Juicy Pan-Seared Burger

Living in a flat can be difficult for a lot of reasons, not least of which is the typical lack of an outdoor space that would allow me to grill. No grill, no burgers. Or maybe that doesn’t have to be the case. You can still make a delicious burger on your stove top without having to sacrifice on flavor, something restaurants do all the time.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started: For the bun, I recommend brioche (for a buttery taste) or a sesame seed bun (for the classic taste and texture), and it helps if it’s pre-sliced. For the meat, you want to use 20% fat beef (because fat is flavor). You can use 15% in a pinch, but you’ll need to cook it in butter and that has a tendency to smoke at high heat, so be prepared to turn off your smoke detector or open all the windows.

Next, you want to handle it as little as possible so that the meat doesn’t become tough. You don’t need to mix anything in, just grab a handful of meat (about 1/4 lb or 125 g) and gently shape it between your hands into a baseball shape.

Then place it on a surface like a clean cutting board and gently press it, so that it is about 1 inch thick. The edges might start to split a little, so you can push these together so it doesn’t fall apart when you pick it up. You’re looking for a round burger patty that is just slightly bigger than the size of your bun (since it will shrink during cooking).

Then add course salt and pepper to both sides. Or instead of salt, you can add seasonings you like, such as peri-peri salt, cajun spice, or blackening seasoning. The salt content in these seasonings can be really high, so try to just add a thin layer. Now place the patties into the fridge while you prepare and heat your skillet. While most other cuts of meat should be at room temperature before cooking, burgers actually need to the cold to keep the fat inside from melting, thus keeping your burger nice and juicy.

>> If I have it, I will usually cook up some bacon to go with my burgers, because 1.) it’s delicious, and 2.) the rendered fat adds great flavor to cook my burgers in. It’s absolutely fine if you skip this step, but for those of you craving a bacon burger, now is when I would put the bacon in.

>> Heat up over medium-high heat a large non-stick pan (the one you will be cooking your burgers in), and layer the bacon evenly, making sure none of the pieces overlap. If your bacon sadly doesn’t have much fat content, you can add a drizzle of cooking oil to help it along. I turn the pieces of bacon using tongs ever 2 minutes or so, until the bacon starts to just have tiny bubbles on its surface. Remove the bacon to drain on a paper towel while you cook your burger.

You want the pan really hot, so I’ll usually crank my stove up to an 8 or 9 before putting the burgers in the pan. Now the burger should be cooking in either its own fat or the bacon fat (if you made any), but if you skipped the bacon and are using a leaner meat, add about a teaspoon of butter to the pan for each patty, and drop the meat right on top before it fully melts.

The burger should loudly sizzle right away when added to the pan so it seals the juices inside and gives you that brown crust where the bulk of the flavor is going to come from. As Chef Anne Burrell always says: “Brown food tastes good”; grey food, not so much. So if it doesn’t sizzle remove your patties with a spatula immediately and let the pan continue to heat.

These are thick burgers, but they still won’t take that long to cook. For the first side, let it sit undisturbed on the pan for about 5 minutes, then use your spatula to glance underneath and check the sear. If it is not there yet, give it 1 more minute. Flip the burgers over and bring your heat down to about a medium high (6 or 7) if it starts to smoke a bit. If adding bacon or cheese, add this now. This lets the cheese melt in the heat of the cooking process.

While the burger is cooking, I usually take this time to prepare my toppings, like cutting onions, lettuce, tomato, whatever strikes your fancy. Once the bottom of the second side is brown and the cheese is melty (about another 5 minutes), turn off the burner and let it rest (either in the pan or on a paper towel) while you work on the buns.

There’s something special about a buttery toasted bun that makes this next step worth it and will help give your burger that restaurant quality taste. Taking a soft butter or margarine, spread a thin layer over each side of the bun and place it in the pan butter side down on a medium heat (using a new pan if the first one has too much grease). After a minute, give the bun a little nudge and use your spatula to help separate it from the pan if necessary. Leave it butter-side down another 20-30 seconds and then remove it from the heat.

Next all you need to do is assemble your burger with your chosen toppings and sauces. Enjoy with salty chips or fries and an ice-cold drink.

Pan-Seared Burgers

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A classic restaurant style burger that can be on your table in less than half an hour.


  • 1/2 lbs (250g) ground beef chuck, 20% fat content
  • Burger buns
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Additional toppings: bacon, cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, pickle, sauce, etc.


  1. Taking half of the meat, carefully shape it into a ball with your hands, handling it as little as possible.
  2. Gently press down on the meat with your palm, flattening it to about 1 inch in height.
  3. Add course ground pepper and salt (or other seasonings of choice) to both sides, and place in the fridge until you are ready to cook.
  4. Place a non-stick pan over high heat and allow it to warm up. Once pan is hot, drop the burgers in, and there should be a loud sizzle from the searing process.
  5. Cook for around 5-6 minutes each side, layering any cheese to melt on top after you flip it once.
  6. Allow the burgers to rest off of the heat. Meanwhile butter and toast the buns in your pan on a medium heat for 1 minute. Ensure the buns are not stuck to the pan and then toast for an additional 20-30 seconds.
  7. Assemble burger with chosen toppings and serve.

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