Whatever you think the answer is, one thing’s for sure: burgers don’t flip on their own. Here’s how many times to flip yours.
There’s an adage that burgers cook more evenly and come out juicier if you flip them more than once. The question is, how much truth is there behind it?
Flip your burgers on the grill or on the stove more than once so they cook faster and more evenly. Under the broiler or in the oven, flip them only once so you don’t have to keep opening the door and fluctuating the temperature.
When burgers are sizzling—whether on the grill, on the stove, in the oven, or under the broiler—they cook from the outside in. A crispy, golden-brown crust with an appetizing aroma and meaty flavor forms on the exterior of the patty as its internal temperature rises and the interior cooks through.
Flipping is beneficial, and we will discuss why in a minute. But first, let’s spend some time talking about the three most important factors for properly prepared burgers: 1) the temperature of the meat, 2) the thickness of the patty, and 3) the amount of heat used.
Should You Bring Burgers to Room Temperature?
Never grill, pan-fry, or oven-roast burgers directly from the freezer. By the time the patty cooks through on the inside, it will burn and turn black on the outside. No one likes a burger with a crust that’s acrid and charred, and a center that’s bloody and undercooked.
Before preparing the burgers, temper them by removing them from the fridge and letting them rest on the counter for 15-20 minutes. This will allow the meat to come to room temperature so that it cooks fully through and more evenly.
For food safety reasons, don’t let raw or cooked meat sit out at room temperature for longer than 1-2 hours. Otherwise, harmful bacteria may grow to dangerous levels inside it and render it unsafe to eat.
How Thick Should Burger Patties Be?
A burger patty that’s too thin dries out during cooking and comes out about as easy to chew as a leather shoe. On the other hand, a burger patty that’s too thick won’t cook evenly and will make your burger difficult to eat.
Burgers shrink by about a quarter when cooked, and that’s another factor to consider when shaping the patties. Few things in life are as disappointing as biting into a burger and being left to wonder: “Where’s the beef?”
The ideal thickness for a burger patty isn’t a hard and fast rule, and it comes down to the cook’s—and eater’s—preferences. As a general rule of thumb, the patty should be 20-25% wider than your bun and 3/4 to 1 inch thick.
What’s the Right Heat Setting for Burgers?
The right heat setting for burgers is a hotly debated topic. Some say that the best way to cook a burger is to sear it on high heat. Others claim that cooking the patty on medium-low heat ensures that the juices don’t run out.
The truth, as with many other things in life, lies somewhere in the middle. The heat should be high enough to brown and caramelize the meat, yet gentle enough to cook it through on the inside before it burns it on the outside.
Through trial and error, we’ve concluded that medium-high heat on the stove and 400°F in the oven are best for smash burgers and patties less than 1/2 inch thick, while medium heat on the stove and 325°F in the oven are best for thick patties.
How Many Times to Flip a Burger?
The number of flips is determined by the cooking method and the thickness of the patty.
Thin patties cook faster, tolerate intense heat and don’t need to be flipped frequently. Thick patties cook more slowly, require moderate heat, and benefit from frequent flipping (as it promotes even cooking).
For best results, burgers should be grilled with an open lid and cooked in an uncovered skillet. This gives you, the cook, an opportunity to flip them as many times as necessary. On the grill or the stovetop, we recommend that you flip your burgers once per minute until they’ve reached the desired doneness.
You can, of course, choose to flip the burger patties less frequently than that. But be warned: it will probably be harder for you to cook them to perfection, especially if you are cooking on a new stove or with a new skillet.
Under the broiler or in the oven, burgers should only be flipped once or twice. Not because it makes such a big difference to the meat, but because opening the oven door too often causes temperature fluctuations inside it, and can thus be counterproductive.
Telling When the Burgers Are Done
And so, we come to the final question for the day. How can you tell that your burgers are done?
Anyone who’s ever tried to prepare a burger at too high of a heat will be keen to tell you that the appearance of the patty can be misleading. Cutting into the patty isn’t an option, as it will dry out the burger by letting the juices run out.
The most accurate way to check a burger for doneness is to use a meat thermometer. According to the USDA, beef, pork and lamb burgers are edible when they reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71.1°C). Poultry burgers, on the other hand, are ready at 165°F (73.9°C).
Some folks prefer their burgers less or more cooked than that. Regardless of your preferences, it is good to know that the above temperatures are minimum requirements for the meat to be safe to eat. Undercooked meat can harbor pathogenic bacteria and parasites that can make you sick.