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How to a grill a healthy burger using rosemary begins with a quality meat patty. Seasoned with rosemary and spices, it’s seared and grilled to perfection with an internal temperature of 160°F. Add a whole wheat bun and your favorite toppings.

One of America’s favorite past-times is firing up the barbecue and inviting friends / family over for burgers. 

Not usually considered the healthiest of meals, yet with a few simple tweaks, your guests will be raving about their incredible gourmet burger.

Seldom are most delicious and healthy used in the same sentence. Grilling a healthy burger using rosemary will be more delicious than anything you could buy. 

Personally, I think anything homemade tastes way better than what most restaurants serve. So, now we need to get cracking on mixing up our patties.

Making Healthy Hamburger Patties

The secret of how to grill a healthy burger starts with the meat. Lean ground beef is considered superior as it has a lower fat content and less calories. This also reduces shrinking and flare ups.

Some profess that grass-fed beef is way healthier for you. It does increase the beneficial nutrients in the meat somewhat, however it’s not been proven scientifically that there are any measurable health benefits.

A truly gourmet burger will be tender and flavorful. Forget those store-bought hamburgers that shrivel up and are tougher than hockey pucks.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and make something that’ll wow your guests.

Making Healthy Gourmet Hamburger Patties

To make your hamburger mouth-wateringly tender it all begins with the patty. We prefer lean ground beef to minimize shrinkage. To ensure a tender flavorful patty, we mix in onion, garlic, bulgur wheat, ketchup, Dijon mustard, spices and an egg.

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You might notice there’s no salt in the recipe. Actually, there’s enough sodium in the ketchup, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce so you really don't need to add any more.

After thoroughly mixing, shape your patties. It'll make 6 patties with each of them being weighing 4-5 ounces. Make them slightly larger than your bun and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook or freeze them.

How to grill a healthy burger is by spreading a little avocado oil on the patty sprinkling rosemary on both sides.

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Lean Ground Beef

The USDA defines lean meat as having less than 10% of total fat. Extra lean has less than 5% fat.

Regular ground has closer to 30% fat. Not only does this add calories, as the meat cooks fat will drip off making a mess. And even though it’s cheaper, in the end, you’re draining part of it off as fat. So, did you really save money?

Our preference is lean ground beef with typically around 10% fat. According to information from the USDA, the breakdown for 3-1/2 ounces (100 g) of meat is as follows:

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Contrary to what we’ve been led to believe, a burger is not necessarily a “heart attack on a bun”. Whereas the fast-food ones tend to be high in calories and laced with sodium, sugar and other preservatives; ground beef is good for you.

In fact, lean beef is full of essential nutrients. Besides being a good source of protein, it’s a rich in iron, zinc, vitamin B, and much more.

Bulgur Wheat

While some folks add bread crumbs, my preference is to substitute them with cooked cracked bulgur wheat. Not only does it have a similar texture to beef, it doesn’t add any unusual flavor. 

Most importantly, it serves as a binder while keeping your patty tender. You want to boil it in water for 10 minutes so it softens up. Set it aside for 5 minutes then it’s ready to add to the beef.

The average American should eat 30 g of fiber per day to maintain good health. Amazingly, they're eating only 15 g! So, by using bulgur you're adding fiber into your diet.

And, believe me, it works! I had been feeling constipated for a few days. It was like a miracle cure.

It had my system working up a storm for a few hours keeping me running back and forth to the bathroom. 😊 Meanwhile, my husband was scratching his head over my behavior.

Onion and Other Seasonings

These add flavor and texture creating a truly gourmet patty. Tender, yet crunchy, and ever so flavorful.

The onions should be finely diced. We, also, add minced garlic. The seasonings we use are paprika, oregano, parsley and black pepper.

