ground Beef

Ground Beef

When buying ground beef, it’s essential to take a few precautions to prevent foodborne illnesses.

First, you should not store ground meat in the refrigerator for more than two days. If you don’t plan to cook burgers within two days after buying them, it’s best to freeze them.

Second, pack a cooler or an ice pack when you go ground beef shopping. This way, you can make a few stops, and your meat will still be fresh when you reach home.

Lastly, and most important ensure that the refrigerator is at 37 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria multiply rapidly at temperatures between 40F to 140F.

Note:

The 160F temperature guideline applies to store-bought ground beef. This is because ground meat risks bacteria exposure at every stage of production. But there’s a way to go around this temperature guideline if you make ground meat at home.

Temperature Guidelines for Burger Doneness

Temperature Guidelines for Burger Doneness

Grinding your own meat at home gives you peace of mind. You can keep the meat at the required temperature below 40F, and the surfaces clean to prevent bacteria from coming into contact with the meat.

Say you have a nice piece of well-marbled chuck. When you grind it just before grilling, the risk is less than with prepackaged beef.

Why?

First, you know the cut of meat you’re dealing with. And second, going straight to the grill prevents bacteria from multiplying.

That’s why you can cook a home-ground burger medium-rare to 130-135F.

Here’s a temperature guideline for burger doneness for at-home ground meat.

Well Done: 160F to 165F. A well-done burger is easily tough and dry.

Medium Well: 150F to 155F. While the insides of this burger will have some pink, the outside will be noticeably dry.

Medium: 140F to 145F. This burger should be slightly pink throughout the inside.

Medium Rare: 130F to 135F. Cook a burger for 6-7 minutes total while taking the proper precautions to eat at this temperature.

Rare: 120F to 125F. We do not recommend cooking and eating a rare burger for safety reasons.

To Pasteurize Burgers

When cooking a medium-rare burger from prepackaged beef, you should pasteurize the burgers before eating.

Start the cooking process like you would with any burger. When the temperature reaches138 degrees Fahrenheit, pull them off the grill, cover them in foil, and put them in an oven set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 minutes.

Your burgers’ final temperature will be slightly above the medium-rare mark, but they will be safe to eat, juicy, and delicious than a well-done USDA guidelines burger.

How to Grill the Best Burger

How to Grill the Best Burger

Grilling the perfect burger is as much about the perfect recipe as it is about getting the temperature right. The best way to achieve the correct temperature range is by using the two-stage cooking method. This means setting up your grill with two zones. On one side, you have high heat, and on the other side, you have low heat.

Start by grilling the burger on the low-heat section, allowing the indirect heat to cook it. Then, when you are close to reaching the desired internal temperature, move the burger to the hot zone for a final sear.

It’s unlike most people do- Placing the burgers directly on a hot grill and then cooking for a few minutes until they are cooked to the desired doneness.

Why Burgers Need to Cook in Two Stages

Also known as reverse searing, this method allows you to approach the final temperature with control. Your burger will spend a long time on the low heat side, cooking it properly on the inside. When you transfer it to the high heat side, the burger reaches the correct temperature while giving you the classic sear on the outside.

Two-Stage Grilling Method

Two-Stage Grilling Method

As we’ve said, this method gives you control over how fast you will cook the burger. You have the best shot at nailing final temperature because there’s less carryover temperature than direct grilling.

I want us to target a medium-rare burger. That is a beef burger with golden brown sear marks and slightly pink in the center. And because we’ll be starting in the low-heat zone, there will be fewer flare-ups.  

Grill Temperature

For this method, pre-heat the grill and let it attain the grill temperature for burgers 400F (204 Celsius) on the hot side when covered. A charcoal grill will easily reach this temperature, so adjust the vents to increase or reduce the oxygen intake to control the temperature.

Remember.

More oxygen will cause the coals to burn faster. If you notice this, reduce the vent opening to limit oxygen or add a few more briquettes. If adding briquettes, wait for 10-15 minutes for the coals to start turning grey.

Grilling Burgers

Medium-Rare

Place the burgers on the unheated side of the grill with a leave-in temperature probe and close the lid. Cook the burger on each side until the internal temperature reaches 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Maintain this temperature for 3 minutes.

Now, transfer the burger to the high heat side and sear the burgers for 45 seconds on each side. Check to see you reach the desired temperature of medium-rare 130 before plating.

With this method, you have a high chance of getting a properly cooked and delicious grilled burger without the risk of overcooking them once they are out of the grill.

Well Done

To get a well-done burger, you want to cook the burger on the indirect heat side until it is 10-15 degrees under the target temperature of 160-165F. That is 140 to 145F, then transferring to the hot zone.

