Working with meat for your hamburger patty is not always easy. There are many situations where you won’t have enough time or energy to cook now. When this happens you likely wonder if you can freeze your meat before using it for patties.
Yes, you can use frozen meat when making your hamburger patties. You need to thaw it out first as it is impossible to shape the ground meat. Frozen patties will have too much moisture and prevent it from cooking inside. Keep it chilled instead of room temperature to help the burger stay together.
If you’re starting from frozen, there are many ways that you can get your patty wrong. Want to keep your burger tasty and juicy? You’re in the right place.
See how our simple techniques can help you get perfect meat from frozen to tasty in minutes.
Should You Thaw Frozen Burgers Before Cooking?
The most common question that burger lovers ask us is the issue of thawing. Should you thaw your burgers before cooking? Is there no technique that lets me start from frozen?
Your burger is best if you can cook it at a chilled temperature from the fridge. If you’re starting from fresh, you would want to chill your burger meat first. Pop it in the freezer for 20 minutes or in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.
If you’re starting from frozen, however, you need to thaw your meat first. You would want to thaw your meat so it’s easy to shape and handle in your hands. This allows for an easier hand shaping and working it into the size that you need.
It’s crucial that you go down to chilled instead of frozen. Why?
Can Burgers Be Cooked from Frozen?
You can cook your burgers from frozen. Even then, it doesn’t mean you can that you must. Don’t preoccupy yourself with whether or not you can, but rather if you should. (Yes, that’s a Jeff Goldblum reference.)
If you cook from frozen, you will get meat that will have an undercooked core and a burnt crust. How?
First, the ground meat will be in a very hard state if you pop it from the freezer. The outside will be hard and crystalline, which can make it even harder than a rock. The inside will be in a worse state.
The problem with frozen meat comes from the fact that freezing locks in all the water content. All the moisture present in the meat will crystallize and harden into ice. Depending on how long you froze your meat, you will find ice crystals from moisture too.
As we all know, the biggest enemy of frying is moisture. Moisture will protect the muscle fibers from the heat coming from your flat top or skillet. Instead of cook, the equipment will boil the water out first.
Once the water boils out, only then will the meat start cooking. More problems stem from this issue.
Meat doesn’t freeze with an even amount of ice. There will be areas more frozen than others, including the inside of the patty itself. The inside has more moisture and, hence, more ice.
Once the water evaporates from the parts of the meat on the cooking surface, the inside is still frozen. What you get is a meat that is ready to burn outside but is still raw inside.
By thawing your meat, you let water seep out and prevent any uneven cooking. You stop your meat from burning on the outside while still keeping it in an easy to form state.
How Do You Cook Frozen Hamburger Meat?
If you are persistent with cooking frozen meat straight out, it’s best to cook in a skillet or flat top. Start like usual if you have your meat shaped into a patty already. You would need some extra time to cook it.
You would need around 6 – 8 minutes per side instead of the usual 3 – 4 for a 4 oz (113 g) patty. You would also want to keep an eye on the crust of your patty to make sure you’re not burning it.
It’s best if you can use a meat thermometer to check the inside of the patty. Your target is 160 F (71.1 C) internal temp to make sure all bacteria cookout of your meat.
Here’s one pro tip: if you want to cook frozen, check your meat. If it’s in ice from the blood or water, thaw instead of cook. If you only see some ice crystals on it, proceed.
It sounds absurd, but excess water will boil your meat instead of searing it.
How Do You Defrost Frozen Burgers?
If you decide to thaw your meat, there are two proper ways to do it. These are the cold water method and the microwave method.
With the cold water method, you need to seal your meat in a ziplock or vacuum-sealed bags. Let out as much air as possible. Once you do, submerge the meat under room temperature or cold water.
Both room temp and cold water will help the meat thaw faster via heat transfer. The meat will start thawing faster once it is in “contact” with the water. For each pound (453 g) of frozen meat, you need around 30 minutes for a full thaw.
As you want to keep your meat chilled, 20 – 25 minutes should be enough per pound.
You can also use your microwave to defrost your meats. This method is great if you have bigger amounts of meat with you.
Use the defrost (50% power) of your microwave and run it for a few minutes. The problem with microwaves is keeping an eye on your meat. You can borderline cook your meat, depending on how powerful your microwave is.
Do not thaw your meat in the open air as this can encourage bacterial growth in the meat itself.
Don’t Use Hot Water to Thaw Meat
So, if water thawing is great, why not use hot water? Won’t hot water finish the job faster for me?
This can be problematic, depending on how hot your water is. For starters, submerging meat in hot water can cook your meat on the outside. It can blanch your meat without helping the inside thaw at all, which is not great.
Pre-cooking your meat with hot water can put your cooking times and flavors to whack. The proteins in the meat will react and bind together. This change in the meat’s fiber is enough to make your patty taste mushy once you cook it.
Hot water can also activate the bacteria outside your meat. Freezing or even chilling meat can make bacteria inert, while moisture and heat wake them up. With a hot water thaw, you activate these bacteria and encourage them to multiply.
Can I Cook Beef Burgers from Frozen on a Grill?
Another common question about using frozen meat for making burgers is cooking in the grill. Is it ok to cook frozen burger patties in a charcoal grill? The answer is no.
It’s in your best interest to not cook your patty in a grill frozen. As we said, frozen meat has a lot of moisture. By using a charcoal grill, the ice around the outer crust of your patty will melt.
The melting, however, will be uneven. Some areas will cook faster than others, which can break the patty apart. This can cause the meat to burn in some parts and undercook in some. Many grills won’t have enough surface area to support the patty until it creates a crust.
Another problem you will have with charcoal grills is flare-ups. The moisture that will come from your meat will have fats with it. As it drips, this will cause uncontrollable changes in the charcoal, which causes flare-ups.
Flare-ups are among the leading causes of burnt areas in food. The already hot convection, when you add bursts of flame, can leave your meat toasty. In burgers, you want to have a solid but even source of heat.
You don’t want random changes in temperature for your meats. The secret to proper hamburger patties is even cooking across the entire meat. This allows for the entire “disc” to cook from outside to inside, sealing in the juices.
Can you use frozen meat in your hamburger patty? The answer is yes, but it’s best to give it a good thaw. Wait for it to go down to a chilly temperature before you start cooking.
If you have some time, it’s best not to cook frozen as you’re gambling the quality of your meat. Your meat can turn into a soggy piece of burnt mush if you start from frozen. To thaw, it’s best to either use the cold water method or the microwave defrost method.
Feel you have to cook from frozen? Cook your patty from between 6 – 8 minutes. Check for an internal temperature of 160 F (71.11 C). Don’t use your charcoal grill to prevent any flare-ups.
Do it right and you’ll still get juicy hamburgers each and every time. Burgers are a simple dish that is very hard to get wrong. Knowing how to treat them right is the best way how to work out your burgers.
If you feel unsure or lost, check out dedicated burger guides. They’ll teach you how to troubleshoot your way out of a pickle. Or a patty – whichever your problem is.
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