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How to Pan Fry a Burger

Anthony enjoys spending time in the workshop, the kitchen, the yard, and out fishing. He writes from his personal experience.


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. Just head into the kitchen and pan fry a tasty burger.

Burger joints have used big, flat top griddles to grill 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: sear the outside of the burger to form 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
  • Cheese
  • Crispy Bacon
  • Butter Lettuce
  • Roma Tomato
  • Special Sauce
  • Sesame Bun

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.

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

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

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© 2012 Anthony Altorenna

Share Your Tips For Cooking A Great Pan Fried Burger

girlfriendfactory on September 21, 2013:

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). :-)

Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on September 18, 2013:

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

HowToDiva on March 16, 2013:

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

AstroGremlin on January 21, 2013:

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

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on December 04, 2012:

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.

Tony Bonura from Tickfaw, Louisiana on November 30, 2012:

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 on November 21, 2012:

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!

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on September 19, 2012:

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 on September 19, 2012:

I am hungry. ;)

casquid on June 11, 2012:

This subject never gets old. Thanks!

anonymous on June 04, 2012:

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

anonymous on April 22, 2012:

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 mouth watered when you said to slather it on the bun...yum!

getmoreinfo on April 22, 2012:

Yummy burger photos. Making me hungry, LOL

atomicgirl24 on April 21, 2012:

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

anonymous on April 20, 2012:

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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