Why It's So Much Harder To Cook Burgers On A Charcoal Grill

If you consider yourself someone who can adequately prepare tasty burgers on a charcoal grill, you might be a true grill master. But if you've found that grilling on grates over charcoal is more complex than on a gas or flat-top grill, you're not alone. Charcoal grills don't have one flat heating source, and in most cases, you handle the coals yourself. Both of these elements leave plenty of room for error, given that certain areas of the grill are guaranteed to be hotter than others, leaving your burgers unevenly cooked.

Adding to that, while grill marks may look great, grates are not your friend if you're looking for juicy burgers, since they allow the burger to lose moisture as it cooks, and nobody wants a dry burger. The charcoal grilling process can get a bit complicated if you're not familiar, but it's not impossible — there are a few tried and true tips that will help you cook those burgers to perfection.

Burgers don't always turn out their best on a charcoal grill

Charcoal grills might be easier to work with if you're looking for something portable; it's not exactly simple to transport a large, flat-top grill. But that's pretty much where the ease ends. When loading a charcoal grill, it's up to you to arrange the coals, and that means you have to make sure they're arranged as symmetrically as possible in order for all of your burgers to be the same level of doneness. Irregular levels of heat when cooking will make it harder to time when a burger is actually done.

When burgers cook on a flat-top grill, the rendered fat remains with the patty, resulting in a juicy burger. However, charcoal grills have grates, which means as the burger cooks, those juices run off through the grates, and there is almost no way to save them. This can lead to the burger overcooking, leaving you with a hockey puck for a patty.

Sometimes, though, charcoal is your only option, meaning you need to work with what you have. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to ensure you end up with delicious, charcoal-grilled burgers.

Tips for cooking burgers on a charcoal grill

One of the biggest things to remember about using charcoal is how easily the juices can escape the patty. While it's ill-advised to ever press the patty down with a spatula while it cooks, you especially don't want to do this while using a charcoal grill, because those juices escape so easily. Plus, direct and indirect heat make a big difference on this type of grill.

For the best burgers, arrange the charcoal as evenly as possible on one side of the grill to ensure no area projects more heat than another. Then, arrange the patties and let them cook for just about two minutes per side on the direct charcoal heat. From there, move them to indirect heat, and let them cook an additional two to six minutes, depending on the desired doneness. Keeping them on direct heat will result in patties that are overcooked on the outside and undercooked in the center, while the indirect heat will keep them from getting scorched and desiccated.