How to Pan Fry a Burger
The Best Pan Fried Burger Recipe
Burger aficionados claim that nothing tastes better than a hamburger charbroiled over an open flame. And while grilling produces a great tasting burger and is the mainstay of backyard barbecues everywhere, there are times when it just isn't convenient to fire up the grill. So head inside to the kitchen and pan fry a great burger.
Burger joints have used big, flat top griddles to cook tasty burgers since the days of drive ups and car hops. Their old school approach to fast-frying burgers on high heat is still the secret to a great pan fried burger: Searing the outside of the burger forms a tasty crust that seals in all of those flavorful juices rather than watching all of that deliciousness drip down and flare up in the coals. Add a few fresh toppings, a toasted bun and a little secret sauce, and you've got makings for a great tasting pan fried burger.
How to Pan Fry a Burger
- Fresh Ground Beef
- Sea Salt
- Fresh Cracked Pepper
- Crispy Bacon
- Butter Lettuce
- Roma Tomato
- Special Sauce
- Sesame Bun
- Cast-Iron Skillet or Grill Pan
- Metal Spatula
- Silicon Basting Brush
- Splatter Guard
- Aluminum Foil
The Pan Fried Burger Technique: Step One
- Turn up the stove top to medium-high and pre-heat a cast-iron skillet or a heavy aluminum pan.
- Form a pound of freshly ground beef into a ball. The flavor is in the fat, and an 80% lean mix of ground beef provides the right balance. Use a leaner mixture, and your burger can easily dry out during the frying process.Our local butcher grinds fresh chuck to order. If you don't have a butcher, grinding your own fresh chuck is easy with an expensive meat grinder. It's worth the investment!
- When the cast-iron skillet is up to temperature, add a tablespoon of oil to the hot pan and spread the oil evenly to coat the bottom of the pan. A silicon basting brush works well for spreading around the hot oil.
Step Two: Sear, Season and Press
- Drop the ball of ground beef into the hot pan, and let it sit for about a minute. Don't move the burger ball around at all; just let it sit & sear in the hot pan. Cover the pan with a splatter guard to contain the popping hot oils and to help keep the surrounding counter tops clean.
- Lightly season the top of the burger ball with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
- After the first minute, use a heavy steel spatula to careful loosen the burger from the pan and then flip it over.
- Press the burger down into the pan using the heavy metal spatula, flattening the patty until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Don't worry if the burger isn't perfectly shaped; the uneven edges will brown into a crispy and tasty crust.
- Let the burger cook in the hot pan for another minute.
Step Three: The Big Finish
- After the second minute of cooking, flip the burger again. Season with a bit more sea salt and fresh pepper.
- If making cheeseburgers, add a slice of your favorite cheese. We prefer the basic American cheese that comes pre-sliced in those little squares, but a mild cheddar cheese works well too.
- After another one to two minutes, it's time to remove the burger from the pan. The exact cooking time will vary slightly depending on your cook top and heat of the pan. The goal is to form a nicely browned crust on the burger, but do not overcook the meat or allow it to burn. On our cook top, about 3 1/2 minutes of total cooking time produces a medium-rare burger. Add another minute for a medium cooked burger.
- Set the burger on a plate, cover it with a tent of aluminum foil, and let the burger rest for several minutes. This is a very important step: if you deliver the burger directly from the pan to the bun, the juices will seep out and leave you with soggy bread.
Step 3 1/2: Toasted Buns
While the burger rests, wipe the hot pan with a folded wad of paper towel to remove any excess grease. Hold the wad of paper towel in a set of metal tongs to avoid burning your fingers.
Return the pan to the heat, add a small pat of butter and use a silicone spatula to spread the melting butter around the pan.
Just as the butter starts to brown, press the bun down lightly into the pan (cut sides down). In a minute or two, the bun will begin to toast and turn golden brown. Use the metal spatula to remove the bun from the pan, and take the toasted bun to a serving dish.
Retrieve the burger, and add the fresh toppings for a big finish.
Bring On the Extras!
Transform a good burger into a great burger with a few tasty extras
- Lettuce: Forget about tasteless iceberg and use a nice, green leafy lettuce such as Butter or Romaine. The leafy greens are not as crunchy as old standby, but they add texture and real flavor to the burger
- Tomato: Add a slice or two from a fresh, ripe Roma or plum tomato. Cut into 1/4" thick slices, these firmer varieties have more flesh and less water content than the run-of-the-mill beefsteak tomato.
- Onion: If you like the kick and crunch of an onion, then lay down a layer. To avoid over-powering the other flavors, use a sweet Vadalia or a flashy red onion and slice it very thin.
- Bacon: Everything tastes better with bacon, and a bacon cheeseburger tops nearly everyone's list. Pan fry the bacon ahead of time to a crispy golden brown, and lay down a few slices. Don't be stingy with the bacon!
The Special Sauce
This special sauce is quick and easy to make, and combining the ingredients together before adding them to the burger really helps to bring out the flavors.In a small bowl, combine the following ingredients, slather a bit of sauce on the toasted bun, then add the burger and the other fixings. Yum!
- Two parts tomato ketchup
- One part spicy brown Dijon mustard
- One part mayonnaise
- A little bit of dill relish
The Essential Equipment:
A Good Pan is the Key to a Great Pan Fried Burger
Bobby Flay's "Throwdown" Green Chili Burger - Pan Fried On A Cast-Iron Griddle
How Do You Like Your Burger Cooked?
© 2012 Anthony Altorenna