Is It Better to Fry or Bake Burgers?

Is It Better to Fry or Bake Burgers?Amirali Mirhashemian (via Unsplash)

If you’re wondering whether to pan-fry your burgers or bake them in the oven, you’re not alone. Every day, thousands of home cooks like you are asking the same question online.

In this post, I’ve explored each’s pros and cons so that you can decide which of these cooking methods to go for.

So let’s cut straight to the chase. Frying or baking your burger: which is better?

Pan-frying is faster and produces a crispier burger. Depending on what level of doneness you’re looking for, pan-frying can take you between 5-10 minutes over medium-high heat. Oven-baking is slower (it takes approximately 20 minutes), but requires less effort and clean-up is easier.

In the rest of this post, I’m about to tell you why that is. I’ll also share some of my best tips for cooking a burger—no matter which method you choose.

Which Method Is Quicker?

With anything you cook, how long it takes makes a significant difference to how practical it is. There are only 24 hours in a day, and none of us have unlimited time to spend in the kitchen. 

Burgers are often cooked as quick, convenient food. If you’re in a rush, which method is better?

Typically, it’s quicker to pan-fry burgers. If you like your burger medium-rare, it can take as little as 6 minutes to cook over medium-high heat (or a temperature of approximately 325-350°F).

If speed is your top priority, whip out the frying pan. If convenience is what you want, bake in the oven.

If you like your burgers better-cooked, keep the heat, but increase the time. You can go all the way up to 10 minutes for well-done burgers. Whichever you end up choosing, that’s still a pretty short amount of time to spend on cooking. So if you’re looking to get dinner on the table fast, pan-frying is the way to go.

An oven-baked burger will take you longer. Once you’ve preheated your oven, you’re looking at approximately 20 minutes to get the patties cooked through. That’s still fast, but it’s double the cooking time of pan-fried burgers.

Which Method Is Less Work?

Pan-frying will always be more work because you need to pay attention to the sizzling burgers and turn them over at the right moment so that they don’t burn. In contrast, you can bake burgers in the oven without turning necessarily them over.

In both cases, you’ll have to make or buy the patties. But if you cook them in the oven, you’ll have your hands free to prepare the buns, lettuce, tomato, plates, condiments, and anything else needed without having to dart back to the stove to save singeing burgers.

Are you about to cook a lot of burgers?

Doing so with a couple of trays in the oven (instead of having to keep frying up batch after batch) may prove easier. This is especially true on a hot day—and you don’t want to be leaning over the oven the whole day.

There’s another advantage to oven-baked burgers: you won’t end up with cooking fat spitting all over your kitchen. As long as you’ve placed a tray beneath the burgers, cleaning up should be easy. You can whip the trays out and put them in the sink to soak.

In other words, oven-baked burgers are probably more manageable if you have a little more time to spend and you want easier clean-up.

Which Method Is Healthier?

Oven-baked burgers tend to be healthier than their pan-fried counterparts since you don’t need extra cooking oil. However, if you’re cooking your oven burgers in a sauce (like Worcestershire sauce), you will be adding some sodium and other ingredients to the final meal, which pan-fried patties may not contain.

If you’re trying to cut down on your fats and oils, you should go for oven-baked over fried.

You can cook fatty burgers without any additional fat in the pan, but you’ll have to pay a lot of attention to ensure that they don’t burn or get over-cooked.

Grilling or broiling may be the healthiest option, as this lets some of the fat escape and results in a well-done burger, which may be better for you.

What Temperature Should You Use?

If you’re cooking your burgers in the oven, preheat it to around 350°F first. Then, you can grease and warm a baking sheet before you place the patties on it and let them bake.

If you’re cooking on the stove, make sure to adjust the temperature to get the desired level of doneness. If you want medium-rare, you’ll want to cook on a lower heat for less time. Somewhere between 330°F and 350°F should be sufficient to get nicely seared burgers without burning them.

How Do Lean and Fatty Burgers Compare?

If you’re cooking very lean burgers, you can afford to reduce the cooking time by about ⅓. They won’t take as long to cook in your frying pan or the oven. Lean burgers tend to taste better when a little rarer, so remove them from the heat sooner.

You can cook either kind of burger in the oven or the pan, but reduce your oven’s temperature a bit to avoid burning the lean burgers and take them out sooner.

When cooking lean meats in the oven, it’s generally a good idea to marinate them in some sauce or add a few other ingredients to the patty, such as breadcrumbs and eggs, to keep them from drying out.

If you cook lean burgers in a frying pan, you will need to use more oil. Also, you’ll find that they fall apart more easily—so handle them with care.

Which Burgers Taste Better?

One of the key factors in cooking food is making the food taste as good as possible. Tastes vary from person to person, so you may want to try both methods and compare, but here are some of the differences you should expect to see.

With pan-fried burgers, you get a good sear to the meat, lending it more flavor and a crunchy texture. High-fat burgers are better for this, as leaner meats will struggle with the high cooking temperature and become very dry.

Cooking in an oven allows you to marinate the meats more thoroughly, letting the flavors cook over time. You can always give burgers a little extra broil under the grill if you want the charred or seared flavor and texture, with the benefits of the marinade and reduced work.

Tips And Tricks For The Best Burgers

Here are a few of my favorite tricks that you can use to maximize your burgers’ quality, no matter how you end up cooking them.

Press small holes into the center of your patties, making them look a little like doughnuts. Doing so helps the burger cook evenly—and ensures that you get a nicely cooked center without having to overcook the outside.

Don’t handle the meat too much. As I we to say at Home Cook World, time and patience are the two missing ingredients from almost every recipe. Let the patties cook on one side, then flip them over. This will also give better-textured burgers since too much handling can cause toughness and chewiness.

Keep your burger meat cold before you tip it into the hot pan or oven dish. The chilled fat will then expand quickly when it hits the hot metal, creating small pockets of aroma and flavor. The sear will also be better on cold meat. I like to keep the patties in the fridge for 30 minutes before I fry them in my pan.

In Conclusion

So, is it better to fry or bake burgers?

Both methods of cooking burgers are good, but if you want fast and seared, you should cook using a pan on a hot stove. If you want minimal work and a juicy marinade, burgers cooked in the oven will give you a better result.

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