By Marie Rama, Bryan Miller

If you want the perfect hamburger — juicy and meaty, moist and not fatty — you have to start with the right meat. The best all-around meat for hamburgers is ground chuck, which has about 15 to 20 percent fat, just enough to keep it moist. (Supermarkets usually list the percentage of fat on the label.)

Also look for coarsely ground meat, which yields a looser patty. Many people think that if they buy the “best” meat, like ground sirloin or ground round, they’ll have a superior burger. The flavor may be good, but those cuts are so lean that they tend to be dry.

Hamburgers for the grill should be plump and well-seasoned. The ingredients and flavors you can add are limitless. Consider minced onions, minced garlic, minced basil, and chopped thyme or rosemary; soy sauce, seasoned breadcrumbs, and a beaten egg; Worcestershire sauce; minced bell peppers; or Tabasco sauce if you like it hot. And you don’t even have to stick to beef: Lamb and turkey burgers, or blends of all three, are super, too.

You may enjoy getting your hands (washed, please!) into a mound of rosy ground meat and playing sculptor. But if you get too aggressive when forming your hamburger patties and mold them too firmly, they’ll tighten up on the grill. And nobody wants a tight hamburger! To get the most tender burger, keep it loose and don’t overwork the meat.

The Perfect Hamburger

Preparation time: About 10 minutes

Cook time: 10–14 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Oil for the grill rack

1-1/2 pounds ground chuck

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

4 hamburger buns

  1. Oil the grill and prepare a medium fire in a charcoal or gas grill.

  2. While the grill is heating, combine in a bowl the ground chuck, salt, and black pepper.

    Mix lightly but thoroughly, using your hands. Shape the mixture into 4 patties, each about 3/4-inch thick.

  3. Place the patties on the grill grid. Grill directly over the heat for 5 to 7 minutes per side for medium, or less for rare or medium rare.

  4. Just before the burgers are finished, toast the buns on the edges of the grill. Serve.

Per serving: Calories 344 (From Fat 105); Fat 12g (Saturated 4g); Cholesterol 97mg; Sodium 450mg; Carbohydrate 22g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 35g.

The USDA recommends cooking ground meat patties made from beef, veal, lamb, or pork to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F.

Quick and tasty burger toppings include thinly sliced red or yellow onions, tomato slices marinated in a basil vinaigrette dressing, flavored mustards, mango or tomato chutney, tomato-based salsa, grilled peppers, and garlic-grilled mushrooms.

Though you may be tempted to do it, don’t press down on the patties as they cook. Pressing releases the hamburger’s tasty juices into the fire.