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Why Your Burgers Are Raw in the Middle

If your burgers keep coming out raw in the middle, you’re probably cooking them at too high a heat. Follow these tips to cook them like a pro!

Do your burgers keep coming out raw in the middle? You know, like when they’re golden brown and look ready for a bun on the outside, but they’re really all bloody and mealy on the inside?

If so, you’re probably cooking the burgers at too high a heat. The good news is that with a bit of practice and the right technique, you can learn to cook them like a fast food heavyweight.

Read on and we’ll explain.

The Reason Burgers Come Out Raw Inside

Whether you grill your burgers, fry them in a pan, or bake them in the oven, you need to know one thing: It takes time for the heat to reach the center of the ground beef patty. The thicker and taller the patty, the more time required.

But if the heat you’re cooking the burgers with is too high, they’ll cook too quickly on the outside. As a result, the burgers will look done, but they won’t be cooked through in the middle. And so, you end up with the issue you’re here to solve: burger patties with a burnt, overcooked crust and a raw, runny interior.

This isn’t just a taste and mouthfeel problem. Undercooked meat, ground beef included, can cause stomach problems or food poisoning, especially in those with a weakened immune system. So you want to make sure your burger is cooked correctly.

How to Grill Burgers Without Burning

To cook burgers on the grill without burning, set up two zones on your grill unit. One for direct, high heat; the other for indirect, moderate heat.

Direct heat is when you cook the burgers directly above the heat source with the lid off, like a lit burner on a gas grill or the glowing coals in a charcoal kettle. Indirect heat is when you cook them near, but not over, the heat source with the lid off.

Contributor Craig Britton describes this technique in detail at our sister site, Barbehow.

Instructions for gas grillers:

To set up a gas grill for direct and indirect heat, preheat the grill for 15 minutes with half of the burners turned to medium-high, keeping the rest off.

With the lid on your grill lifted, sear the burgers over direct heat for 2 minutes per side. This triggers the Maillard reaction and creates that crispy, golden brown crust on the outside. Now move the burgers to the cooking zone with indirect heat, close the lid, and cook them for a few minutes per side until done.

Instructions for charcoal grillers:

To set up a charcoal kettle for direct and indirect heat, rake the coals over to one side, so half of the grilling grate has coals underneath it and the other half doesn’t.

Charcoal grills run hotter than gas grills, so sear the burgers for 1 to 1½ minutes over direct heat with the lid off before moving them to indirect heat, closing the lid, and cooking for a few minutes on each side until done.

How to Cook Burgers on the Stove Without Burning

I’ll show you a cooking technique using both the stove and oven. It’s admittedly more work than frying up the burger patties in a pan, but it’s foolproof… and the burgers come out browned and juicy.

The technique involves browning the burgers in a skillet, which improves their texture and flavor, and finishing them in the preheated oven, allowing the meat to cook through.

Step 1: Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven, with the convection fan on, to a temperature of 350°F (180°C) for 15 minutes.

Step 2: Use this time to take the burger patties out of the fridge and bring them to room temperature by letting them sit on the counter. Don’t salt or season them yet.

Step 3: Get a skillet with a heavy bottom and thick walls, without a coating and made of cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel. (In case you’re wondering why, it’s because non-stick pans aren’t suitable for dry, medium-high heat cooking.)

Step 4: Drizzle a drop or two of cooking oil over the skillet and rub it in with a paper towel. Use a cooking oil with a high smoke point—avocado oil, canola oil, rice bran oil, or sunflower oil will do. Avoid butter and extra virgin olive oil, which will burn.

Step 5: Salt the burgers on both sides. Optionally, season them with black pepper.

Step 6: Place the pan on the burger and turn the heat to high. Preheat for 2–3 minutes, then lay the burger and sear it for 1–2 minutes per side. You aren’t searing the burger to cook it through, but to brown the crust and bring out flavor.

Step 7: Slide the pan in the oven and bake the burgers for 8-10 minutes. This way, the heat has time to get to the center and cook the ground beef through.

Could you do this without the oven? Even though the result won’t be as juicy, you could. To pull it off, lower the heat to medium after the searing and continue cooking the burgers for another few minutes per side.

When Are the Burgers Done?

The burgers are done when they’ve reached an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C), measured with a meat thermometer by inserting the probe in the middle of the patty.

Get a meat thermometer if you don’t already have one. The only way to reliably measure meat’s doneness is by taking its internal temperature. Color can be elusive—most burgers are brown to gray on the inside when cooked, but some may be slightly pink in the middle and still be perfectly safe to eat.

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.