When a hardwood grill isn’t readily available, a good ol’ frying pan is the next best choice for making a delicious hamburger. The right frying pan can help home cooks create the perfect sear to hold in all those delicious juices.
Let’s look at the different types of frying pans and what is the best choice. Be forewarned though. My choice for the best frying pan for burgers may surprise you.
the Best Frying Pan for Burgers
If you’re serious about making the best burgers, you’ll need to invest in the best frying pan for burgers. The right pan can make all the difference when it comes to the flavor, texture, and juiciness of your burgers.
When it comes to frying pans, there are several different types to choose from, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. We’ll explore the different types of frying pans in the next section.
Types of Frying Pans
When it comes to frying pans, there are three main types to consider: nonstick, cast iron, and stainless steel. Let’s explore each one in more detail.
Nonstick frying pans are very popular. These pans are typically made of aluminum or stainless steel and their cooking surface is coated with a nonstick material, such as Teflon. Nonstick pans are popular because they are easy to clean, but they’re not the right tool for the burger cooking job.
Nonstick pans are not designed for the high heat needed to sear a burger or any other type of meat for that matter. Higher temperatures will damage the nonstick coating over time. Over the last few years, the safety of nonstick pans has come into question. Studies have found that Teflon coatings on nonstick pans start to break down at temperatures above 500°F and release toxic chemicals in the air.
In my opinion, nonstick pans are only good for making scrambled eggs. Anything else can be made better in a cast iron skillet or stainless steel pan.
Cast Iron Skillet
Cast iron skillets are a great alternative to nonstick pans, and some people are fanatical about them. A good burger can be made with a cast iron skillet. Cast iron is extremely heavy and retains heat like no one’s business. They can handle the high temperatures needed to get a good sear on a burger. A cast iron skillet is versatile in that it can also be used inside an oven, although you wouldn’t need to do that with a burger.
I’ve heard people brag about owning a cast iron skillet that’s been in their family for generations. You know why grandma handed down that cast iron skillet to you? Because she can’t lift it anymore because it weighs so damned much! The weight of these things is one of the biggest downsides of using a cast iron pan.
Cast iron skillets can last forever if one can crack the code of maintaining them properly. They need to be seasoned properly but putting them in the dishwasher will destroy the seasoning. They’re supposed to be handwashed with only a small amount of soap, and abrasive scrubbers can’t be used on them. Again, the seasoning. Given the limitations of how cast iron skillets can be cleaned, cooked-on food can gradually build up on the surface of the skillet. And if the skillet isn’t dried properly after washing or if it’s stored in a humid room, it can start to rust.
For all of these reasons, I rarely pull out my old cast-iron skillet. It’s just not worth it in my opinion.
Similar to cast iron, carbon steel pans are an iron-carbon alloy and require a little extra care and routine seasoning.
Stainless steel frying pans are the best option for making a juicy burger. There, I said it. These pans are lightweight, very durable and inexpensive. They also heat up quickly and evenly, and easily handle the high temperature needed to achieve the perfect sear on your burgers.
“But food sticks to stainless steel pans.” That’s the usual reply I hear when I talk about how great stainless steel pans are. But food sticking to a stainless pan is usually due to user error that it is because of the pan. Food is more likely to stick when the pan isn’t hot enough. An impatient cook will want to flip a burger too soon. If the cook lets the pan get hot enough, the burger will develop a crust which will prevent it from sticking.
And if food sticks to a stainless steel pan, it can be easily cleaned using a stainless steel scrubber. Scotch-Brite makes a good one for easy cleanup.
What to Look for in a Frying Pan for Burgers
When it comes to finding the best frying pan for burgers, there are a few key things to look for. Obviously, it should be stainless steel. Make sure the pan is large enough to accommodate the number of burgers you normally cook. An 11-inch frying pan can accommodate three 6-ounce hamburger patties. Aluminum core stainless steel pans are a good choice because they usually have a heavy bottom to help retain and distribute the heat.
Tips for Cooking Burgers in a Frying Pan
If you follow this cooking process, you’ll make a great burger every time. First, make sure to preheat the pan. Let the pan sit on a medium-high heat for a few minutes. Don’t rush this part. Remember, you need a hot pan to sear that meat quickly. And when you slap that cold burger down in the pan, the meat will cool off the pan a little so you’ll want the pan hotter than you may think. Once the burgers are in the pan, you can reduce the heat to a medium heat.
One of the biggest factors in making a good burger is the choice of ground beef. Ground chuck at a ratio of 80% lean beef to 20% beef fat is ideal. That fat content will help make sure your burger is juicy, and the fat will render down in the pan to help create that delicious crust on the outside of the burger. The fat will also help prevent the burger from sticking to the pan. If you use a ground beef mix with lower fat content, like 85/15 or 93/7, you’ll want to coat the pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil or olive oil to help prevent the burger from sticking to the pan.
Also, don’t crowd the pan. Crowding the pan will trap the steam given off during cooking in the pan, and the moisture will prevent the burgers from getting a proper sear.
When you put the burgers in the pan, don’t touch them for a good 3-4 minutes. Let the pan do its job and create a good sear. After about 4 minutes, check underneath the burgers to see what kind of sear you’ve achieved and decide if it’s time to flip them or not. The burger is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 160F.
The Best Frying Pans for Burgers
Forget the cast-iron pan, forget the carbon steel skillet. Throw away the nonstick skillet. A grill pan might seem like a good choice because it will make grill marks that look nice, but they’re a pain to clean. All you need is a stainless steel pan. It will give you the best results consistently.
All-Clad makes great products but there are plenty of other brands that make good quality stainless pans at a fraction of the cost.
The TonyTested stainless pan is this 11 inch stainless steel pan from Winco. I’ve owned this pan for probably ten years, and I use it almost daily to cook everything from burgers to steaks to chicken cutlets. It’s the best pan I’ve ever owned, and it only costs about $23.
Winware is another company who makes quality stainless steel pans. This 12-inch pan is only about $47.
Give it a Try!
It’s not difficult to make great homemade burgers in a frying pan at home. All you need is the right frying pan and the right mix of beef. Let a stainless steel pan do all the work for you, and you’ll make a juicy hamburger every time. They go great with red wine!