One thing you will notice is that there’s less carryover heat which will prevent overcooking.

Direct Heat Grilling

Direct Heat Grilling

When you cook burgers over direct heat, the temperature rise will be steep and swift. You will want to grill and sear the first side until you see juices pulling on the top of the burger. It takes 3-5 minutes for this to occur. Next, flip the burger patties and cook the other side for 2-5 minutes.

It’s best to monitor the grilled burger and remove it from the heat as soon as it reaches 153 degrees. This is because it will continue cooking, and the final temperature may overshoot past 160F because of the carryover temperature.

Hamburger Internal Temperature Chart

DonenessTemperatureCooking TimeBurger Temperature Celsius
Rare120F-125F4 Minutes48C-51C
Medium Rare130-135F5-6 Minutes54C-57C
Medium140F-145F7 Minutes60C-62C
Medium Well150F-155F8-10 Minutes65C-68C
Well Done160F-165F10 Minutes or More71C-73C

Best Burger Recipe

Yields: 3-4 servings

You will need:

  • 1-pound 80/20 ground beef
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hamburger buns
  • Cheese
  • Your favorite toppings and condiments. I like using bacon, tomato, onion, lettuce, and mayo.

Instructions

  • If using a gas grill, pre-heat it on high for 10-15 minutes. Then turn off one side to create two-zone heat.
  • On a charcoal grill, heat coals until they are bright orange with ash over. Push most of the coals on one side of the grill and leave a few on the other side.
  • In a bowl, place chilled ground beef and scoop with wet hands to make four equal patties. Work quickly and lightly to make a burger that is roughly ½ inches thick.
  • Season the burger patties generously with salt and pepper on each side. Then with your thumb, make an indentation at the center of the burger. This trick helps to cook the burger evenly.

Two-Stage Cooking

  • Grill burgers in the indirect heat section and cook until internal temperature is 10-15 degrees under desired temperature.
  • Transfer the burgers to the high heat side for 45 seconds on each side for searing.

Direct Heat grilling

  • Preheat the grill for 10-15 minutes for the type of grill you have.
  • Place the burgers on the hot grill plates for 3 minutes on the first side for medium-rare, 4-5 minutes for medium, and 5-6 minutes for well done.
  • Flip the burgers on the second side and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes for medium-rare, 4-5 minutes for medium, and 5-6 minutes for well done.
  • To test for doneness, insert a temperature probe through the side to the center of the burger. For commercial ground beef, ensure that it reaches USDA guidelines temperature of 160F.

On a Stovetop

On a Stovetop

It’s best to use a cast-iron saute pan or griddle.

  • Heat the pan with oil over high heat until the oil starts to shimmer.
  • Form 3-4 burgers, season with salt and pepper and add an indent in the middle.
  • Place the burgers on the pan and cook the first side until it’s golden-brown and slightly charred. That is 3 minutes for beef and 5 minutes if you are using turkey burgers.
  • On the second side, cook for 3-4 minutes for medium-rare and 5 minutes for medium-well burger or well done or until the ideal temperature.
  • For both methods, add the cheese during the last minute of cooking alongside the hamburger buns. Close the grill to melt the cheese or use an aluminum foil to tent the burgers.
  • Grill the buns lightly for 1-2 minutes until toasted.
  • Form your grilled burgers, plate, and enjoy.

Tips for Making the Best Burger

  • When grilling burgers, never press down on the patties. You will end up draining the juices leaving you with a dry burger.
  • When the burgers are done cooking, let them rest on a clean platter to redistribute the juices.
  • Don’t place the cooked burgers in the same plate you used to carry the raw meat to avoid contamination.
  • Keep the burgers within ¼ – ¾ inches thick for the best results. A very thick burger may cook unevenly, while a very thin one will cook too fast and dry out.
  • Brush the grill grates lightly with some oil to prevent the burgers from sticking to the grill. The oil also helps to make a beautiful seared layer.
  • Turn your patties only once to keep them intact. Too much flipping causes a burger to fall apart.
  • Track the meat’s internal temperature to ensure it reaches a safe temperature while preventing it from overcooking.
  • When cooking for a large group of people, the two-stage method is best for cooking burgers safely. It’s best to use a leave-in thermometer to track the burgers’ temperature and a thermapen to test the temperature when finishing the burgers on the hot side.

Conclusion

Now, you know all about hamburger temperature and how to cook burgers safely. It’s best to grind meat at home. Don’t be shy about mixing different cuts. As long as you keep the meat grinder and surfaces clean, you are not at risk of foodborne illness.

Remember to follow USDA guidelines and to refer to the hamburger temperature chart for safe internal temperature.