The Best Way to Cook Patties in a Pan

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Burgers – be they beef, turkey or fish – are a delicious casual meal that both kids and adults can enjoy. Sometimes grilling your patties isn’t an option, and after a long day you might not feel like turning on the oven. Thankfully, it's not necessary; you can fry patties in a pan right on your stove top. If you know the secrets to cooking patties to perfection in a pan, they will turn out just as delicious, without the fuss.

Forming Patties

Don’t squeeze the life out of your patty mixture. Jennifer Armentrout of “Fine Cooking Magazine” warns that squeezing and putting pressure on the meat mixture can result in a patty that is heavy and dense. This can lead to a tough burger that takes longer to cook. Instead, handle the meat gently. Toss and turn it to mix ingredients such as garlic, onion, salt, pepper and ranch-flavored dry mix. Your patties will cook more evenly and be done at the same time if you make them the same size. Use a kitchen scale to weigh the portions before forming the burger by gentle patting. Finish by pushing your thumb in the center of each patty, which will help prevent them from plumping up too high in the center while cooking.

Choice of Frying Pan

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay of the Food Network recommends using a cast iron pan or griddle. Cast iron is a heavy metal that is one of the best conductors of heat you can have in your kitchen. Because it can hold so much heat, when your cold patties hit the pan it will not cause temperature fluctuations. A well-seasoned cast iron pan can rival any non-stick pan surface.

Use Oil

No matter what kind of patties you are cooking, a drop of vegetable oil will go a long way in helping them brown and sear on the hot pan. The leaner the meat, the more important that oil becomes in promoting browning and helping to prevent sticking. Let the oil and the pan get hot over high heat before adding the patties.

Don't Fiddle With Them

When you put raw meat on a ripping hot surface, something wonderful happens. It’s called the “Maillard reaction,” which is the culinary term for the chemical reaction that occurs when proteins and sugars meet high heat. This is what causes meat to brown and take on a rich flavor, but it needs time to do this. Moving and flipping your burgers too much will just inhibit the reaction. Leave your burger until it’s half-way cooked, about the time the edges begin to get light brown and drip with fat, then flip it once and leave it alone so Maillard can do its magic on the opposite side.

Use a Thermometer

If you cut your meat to check for doneness, you’re just going to create an exit route for all the hot juices to escape. Never cut open a cooking patty. There are many kinds of wives' tales about poking meat, but the only safe way to ensure it is done is to use a thermometer to check the internal temperature. To be safe, follow guidelines set by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Cook to an internal temperature of 165 for ground poultry, 145 for any type of fish, and 160 degrees for ground beef, pork and lamb.