Ground Beef Food Safety Tips

The handling and grinding processes leave ground beef at risk of contamination by bacteria such as E-coli. The following are best practices to avoid problems:

  • Always wash your hands, utensils and surfaces before and after handling raw meat.
  • Refrigerate ground beef and, either, cook or freeze within two days.
  • Ensure it’s fully cooked to destroy any bacteria with a minimum internal temperature of 160°F.
  • According to the USDA, it’s safe to refreeze meat after thawing. However, due to moisture loss, it can dry it out.

Grilling Healthy Hamburger Patties

How to grill a healthy burger is by seasoning the patties with rosemary and steak spice. Preheat the BBQ (400+°F) and sear each side for about a minute. Finish cooking at a lower temperature until you reach an internal temperature of 160°F.

The Health Benefits of Rosemary

Most people are unaware of the toxins which can develop when meat is cooked at high temperatures (above 300°F). The amino acids in meat react creating heterocyclic amines (HCAs).

According to the National Cancer Institute, these may be associated with increased risk of cancer including colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer. Further, any smoke results in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) coating the meat which is equally bad for you.

You could slow roast your patties in the oven, but that defeats the whole point of having a BBQ. A better alternative, sprinkle rosemary on both sides of your patties. While fresh rosemary is more flavorful, even when dried it provides similar benefit.

It turns out rosemary has antioxidants helping to prevent these carcinogens from forming. According to Pubmed, HCAs were significantly reduced. Further studies by the University of Arkansas confirmed reductions of 30-100%.

Why You Should Sear Your Burgers

The reason to sear the hamburgers on a really hot BBQ is to seal in the juices. This also provides a crispy outside. As wonderful as the properties of rosemary, we want to minimize the time at high temperature. Generally, 2 minutes per side is sufficient.

Another factor to consider in minimizing HCAs is the cleanliness of your grill. Any residue will transfer directly onto your meat. That beautiful grill line might be loaded with toxins. This is when a cast-iron skillet can make a world of difference.

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You might notice the grilling ribs on the frying pan. They’re ideal for the fast sear and getting those grill lines with minimal clean up afterwards.

For more detail on the grilling process, see How to Grill a Healthy Steak where we included a video showing the searing.

Finish Grilling at a Lower Temperature

After the initial sear, the burgers should be cooked at a lower temperature around 200°F. Depending upon the thickness of your patties, this could be 8-10 minutes per side.

By inserting a digital meat temperature probe into the side of the meat, you’ll be able to determine when it’s fully cooked to 160°F.

Healthy Buns and Toppings

Completing a gourmet burger requires an awesome bun and your favorite toppings. This might include cheese, mushrooms, a slice of tomato and lettuce.

While the patties are finishing up on the BBQ, I’ll add on cheese to melt. And, there’s no way I’m going to wreck my creation with a slice of processed Kraft cheese! 

My preference is gouda which adds a caramelly flavor with just a hint of nut. It's delicious! This is also a great time to toast the bun(s).

Bun Selection

Everyone knows whole wheat is a healthier choice than plain white buns. The primary reason is the process of making white flour removes most of the fiber and nutrients. Thus, whole wheat is better for you and contains less calories.

A popular misconception is a gluten-free diet is better for you. The truth is the whole wheat grains provide necessary fiber to aid digestion. Unless you’re celiac or have a gluten intolerance, whole wheat is good for you.

Our post The Pros and Cons of Gluten Free cover this in greater depth.

Healthy Topping Choices

When you’re making a gourmet burger, the toppings are the finishing touch. As everyone has their own preference, you might want to lay out some of the most popular options. This could include:

  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Onion rings
  • Tomato slices
  • Bacon
  • Lettuce
  • Condiments such as mayo, ketchup, mustard, etc.

Closing Thoughts on How to Grill a Healthy Burger

After years of experimentation, this truly is the ultimate burger. The secret is blending the ground beef adding bulgur wheat and other ingredients. So tender and juicy, yet searing at high heat produces the perfect crispiness.

Keeping it healthy is done by adding rosemary and fully cooking at a lower temperature. Your bun selection and all the fresh toppings make this a gourmet burger to be proud of.

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