Whether you are grilling burgers in your backyard or cooking them indoors in a skillet, letting them rest before serving is an important step that should not be skipped. Here’s what you need to know about letting burgers rest and why it’s worth the short wait.
What does it mean to let a burger rest?
Letting a burger “rest” means allowing it to sit for a few minutes after cooking and before eating. Typically, you would cook the burger patties until they reach your desired doneness, whether rare, medium-rare, medium, or well-done. As soon as they come off the grill or out of the pan, transfer them to a plate. Then, resist the urge to dig in right away and let them rest undisturbed for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Why should you let burgers rest?
There are a few reasons why letting your burgers rest is important:
- It allows the juices to reabsorb – When meat is cooked, the heat causes the juices inside to expand and force some of the moisture out. If you cut into a burger immediately, those juices will spill out onto the plate. During resting time, the juices redistribute back into the meat, keeping it juicier and more flavorful.
- It improves texture – In addition to moisture loss, burgers can also become dense or chewy if you don’t let them rest. Resting relaxes the protein structure and makes the texture more tender.
- It evens out the cooking – Even if you aim for the same doneness throughout, there will be some variation within the burger. The cooler center will continue gently cooking during the resting time, evening out the overall temperature.
- It makes slicing easier – Trying to slice into a freshly cooked burger can cause it to fall apart. Letting it rest allows the burger to firm up enough to hold its shape when you cut into it.
How long should you let burgers rest?
The ideal rest time for burgers is about 5-10 minutes. Any longer than that and the burgers may cool down too much. Here are some guidelines for resting based on cooking method:
- Grilled burgers – Let rest for 5-7 minutes after cooking.
- Pan-seared burgers – Let rest for 7-10 minutes after cooking.
- Oven-baked burgers – Let rest for 5-10 minutes after removing from oven.
Keep in mind the thicker the burger, the longer the rest time should be. An extra minute or two allows time for the innermost part of a thick patty to redistribute moisture and firm up.
Should you rest smash burgers?
Smash burgers are a trendy style of thin, crispy burger made by smashing a ball of meat right on the cooking surface. Due to their thinness, smash burgers do not require as much resting time as a thick burger. About 2-3 minutes of resting is sufficient for smash burgers.
What about plant-based veggie burgers?
Plant-based veggie patties do not contain the same meat proteins and juices, but resting can still be beneficial. Allow veggie burgers to rest for 2-3 minutes after cooking to allow flavors to redistribute and prevent crumbling when you go to eat them.
Should you rest burger patties or fully assembled burgers?
It’s best to let the cooked patty rest on its own first before assembling into a full burger. Here are the steps:
- Cook patties on grill or in pan.
- Transfer patties to a plate and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, lightly toast burger buns if desired.
- After resting, build the burgers by adding patties and desired toppings to buns.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
By assembling the burgers after the patties have rested, you get the full benefit of moisture retention. If you were to let a fully assembled burger rest, the other ingredients like lettuce, tomato, onion, etc would risk becoming soggy.
What should you do while burgers are resting?
It can be hard to resist biting into a perfectly cooked, juicy burger right off the grill. But the 5-10 minutes of waiting time while your burgers rest presents a great opportunity to get everything else ready to serve. Here are some tasks to take care of during burger rest time:
- Lightly toast buns or bread, if desired
- Wash and slice tomatoes, onions, lettuce or other toppings
- Place cheeses like sliced cheddar or Swiss out to temper
- Cook bacon or other mix-ins like mushrooms or onions
- Make any sauces or condiments like mayo, mustard, ketchup
- Set out buns, toppings, condiments and serving platters
- Pour drinks
- Clean up cooking area if needed
Before you know it, your burgers will be ready to assemble and serve! Letting them rest allows you to get everything nicely organized.
Should you cover burgers while resting?
You can cover burgers lightly while they rest to retain heat, but don’t wrap them up tightly. Allow for some air circulation under the cover so moisture does not collect and make the exterior soggy.
Some options for lightly covering resting burgers:
- Inverted bowl or aluminum foil tent
- Paper towels or paper wraps
- Wire cooling rack placed over the plate
Avoid using an airtight lid or heavy foil wrap that will cause condensation to build up.
Can you rest burgers in the oven?
If you are concerned about burgers cooling too quickly during resting time, you can rest them in a warm oven set to the lowest temperature (around 200°F). This will allow them to gradually come down from the cooking temperature while still maintaining enough warmth. Just make sure not to leave them in so long that they end up overcooked.
Can you skip resting burgers if you’re in a hurry?
It’s understandable if patience isn’t your strongest virtue, especially when a hot, juicy burger is within reach. However, skipping or shortening the resting time doesn’t do any favors for the texture or moisture of your burgers. Even just 2-3 minutes of rest makes a noticeable difference.
If you are really strapped for time, assembly station tasks like slicing veggies and toasting buns can help make those few minutes of waiting feel more productive.
Tips for resting burgers
Here are some top tips for getting the most out of resting your burgers:
- Resist poking or slicing into burgers immediately after cooking. Let them be.
- Aim for 5-10 minutes rest time, with thicker patties at the higher end.
- Lightly cover to retain heat, but allow some ventilation.
- Use the rest time to get serving items ready.
- Build full burgers after patties have rested on their own.
- Don’t assemble other toppings like lettuce until right before eating.
Common questions about letting burgers rest
What if I like my burgers rare?
Even if cooking burgers rare or medium-rare, resting is still important. Allowing the juices to redistribute back into the meat makes a noticeable difference in moistness. Aim for at least 5 minutes of rest time for rare patties.
Won’t my burger get cold if I let it rest too long?
It’s true you don’t want the burger to cool down completely before serving. As long as you limit resting time to 5-10 minutes max, the burger should retain enough warmth while still benefitting from moisture retention. You can also loosely cover burgers or keep them in a warm oven while resting to help maintain temperature.
What if I’m cooking a lot of burgers for a crowd?
Cooking for a backyard barbecue or large gathering presents another variable. You likely don’t want to serve burgers one at a time as they each finish resting. In this case, aim to have all the patties finished cooking at roughly the same time. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet and arrange patties on it without overcrowding. Place in a warm (not hot) oven to keep warm for 5-10 minutes while you complete burger assembly and serving preparations.
Can I make exceptions for slider-size mini burgers?
With mini slider burgers, the cooking and resting time is sped up due to their small size. Feel free to cut the resting time down to just 2-3 minutes for sliders. The short cook time coupled with slightly shorter rest should still yield tender, juicy results.
Letting your burgers rest after cooking is a simple step that yields big rewards when it comes to flavor and texture. By allowing time for the juices to redistribute back into the patty, burgers stay satisfyingly moist and tender. While it requires some patience, the wait is worthwhile. Use those 5-10 minutes to get everything else ready to serve and assemble your burgers once the patties have had their due time to rest. This small bit of patience will be rewarded with the best burger eating experience.