Cooking Burgers for a Crowd (10 Clever tips for speed)

Labor day weekend, the 4th of July, family reunions or a neighborhood get together are all perfect opportunities to grill up some hamburgers for a crowd.

Burgers are the perfect crowd pleaser; however, making them fast enough that they are hot for everyone with out compromising flavor is a feat in and of itself.

Here are 10 tips to ensure speed and quality for your next cook out.

Use a Gas Grill

This may seem pretty obvious, but it’s a must for cooking for large crowds. So it made it as number one on the list.

There are several types of grills out there in competition with the gas grills; the most common being the charcoal grill. However, none of them measure up when it comes to grilling for large crowds with efficiency and quality.

“Heat control makes for less mistakes and more burgers.”

Ammon keller, Large Group Grilling Enthusiast

Gas grills heat up quickly, maintain their heat for long periods of time, and are easier to manipulate the temperature at will. The heat within a charcoal grill can fluctuate over time which isn’t optimal when cooking for lots of people.

By having a gas grill you will be able to set and change the temperature with ease as well as limit the prep work to actually getting the heat present.

Have Multiple People Grilling

Grilling for a group of 25 or more is not a one-person job. Especially if you are after speed and quality.

Although it is always an option to just get a bigger grill, one person can only keep track of so many burgers.

Serving people burgers right off the grill improves the quality immensely and is best achieved with two or more people working the grills.

If you want to get really technical, we would suggest getting someone who can stand for long periods of time, has tough eyes to deal with smoke, and can communicate clearly to the other griller.

Check for Malfunctions

Nothing slows down a cook-off like a broken grill, melted spatula, or a loss of fuel. Before you even begin cooking, make sure to check that you have enough propane and that your utensils are in good working condition.

If you are unfamiliar with your grill, take some time a day or so before to go turn on the grill and do some pre-checks. Make sure all the temperature control knobs work properly. Gauge how long it takes to heat up. Check that you will have enough fuel to last you through the evening. Finally, make sure it is clean.

Also check your utensils to make sure nothing is rusted, bent, or broken. Gathering this information will make the big day go off without a hitch as well as make your overall grilling experience more enjoyable.

Have the Right Utensils

Speaking of utensils, what exactly do you need for a large group burger cook-off? There are 4 things that are a must when it comes to grilling for large crowds.

  • Flipping spatula
  • Scrapper
  • Tongs
  • Bottle of water

An apron is also extremely helpful, but optional. The flipper will be the main tool to turn the burgers.

A grill scraper is essential in-between rounds of grilling. Not only will it keep your cooking area clean, but will also keep the next round of burgers from sticking too much to the grill ensuring speed.

In large groups, anything and everything can happen (and you better bet your bottom that everything will happen). Tongs are used in the case that a burger splits or is sticking. They are also useful for serving burgers right off the grill.

The bottle of water may be the most unusual on the list, but are a good speed and quality tip for large crowd grillers.

When grilling a lot of burgers the juice tends to drip often into the flames. Having a bottle of water close by helps to keep the flames at bay and even helps keep burgers moist through the cooking process.

Make Sure Utensils and Grill are Clean

Another one of those tips that you may be looking at and saying “well duh”, but this is particularly important when it comes to grilling for large groups.

Dirty equipment is difficult to work with in the first place. If you add 50 people worth of hamburger seasoning on top of that, you will have both a literal and metaphorical mess on your hands.

Cleaning all utensils as well as the grill before the grilling process secures your cook-off to be fast and delicious. It is even beneficial to have a second set of clean utensils to trade out for the dirty ones halfway through the event.

Preseason Burgers

Often times when we think about cooking other meats, pre-seasoning, marinating, or otherwise adding flavor beforehand is a given. Regardless, many people overlook this super helpful hint when cooking burgers.

Particularly, when you’re cooking for large groups, the more that you can get done beforehand, the better.

Ammon Keller, Large Group Grilling Enthusiast

Pre seasoning enables you to have all the time you need in order to properly season each burger. That way, when you are in the rush of cooking there isn’t an added, unnecessary component to worry about.

When considering different types of seasoning for burgers for large groups, a standard, yet flavorful, option is most appropriate. Think garlic or onion powder, pepper, and salt.

If time is particularly tight, we suggest a seasoned salt. This type of salt has other seasonings mixed in prior making it a once and done seasoning.

Thaw the Meat Beforehand

Frozen pre-made burgers are very common for large groups. This is a good practice and a huge time saver. The compliment to the frozen burger time-saver is to thaw them before cooking to secure quality.

It may be a common practice to pop burgers right out of the freezer onto the grill. Although this isn’t the end of the world, in the end, it ends up taking more time and resulting in unevenly cooked burgers.

The best method would be to pull the burgers out one to two hours before you plan on cooking them and letting them thaw on the countertop. Or, move them from the freezer to the fridge a day before the event.

Something to be aware of is to not let the meat get to or stay at room temperature for a very long time as this makes food more susceptible to food-related illnesses.

Thawing the meat also gives you the opportunity to check the seasoning before placing it on the grill.

Have a System

When you finally get to the actual grilling, there will be pressure. People will be talking and playing and you may have 30 kids running around explaining loudly how they may starve if they don’t get food soon.

Trust me, I’ve experienced this.

Regardless of any outside pressure, remember to have a system down for where you place the burgers when you flip them, and how long they are on the grill in total.

Depending on your style, you can layout burgers back to front, left to right, or up and down as long as you stick to your system.

This practice will save you from a lot of mistakes and will keep the quality of your burgers high.

Buns Last

Buns last is in reference that burgers can be kept warm. However, if you want warm grilled burgers, we have some suggestions that have proven the most successful.

If you’re cooking for a large group that will be served right off the grill, we suggest that you do the same number of buns to hamburger ratio. Put the buns on in the last minute to minute and a half of cooking the burgers for a nice crispy texture.

For those cooking for a large group prior to the event either toast the buns at the event or don’t toast them at all. Buns that have been toasted previously don’t often keep well and dry out faster.

Lastly, if there is a smaller top rack on the grill you are using, place the buns there to cook. Although it will take a little longer, it will help to separate the buns from the meat and give them a slower, more even, bake.

Account for Mistakes

Remember you are cooking for a large group. Grilling more automatically increases your chances for things to go wrong. Don’t stress about it, but be prepared for it.

If you are expecting 50 people make sure to have at least 75 patties on hand to account for dropped, burned, or second rounds of hamburgers. Also, make sure to have more buns and pre-cut cheese in the store.

The biggest tip in this regard is to just roll with it. Expect mistakes. By doing so you’ll be able to recover faster and make the whole experience more enjoyable for yourself and others.

By following these 10 hints, your cook-off is sure to be a blast and a half whether you are the one cooking or not.


Being part of a really big family, cooking for big groups of people is just how we do things. Cooking, baking, and outdoor cooking have all been huge parts of my life, and I love sharing what I've learned with you.

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