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Grilling burgers for your family and guests is a great way to enjoy a delicious meal without the expense of eating out or ordering in. You can provide a variety of self-serve options for toppings without making more work for yourself. Plus, burgers are kid-friendly and easy to cook whenever guests arrive.
However, grilling frozen or thawed burgers presents unique challenges. They still require the same basic safety practices like hand-washing and avoiding cross-contamination, plus added cook time and modified prep time. Here are the top tips to keep in mind when grilling frozen burgers on any type of grill.
1. Fresh vs. Frozen
It’s important to understand that grilling frozen burgers is always a little more challenging than fresh burgers. Getting the meat to cook evenly is difficult if it is still frozen, and grillers who aren’t careful can end up with unevenly cooked burgers that are burnt on the outside and raw in the center.
However, frozen burgers are a time-saving and practical option for busy families. When done correctly, they can taste just as good as fresh burgers. Although various factors affect frozen burger quality, two of the biggest ones are time and temperature.
2. Allow for Extra Cook Time
Frozen burger patties require more time to cook through to a safe internal temperature. Although the time required partly depends on the thickness of the patties, a good rule to follow is to plan on a 50% longer cook time. This means 4-5 oz. patties will take around 20 minutes, flipping every 3-5 minutes for even grilling.
Checking the inside temperature of the patties with a temperature probe is the safest way to cook. Even if the outside of the patty looks thoroughly done, the inside may be below the 160°F threshold recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for ground meats.
3. Grill at the Right Temperature
Most grillers run into trouble when they turn the temperature too low to avoid overcooking the outside. Contrary to what most grillers assume, trying to keep the temperature below 300°F will usually result in the outside of your patties cooking for too long as you struggle to bring up the internal temperature.
The optimal temperature for grilling a frozen patty is 325°F, which allows the inside to thaw quickly without overcooking the outside. Preheat the grill to this temperature before placing the patties on it. Although it may be tempting to adjust the temperature depending on the thickness of the patty, this temperature should work well for all but the thickest patties.
Read more: best meat thermometer in the market.
4. Consider Thawing First
Many grillers prefer to thaw out their frozen patties first, even if it’s theoretically possible to cook them frozen. This makes it easier to get an evenly cooked and juicy burger with no burning.
Microwaving a patty on a low defrost setting is the fastest way. However, if you overdo it, the meat will start to cook. It can also be a challenge to evenly defrost multiple patties at the same time this way. Refrigerator thawing is also an option, but if your fridge is already full of other food you’re preparing for a party, there might not be enough room.
You can thaw frozen patties evenly by carefully sealing them in a Ziploc bag, then submerging the bag in cold water. This process will take several hours to complete if you’re thawing more than 3-4 patties, but you can safely speed up the process by replacing the water every 30 minutes. Avoid using warm water, as it may cause the patties to warm up to an unsafe temperature.
5. Use the Right Seasonings
Like any burger, frozen patties deserve a little extra seasoning to bring out their full flavor. Even the best-quality meats can benefit from a pinch of salt, pepper, or hamburger seasoning.
For frozen burgers, wait until the last five minutes to season both sides of the patty so that the dried herbs and spices stick to the surface. Use garlic, powder, onion powder, or even Worcestershire sauce to add a tangy and savory flavor. This is also the best time to add a slice of cheese if desired.
6. Gas vs. Propane vs. Pellet Grills
If you frequently grill frozen patties, plan your next grill and smoker purchases accordingly. The longer cooking time required for frozen patties means that the grill types’ differences may become more pronounced.
Natural gas brings out the best flavor in meats, but is more expensive than propane. Some users report a slight difference in flavor between propane and natural gas grills when grilling frozen burgers.
Pellet grills and smokers use wood pellets to infuse meats with a smoky flavor. Although they’re not commonly used for burgers, it’s possible to cook a frozen burger this way, though it may take longer. Some grill masters have even reported success with smoking frozen patties for a half-hour, then transferring them to the grill to finish the job.
Whatever you decide, make sure you use fresh pellets or wood and that there’s no unwanted debris burning in the bottom of your grill. Stale smoke can easily alter your frozen patties’ flavor, especially since they require more grill time than fresh patties.
7. Regular Grill vs. Flat Top Griddle
Both regular outdoor grills and flat top griddles are good options for grilling frozen or thawed patties. Using a standard grill instead of a flat top griddle makes the outside of each patty softer, but some people prefer the crispier crust a griddle creates.
There are great flat top griddles for grilling frozen burgers, and these griddles also work well for other meats and vegetables. However, flat top griddles provide less flexibility for fuel types and make it more difficult for grease to drain away from the meats. Most families find standard grill grates to be the best all-around option for cooking and entertaining.
8. Impressing Your Family and Friends
Even with the extra steps to consider when grilling frozen burgers, it’s easy to create a restaurant-quality meal in your kitchen or backyard. Burger toppings and seasonings can make a great burger even better, so with some creativity and extra thought, you can become the go-to neighborhood grill master for special occasions.
Ensure you have the perfect grill for the occasion by getting the right model for your purposes and price range. Although smokers and pellet grills strongly influence the burger’s flavor, this can work in your favor if you choose your fuel types carefully. The right investment can serve you for years through holidays, weekends, and everyday meals with loved ones.