Grilling Frozen Burgers: Are they worth it?
Can you grill frozen burgers?
A mere two years ago I was a brand-new homeowner, and being such, pretty much new to grilling as well. I quickly fell in love with grilling and found myself grilling everything: chicken, sausage, hot dogs, vegetables, part of my forearm. (That was unfortunate.) Then, I found myself posed with a tough question: can you grill frozen burgers?
In short: yes, you can grill frozen burgers. It takes a quick hand and even quicker eye, trial and error, and erring on the side of caution. The long answer? It’s complicated.
My wife and I have made throwing huge birthday parties for family members somewhat of a hobby. Seeing as she has a huge family, this could easily be an expensive hobby if we let it; grilling for upwards of ten people can be spendy. To help bring down the cost of feeding roughly fifteen people, I decided to see if I could skimp on the burgers and buy some cheaper frozen patties. Here’s what I learned from my experience and miserable failures.
My Experience with Grilling Frozen Burgers
Before diving into this, it’s important to note that I used REALLY cheap frozen beef patties. No, I wasn’t feeding my guests horse meat or dog food. But, this wasn’t a gourmet, Angus burger. These were super cheap, super thin, off-brand hamburger patties. With that in mind, let’s get something out of the way:
All Beef is Not Equal
Okay, first things first: all beef is not the same.
You’ve got your 80/20 beef, your 90/10, your insanely expensive 97/3, and so on. Less fat is great when you’re being health conscious, but when you’re grilling it’s not a huge deal breaker. Whenever you grill any beef you’re going to deal with some flare ups from the fire here and there, simply more so with the fattier beef. This is kind of a moot point, as we’re talking frozen patties. Oftentimes with frozen burgers you don’t have a choice in the beef’s fattiness, you simply have different flavors or one “low fat” option.
In this experiment I switched over from last cookout’s $28.99, 8-pound bag, to a 2.5-pound bag at $3. The $28.99 bag was still 75/25 as far as lean to fat, so there’s really nowhere to go but up as far as fat content. The difference couldn’t be THAT much, right?
Cooking Frozen Burgers on the Grill
Upon opening the newer, cheaper burgers, I noticed they were significantly thinner than the expensive burgers from last time. I didn’t think much of this and threw the first batch of four on the grill. The sizzle was nice and they smelled great fairly quickly.
After about three minutes I tried flipping the first burger and was met with a nasty surprise – it was stuck. Really, REALLY stuck. “Okay, maybe it just needs another minute,” I thought.
A minute later I tried again. This time the burger flipped, leaving a sizable chunk of meat on the grill. No bueno. I decided to give the other three burgers another minute before flipping them, hoping to avoid this.
I flipped the next burger over to see a blackness rivaled only by the charcoal I’d pulled from the bag earlier. So far this cheap burger experiment was a massive failure. The only comfort I found was in the fact that I bought an extra bag of ten burgers just in case I did something horribly wrong. (Like turn the burgers into charcoal.)
How to Grill Frozen Hamburgers
It soon dawned on me that these super thin burgers were never going to survive the charcoal grill. At least, they weren’t going to survive the ridiculously hot fire I had going. I shifted some charcoal around and gave the heat a little time to lessen. I then put some foil down and oiled it with vegetable oil. While this wouldn’t give the burgers those awesome grill lines everyone wants, it’d at least give them the grill flavor.
Several minutes later and I was flipping over four beautifully browned burgers. And several minutes after that, four more. And several after that? I was nearly dead from heat exhaustion. It’s Texas, after all.
A more seasoned grill master may have been able to grill these thin patties on the charcoal, or at least figured out the foil method before ruining several patties. At the end of the day, all that matters is that I fed a ton of people and they loved the food. Also, I took pride in not ruining a single hot dog that day.
Grilling Frozen Burgers: Maybe again?
I lost nearly an entire bag of ten frozen burgers to the unforgiving flames of the charcoal before learning my lesson. While that put me out $3, I still ended up making twenty great burgers for $6 and feeding fifteen people, with a few leftover burgers for later. I had to alter my grilling method and use foil with oil, but the burgers still had some great charcoal flavor. One of my guests liked the burgers so much, they took a picture of the package so they’d remember the package for their next trip to the store.
I’d call this a win. Next time around I would know to use the foil from the get go, and I’d get even more back for my buck. Even so, twenty burgers for $6 is a crazy deal, and the flavor was excellent. If all else fails, smother them in your favorite condiment and tell yourself they’re good.
If you decide to opt for cheap frozen patties, try and feel the thickness of the patties through the bag before purchasing them. If they’re a little on the thin side, you might want to consider pan cooking them or doing the foil method. If you have your heart set on traditional grilled burgers, make sure they’re thick frozen patties. This might mean spending a little more, or going the route of non-frozen. Non-frozen burgers are always ideal, but when you’re cooking for a ton of people, that can be a nightmare. Especially when you have a toddler running around the house, adding a little chaos to your chaos.