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How To Pan Fry A Burger

Updated on November 12, 2015

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.

Cheeseburger Photo: Public Domain

How To Pan Fry A Burger

Ingredients

  • Fresh Ground Beef
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Cheese
  • Crispy Bacon
  • Butter Lettuce
  • Roma Tomato
  • Special Sauce
  • Sesame Bun
Cast your vote for The Ingredients

The Equipment

  • Cast-Iron Skillet or Grill Pan
  • Metal Spatula
  • Silicon Basting Brush
  • Splatter Guard
  • Aluminum Foil

The Pan Fried Burger Technique: Step One

  1. Turn up the stove top to medium-high and pre-heat a cast-iron skillet or a heavy aluminum pan.
  2. 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!
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. Lightly season the top of the burger ball with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. After the first minute, use a heavy steel spatula to careful loosen the burger from the pan and then flip it over.
  4. 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.
  5. Let the burger cook in the hot pan for another minute.

The Essential Equipment:

Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet - 12 Inch Classic Cast Iron Frying Pan with Assist Handle (Made in USA)
Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet - 12 Inch Classic Cast Iron Frying Pan with Assist Handle (Made in USA)

To get a great sear, you need a heavy-duty cast iron pan that can take the high heat.The simple cast-Iron skillet is still one of the best cooking tools ever made.

 

Step Three: The Big Finish

  1. After the second minute of cooking, flip the burger again. Season with a bit more sea salt and fresh pepper.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

A Good Pan is the Key to a Great Pan Fried Burger

You Need a Quality Fry Pan

Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet - 12 Inch Classic Cast Iron Frying Pan with Assist Handle (Made in USA)
Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet - 12 Inch Classic Cast Iron Frying Pan with Assist Handle (Made in USA)

A well seasoned cast-iron skillet is heavy and retains the heat for even cooking. Use a cast-iron skillet on the stove top, in the oven or on the grill.

 

Need A Little More Inspiration? - Wicked Good Burgers

Packed with interesting and unique recipes including the Meatloaf Burger on Pretzel Bread with Cabernet Mustard or the Island Creek Burger with Oysters and homemade cocktail sauce, Wicked Good Burgers demonstrates the art and science of freshly grinding meats as well as cooking methods such as smoking, grilling and griddling for distinctive flavors for the ultimate in tasty burgers.

Wicked Good Burgers: Fearless Recipes and Uncompromising Techniques for the Ultimate Patty
Wicked Good Burgers: Fearless Recipes and Uncompromising Techniques for the Ultimate Patty

New techniques, inspirations, and ingredients to take your burger to the next level

 

Bobby Flay's "Throwdown" Green Chili Burger - Pan Fried On A Cast-Iron Griddle

Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries, and Shakes

How Do You Like Your Burger Cooked?

See results

The Great Burger Debate: Grilled Verses Pan-Fried

Choose Your Side

Grilling is the only way to cook a tasty burger!

Grilling is the only way to cook a tasty burger!

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    • girlfriendfactory 3 years ago

      I prefer grilling because I like really lean meat if I have a burger.

    • anonymous 3 years ago

      Grilling for sure, however, with that said, I can still cook a mean burger in the frypan too

    • Asinka Fields 3 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I love grilling :)

    • karen-stephens 4 years ago

      I put them in the oven.. the easy man's way..

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      I love a grilled burger.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      .... And settle down with a good pan fried one!

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      I'll start off with the grilled burger....

    If you cook it correctly, a pan-fried burger tastes great!

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      • anonymous 2 years ago

        Pan fried

      • Gloria Freeman 3 years ago from Alabama USA

        I enjoy pan-fried burgers, they are so yummy.

      • Wednesday-Elf 3 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

        I love pan-fried (since I no longer have a grill) and thanks for the 'toasted bun' directions. Another very tasty way to serve a crispy pan-fried burger is on a broiled buttery English Muffin! (The comment box isn't working, so leaving my comment and hint here!). I'm having a pan-fried burger tonight. Thanks!

      • Wednesday-Elf 3 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

        I love my burgers both ways (grilled and pan-fried) but without a grill anymore, my pan-fried burgers are very tasty!

      • changrcoacher 3 years ago

        I don't know how to grill, so when I do burgers, I cook them in a cast iron skillet. (I cook lots of stuff in my cast iron skillets.)

      • AstroGremlin 4 years ago

        I deglaze the pan with a little wine, the way they do in France. Makes the kitchen smell good and the burger is magnifique.

      • Tony Bonura 4 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

        Yes, I like my burgers cooked. I love burger no matter how they have been cooked.TonyB

      • casquid 4 years ago

        Medium Rare, please!

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        Your method of pan frying a burger has me wanting to do it right!

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        .... And settle down with a good pan fried one!

      Share Your Tips For Cooking A Great Pan Fried Burger

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        • girlfriendfactory profile image

          girlfriendfactory 3 years ago

          I mix mine with a special blend of seasonings and a few special things that are my trade secret. I only use really lean meat and cook them until completely cooked through but they're always juicy (but I use a George Foreman grill). :-)

        • flinnie lm profile image

          Gloria Freeman 3 years ago from Alabama USA

          Hi this is the way to make a great burger, toasting the bun is always best.

        • HowToDiva profile image

          HowToDiva 4 years ago

          Thanks for the much-needed tips on pan frying. Just followed your advice and the burgers turned out lip-smacking good!

        • AstroGremlin profile image

          AstroGremlin 4 years ago

          I put mayo (or special sauce) on both sides of the bun, which is always toasted. Keeps the bread from getting soggy.

        • Lady Lorelei profile image

          Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

          I like that you included toasting the hamburger bun. That is the one unique step that turns a good hamburger into a great one. Restaurants unfortunately seem to forget that step now a days. You make a great burger.

        • tonybonura profile image

          Tony Bonura 4 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

          I like my burgers medium rare, but they say that's not a good idea, so to avoid any trips to the hospital, I cook them with no pink in the middle. Hey I like them almost as well like that too.TonyB

        • karen-stephens profile image

          karen-stephens 4 years ago

          I used to be a vegetarian until an Edmonton friend gave me a rare steak. True story. See my lens on the best healthy hamburger and lets really duel.. :) Cheers!

        • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

          Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

          I just said to my husband last night that we have to get barbecuing. The summer is over and we have not had a single barbecue this year. Not one single hot dog or hamburger landed on our grill this year gasp!

        • attraction 42 profile image

          attraction 42 4 years ago

          I am hungry. ;)

        • casquid profile image

          casquid 4 years ago

          This subject never gets old. Thanks!

        • profile image

          anonymous 4 years ago

          Stopped back to review your methods, a pan fried burger is in my future1

        • profile image

          anonymous 5 years ago

          Wowzers, now that's a burger! Your DIY on pan frying the perfect burger had me reading every yummy word to not miss a single tip. I knew about the 80% beef but tossing the burger ball in the searing hot pan took me by surprise that you don't flatten it until after the first flip. Once again, you've attended to every detail...even using tons to hold the paper towel wad to safely remove the excess grease. You do build a better burger and I'll be trying your special sauce...my mouth watered when you said to slather it on the bun...yum!

        • profile image

          getmoreinfo 5 years ago

          Yummy burger photos. Making me hungry, LOL

        • profile image

          atomicgirl24 5 years ago

          OMG... I'm on a diet! Why did I have to see this scrumptious, mouth watering lens??? *cries*

        • profile image

          anonymous 5 years ago

          I have the bad habit of loitering into recipe lenses at the wrong times... It's dinnertime now and gotta hunt for a burger joint now! Ciao soon...

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