I’m guessing that most home cooks know how to cook a burger. But if you’re here, you’ve probably never cooked one from frozen before—and are wondering if doing so is a good idea in the first place.
Though some people will try hard to convince you otherwise, cooking frozen burgers doesn’t have to be a hit or a miss. In this post, I’ll share how to do it and what pitfalls to avoid so that your patties come out evenly cooked and perfectly juicy.
Let’s cut straight to the chase, then. Can burgers be cooked from frozen?
Yes, you can cook burgers straight out of the freezer. However, the patties will take longer to cook, and you will have less control over their doneness than when thawed. Most of the time, the burgers will come out medium to medium-well done.
When outside, cook frozen burgers on a preheated flat-top grill. When in your kitchen, use a heavy skillet with a thick base. Cast iron, carbon steel, and stainless steel cookware heats up more evenly than non-stick and results in better browning.
Don’t try to cook frozen burgers on a charcoal grill. As the patties thaw and grill simultaneously, juices and fats will start dripping down from the meat, which will flare up the charcoal grill and cause the burgers to cook unevenly.
The one time I tried this, I was at a barbecue party—and the host had forgotten to take the burgers out of the freezer the night before. We (the bunch on the charcoal grill) tried hard to salvage the burgers, but they came out charred on the outside and raw on the inside.
How to Cook Frozen Burgers
So you have a pack of burgers in your freezer and no time to thaw them? The trick is to cook the patties on a flat surface preheated to medium to medium-high heat, with a preference for the lower temperature ranges.
Cooking works best when room-temperature food comes into sudden contact with a hot surface. When the food is frozen, this gets tricky.
If you take the burgers directly out of the freezer—and cook them on high heat—, the patties will have burnt on the outside by the time they’re cooked through on the inside.
Bringing the heat on your grill or stove down to medium prevents that from happening by giving the meat the time it needs to defrost as it cooks slowly and gradually. As with many other things in cooking (and life as a whole), a little patience goes a long way when cooking frozen foods.
How to cook frozen burgers step by step:
- Preheat your flat-top outside grill for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Or grease a skillet with cooking oil and preheat it on your stove for the same amount of time.
- Take the burgers out of the freezer, remove them from the packaging, and let them rest at room temperature for 2-3 minutes.
- Season the patties with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Cook for 7-10 minutes on each side, flipping the patties carefully with a metal spatula.
- Take the burgers off the heat. Rest them for 3-4 minutes before serving. They will finish cooking in the residual heat.
The exact cooking time depends on the thickness of the burger. Thinner patties cook faster, whereas thicker patties typically take longer to cook (as the heat takes time to get to and spread inside the meat).
Telling If Your Burgers Are Done
The easiest way to tell if your burgers are done is to make a small cut through one of them and observe the ground meat’s level of doneness. If you’re about to make cheeseburgers—and you don’t make the cut too big—the chances are that no one will notice.
What exactly should you be looking for? Here’s a neat infographic from Ziplock to help you find out:
If you have a meat thermometer, poke through the burger so that the needle reaches the patty’s interior. Since most of the bacteria present in meat are typically killed at 155°F (68.3°C), the USDA advises you to cook your burgers to an internal temperature of at least 160°F (71.1°F).
How to Thaw Frozen Burger Patties
I know, I know… I just showed you how to cook frozen burgers and, now, I’m telling you that you shouldn’t do it. But hear me out.
Whenever you have the time and opportunity to defrost frozen burgers before cooking them, please take it. A burger brought to room temperature before grilling or pan-frying will have a better texture, flavor, and aroma than one that hasn’t been thawed.
There are three ways to safely thawing frozen burger patties: in the fridge, in the microwave, or in your kitchen sink.
In the following few paragraphs, I will give you my fail-safe tips and tricks for using each of them.
Method 1: Leave Them Overnight in the Fridge
To thaw frozen burgers, take the patties out of the freezer, place them in a food storage container with the lid closed, and leave them overnight in the fridge. As a general rule of thumb, thaw the meat for 6 hours per 1 pound of weight.
The container is necessary because it will catch any juices from the thawing meat and prevent them from dripping down on the rest of the food in your fridge. You can keep the patties in their original packaging or remove them from it before putting them in the container; it won’t make any difference.
Method 2: Defrost Burgers in the Microwave
To thaw frozen burgers in your microwave oven, remove them from the original packaging, transfer them to a microwave-safe plate or bowl. Thaw the patties for 3-4 minutes at a time using the defrost setting, flipping them over halfway through.
To tell if a burger has defrosted, stick your index finger into it. If the patty feels soft to the touch and your finger easily sinks into it, it’s time to cook it on the outside grill or your stove.
Method 3: Thaw Burgers in Your Kitchen Sink
To thaw burgers in your kitchen sink, remove the patties from their packaging and transfer them to a waterproof ziplock bag. Seal the bag tightly, making sure that no air or water can get inside.
Fill your sink with cold water and submerge the bag into it. Don’t use hot or lukewarm water as the temperature can promote food-borne bacteria’s growth on the ground meat’s surface.
Change the water every 15-20 minutes. With this method, 1 pound of burger patties thaws in 30-40 minutes. For every 1 pound of meat, add at least half an hour of thawing time.
Yes, you can cook burgers from frozen. No, it’s not the best way to do it if you have the time and opportunity to thaw them first.
The two missing ingredients on most recipes are time and patience. When you take the time to defrost the patties and remain patient until they’re ready to cook, your burgers will come out evenly cooked.
Even if you like your meat rare, there’s nothing good about a burger that’s burnt and hot on the outside—but cold and raw on the inside. Still, there are moments when you don’t have the time to thaw them.
When that happens, cook the frozen burgers on a flat-top grill or a heavy skillet preheated to medium heat for enough time. They will be done in 14-20 minutes, depending on their thickness of the meat.