Eliminating the need to dive into raw ground beef and properly form patties, pre-formed hamburgers are a great convenience item for an easy, satisfying meal. And, as far as simplicity goes, cooking them in the oven is hands-off, and it doesn't lead to much cleanup work. Even if this method is a little less traditional than grilling or pan frying, baked beef patties can turn out just as juicy and tasty.
A Word About the Crust on Baked Beef Patties
A trademark characteristic of an excellent burger is a crisp, well-browned crust on the outside of both the top and bottom of the patty. This crust adds depth of flavor to the burger as well as a crunchiness for textural variety. Plus, it helps seal in the meat's juices, providing for a moister, more flavorful burger.
This char is easy to achieve on a grill or the stove (and one of several reasons that cooking beef patties in microwave ovens isn't a great idea), but it takes more deliberate planning when you're baking burgers. The key to creating a crust on baked hamburgers is to place the raw patty on a cooking surface that's already nice and hot.
So, don't put the patties on your baking tray or pan and then put it all into the oven. Instead, while you're heating the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, heat the cooking surface too. Put a greased baking tray, cast iron skillet or other oven-safe pan into the oven as soon as you start preheating. Leave it in there for about 15 minutes before you start cooking the hamburgers.
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Seasoning Pre-Made Burger Patties
While the oven and the tray or pan are preheating, don't forget to season the pre-formed patties if necessary. Many packaged burger patties are sold already seasoned, so you don't have to worry about it.
But if you bought pre-formed patties from the meat section at your supermarket or the butcher, the meat may be unseasoned. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the patties. And, if you want, add other herbs and spices to taste, such as garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, basil or Cajun seasoning, for example.
Baking the Hamburgers
If your pre-made patties don't have a dimple in the top, make a shallow, broad depression in them with your finger. The meat expands during cooking, and this lets it grow into a flat burger; otherwise, the burgers come out rounded, which makes it harder to keep toppings on them and keep them on the bun – and to get your mouth around them.
Put the patties on the heated tray or pan in the center of the oven. If you're preparing a bunch of burgers, make sure none of them are touching when you place them so the heat can circulate around them and cook them from the sides, too.
Leave the patties alone for about 8 minutes; don't check their undersides or move them, as this interferes with development of the crust. Then, flip them and leave them alone again, so the other side can form a crust. Cook them until they reach 160 degrees F at center. Use a meat thermometer to determine doneness, as cooking time varies by oven, thickness of the patties, number of burgers and other factors.
Preparing Frozen Pre-Made Burgers
You can cook frozen burgers in the oven from the frozen state; it just takes about 50% longer. However, you won't get as nicely seared a crust, and you have to wait till the outside is thawed to add seasonings if the patties aren't pre-seasoned.
So, for a better finished product, thaw the patties first. There are three ways to safely do so:
- Put the patties in the refrigerator 24 hours ahead. This is the best way, resulting in the least amount of moisture loss. Also, you can keep the meat in the fridge for up to two days, and you can refreeze it within this time frame if you change your mind.
- Secure the patties in leak-proof packaging and submerge them in cold water for about one to two hours. Replace the water with cold water every 30 minutes. If you defrost this way, cook the burgers right away, even before refreezing.
- Use your microwave's defrost function. This is the worst way, as it starts to cook the meat, and the burgers are likely to end up unevenly cooked and at least a little dry and chewy. If you thaw this way, cook the burgers immediately, including before refreezing.
Eric Mohrman is a food and drink, lifestyle, and travel writer. He spent 10 years working front- and back-of-house in a few casual and upscale restaurants, adding professional experience to his love of eating and cooking. He lives with his family in Orlando, Florida. His stories on food and beverage topics have appeared in numerous print and web publications, including Visit Florida, Orlando Style Magazine, CrushBrew Magazine, Agent Magazine, Dollar Stretcher Magazine, The 863 Magazine and others.