By Mike Barnett

Tasty, thick and juicy hamburgers. It’s the iconic American food. A favorite at fast food restaurants and backyard get-togethers.

And it wouldn’t be the Fourth of July without fireworks lighting up the sky and burgers sizzling on the grill.

Whether you’re simply topping it with ketchup or dolling it up with fancy fixins, the key to a tasty burger lies in proper handling and cooking.

It’s a science. But easy to master.

So when you fire up the grill this weekend, use these six tips to leave your neighbors full of burger envy.

  • Fresh is best. Buy the meat the day you cook it. If you don’t want to mess with the crowded stores, go the day before.
  • Use an 80/20 chuck mix. It’s just the right combination. Too little fat and burgers get dry. Too much fat and they flare and burn.
  • Don’t overwork the meat. Form the patties quickly. A good rule of thumb is three-quarters to an inch thick. And slightly larger than your bun. Then sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Don’t mix it in, because it will break down in the heat.
  • Make a depression in the center. Most fall victim to a swollen patty. Simply use your thumb and create an indention in the middle of the patty before you put it on the grill.
  • Consistent heat across the grill surface. Each grill is different. I like to cook mine on medium to medium-high heat. But be prepared to cover the grill if the fire flares too much.
  • Never press or flatten during cooking. That’s a big mistake. It squeezes out all the juices. And that depression you made before putting the burger on the grill helps.

Then let them rest for about five minutes after cooking. This helps hold in the juices, creating a savory burger.

My final secret?

Add barbecue sauce before the burgers go on the grill. Not just any sauce. Hunts Thick and Spicy sauce. It caramelizes into a satisfying, tasty semi-crust to die for.

Be the grillmaster this holiday weekend. Your family’s taste buds will thank you!