Have you ever forgotten to take the meat out of the freezer the night before you fire up the grill? We know we have. If you want to grill burgers, forgetting to thaw the patties is not necessarily a problem: you can put them on the grill frozen or thawed, and they will still cook safely.
When frozen, you need to know a few things about cooking burgers on the grill that require a slightly different grilling technique.
If you grill the burgers frozen, you’ll need to cook the meat slowly and flip it more often to cook it in the center. Thawed burgers, on the other hand, take less time to cook and do not need to be flipped as often.
It is safe to cook them either way as long as the internal temperature of the meat reaches 160°F (more on that in a minute).
Some find burger patties easier to handle and cook from frozen while others swear by thawing out the meat. At the end of the day, it is all in preference of the individual griller. That said, the USDA does recommend thawing out the meat first for safety purposes.
The best answer is to go through the facts—and the pros and cons of each—to determine which is better for you. Sometimes, trial and error play a significant role in learning which you prefer, but it is in giving you the information beforehand that we come in to offer practical tips.
Check out the information below from the USDA and advice from those with expertise in grilling frozen and thawed burgers.
What Does the USDA Say About Grilling Frozen or Thawed Burgers?
According to a statement from the USDA, “Burgers cooked directly from the freezer will be underdone, and foodborne illness is a possibility.” They continued, “Food safety experts recommend that burgers thaw in the refrigerator before grilling.”
If you are short on time, the USDA also recommends using the microwave as a safe way to thaw meat at 50% heat for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side.
However, if you choose to grill frozen beef patties, do so slowly over low heat. When cooking burgers that were previously frozen, it is essential to monitor them closely as they may cook more quickly than fresh burgers on the outside while the inside, as it is colder, is undercooked.
The USDA is there for safety purposes—and their stance does not mean all hope is lost or that the burgers cannot be cooked from a frozen state. It is all about getting to the end result of the inside temperature to 160°F.
We can show you the proper way to the perfect burger from a frozen meat patty.
How to Grill a Frozen Burger Safely?
Before we begin, let us see what Sammy Steen, Barbehow’s Chief Editor, says about cooking frozen burgers, then we will go into the steps we recommend.
Sammy explained, “The most important thing is to cook the burger patty slowly and patiently.” He added, “If you cook it on a grill that’s very hot, the outside of the meat can burn before the inside has reached the minimum internal temperature.”
Frozen burgers can be a quick and easy way to make a great burger. Be sure to follow these steps for grilling a frozen burger safely without thawing it out.
Step 1: Remove the frozen burger from its packaging
Take out the frozen burgers and place them on a plate in the fridge. The USDA states bacteria thrive in meat temperatures 40°F to 140°F and multiply every twenty minutes, so keep it cool.
Step 2: Fire up the grill
Before putting any food on your grill, you should preheat it to 350°F so that you do not end up with an undercooked burger.
Step 3: Grill the burger
Season the patty with salt and freshly-cracked black pepper on both sides. While we encourage you to do so generously, go easy on the salt; unlike an oversalted burger, an undersalted one can be fixed.
If you are using a gas grill, make sure that there are no flare-ups by turning off one burner if two are being used. Place your burger on the grill over indirect heat and cook for 5-7 minutes per side, flipping every 2 to 3 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160°F.
If you use a charcoal grill, rake the charcoal to one side to create two zones: one for direct, and one for indirect heat. Place your burger over indirect heat and cook for 5-7 minutes per side. Flip every 2 to 3 minutes again, ensuring that the internal temperature reaches 160°F before removing it from the grill.
Flipping is necessary, but pressing down on the patty or poking holes in it with your fork isn’t; keep the juices in the meat by letting it cook uninterrupted in-between individual flips.
The thicker the patties, the longer it takes for the center of the meat to get hot. Thicker patties, therefore, require a gentler cooking temperature when they are grilled straight from the freezer, without being thawed out first.
Step 4: Let it rest
When you remove your burger from the grill, it will continue cooking for a few more minutes. Let it rest for 2 to 3 minutes before serving, so that it finishes cooking in its own residual heat.
How to Grill a Thawed-Out Burger Safely
It will not take as much time to cook a thawed-out burger as a frozen one, that’s for sure. However, there are still some steps to follow to get the perfect freshly-grilled burger at your cooking, which we share below.
Step 1: Fire up the grill
Preheat your gas grill to medium-high heat, or about 350-375°F. On a charcoal grill, ignite the coals in a chimney starter and wait until they start to ashen.
Step 2: Grill the burger
Grill the burger for 4-5 minutes per side over direct heat, with the lid opened, or until it is cooked through. Remember, thinner patties cook faster, and thicker ones require patience to get up to the correct internal temperature.
Look for an internal temperature of 160°F on beef, pork, lamb, or mixed red meat burgers. Turkey burgers, on the other hand, should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F for safe consumption.
Step 3: Melt sliced/grated cheese on top
If you want to add cheese, do so during the last minute of grilling.
Place a large sheet of aluminum foil under the burgers to prevent the cheese from melting on the grate. Then close the lid to create convection and allow the cheese to melt.
Step 4: Rest and serve the meat
Serve with your favorite toppings after letting the meat settle for 2 to 3 minutes.
Pros and Cons of Grilling a Frozen Burger
Hopefully, this is where you can weigh the final options as to whether or not you want to attempt to grill a frozen burger or let it thaw out.
We will discuss only the frozen burger because grilling a fresh burger has no bad points to mention.
The Pros of Frozen Burgers
- It is fast and easy. All you have to do is remove the patty from the freezer, put it on the grill, and cook it to your liking;
- It is affordable. Frozen burgers, for an array of reasons, are a lot cheaper than fresh ones;
- It is convenient. You can buy them at just about any grocery store. And you don’t have to shape the patties yourself;
- They taste good. A well-made frozen burger can be almost as delicious as a fresh one. With the right condiments, no one at the table will even know;
- It gives you more time at the grill and to enjoy the outdoors.
The Cons of Frozen Burgers
- They can be dry. Since they are cooked from frozen, they are somewhat dry;
- The flavor might not be in your flavor zone. Some frozen burgers use meat from lesser breeds or less-marbled meat, which gives the burger a particular flavor;
- They take much longer. Since they are cooked slow and low heat for safety reasons, frozen burgers can take five times as long as fresh ones to cook through.
The pros of grilling a frozen burger far outweigh its cons. While they can be dry and flavorless if they are not cooked properly, well-made frozen burgers taste just as good as fresh burgers, in our opinion. If you use the proper cooking techniques, it is definitely worth giving frozen burgers a chance.
In the end, choosing sides is down to preference, and we hope the information we provide helps you in your decision-making. The main point is to be safe and be 100 percent that the burger is cooked all the way through, whether it is frozen or thawed.
Once again, “cook it low and slow” for the best results, and no one will be able to tell the difference.