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Before cookout season heats up, find out how to make a better burger.  

You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to make an outstanding burger. Follow these simple rules to make your favorite simple burger even better.

Use the right type of ground beef

Avoid lean ground beef—it makes a flavorless, dry burger. If possible, ask your butcher for a ground beef (chuck) blend that is about 80 percent lean.

Toast the buns

A crispy-edged bun helps lock in the burger juices and layers of condiments, and adds a mouthwatering crunch to every bite. Bonus points if you toast the cut-sides of the bun in melted butter.

Choose toppings wisely

A burger is only as good as the sum of its parts, which includes toppings. If it’s the middle of winter and you can’t find ripe tomatoes, skip ‘em. If you like a bit of heat, add a few spicy pickles. If you like raw onion, try a sweet onion (like a Vidalia), which is pungent, but not overly so.

Make your own special sauce

Sure, you can spread ketchup, mustard, and mayo on both sides of a burger, but it’s easier (and tastier) to just make a custom blend of all three. Start with two parts mayo to one part ketchup and one half-part mustard. Then go crazy from there—add a dash of dill pickle juice, a spoonful of sriracha, a pinch of onion powder.

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Add bacon and cheese (the right way)

If you’re making a bacon cheeseburger, here’s a tip to make it even easier to eat: fry two slices of bacon until crisp. Cut each slice in half and set aside. Cook the burger patties, then add cheese and cover the pan with a lid until the cheese melts. When the cheese has melted, press both strips of bacon into the cheese so they adhere. Then place the patty on a bun. That way, you’ll get a bit of burger, cheese, and bacon with each bite—no more rogue slices of bacon sliding out of your sandwich!