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Grill, Bye. Make Your Next Burger in an Air Fryer and Thank Me Later

 Grill, Bye. Make Your Next Burger in an Air Fryer and Thank Me Later

I’ve been making succulent chicken and tender salmon in my air fryer for years now, but only recently did I discover that the mighty air fryer can make mouthwatering burgers on par with any grill. As a city dweller, grills are somewhat impractical to own and operate, so making a bacon cheeseburger in an apartment-friendly air fryer was a particularly attractive proposition.

You can make a perfectly good cheeseburger on the stovetop using a cast-iron skillet but, much like bacon, a fatty piece of beef will cause major grease splatter, some seriously meaty smells and leave you with a gnarly pan to wash. I found out the easy way that you can make a great burger (plus, toast a bun and cook bacon) all in an air fryer all without setting off the smoke alarm or turning the stovetop into a grease pit.

Here’s all you need to know to get optimal results when cooking a burger in the air fryer.

How to make the perfect air fryer burger

bacon and burger loaded into air fryer basket bacon and burger loaded into air fryer basket

Even a small air fryer can handle a full-sized burger patty and a few slices of bacon at once.

Pamela Vachon/CNET

I consulted a variety of different sources for timings and temperatures, but the process is about what you’d expect and similar to that which you’d experience cooking a burger in any manner: flipping the patty about halfway through for even results, with different timings depending on the size of your desired doneness. 

Read more: Air Fryers Give Off Less Heat and Use Less Energy Than an Oven. Here’s How Much

The air fryer works by circulating hot air in its contained chamber, so as a matter of interest, your air fryer burger will cook opposite to what you’d see on a sauté pan, with the exposed side of the burger cooking more quickly and becoming browner than the underside of the patty. 

I tried two different approaches, both with a quarter pound of lean ground beef, seasoned simply with salt and pepper. First, I shaped a single patty about three-quarters of an inch in thickness, and cooked it at 370 degrees F for 10 minutes, flipping at the halfway mark. Then I tried the same amount of meat shaped into two, thin, smash-style patties for a total cooking time of about six minutes. (Double your cheeseburger, double your fun.)

single patty cooked finished single patty cooked finished

Making a great burger in an air fryer takes almost no skill and requires very little cleanup afterward.

Pamela Vachon/CNET

Air fryers require very little cleanup

Well, that was easy. In both cases the patties cooked evenly, with an outcome that was medium in doneness. (You can easily experiment with your model and ideal burger patty size to find the precise timings for your preferred degree of doneness.) The hot air circulation even managed to produce a bit of caramelized crust on one side. Because I could, even with a small, single-household air fryer, I put in a couple of strips of bacon with the single burger patty, since crispy, spatter-free bacon is another excellent use for an air fryer — not to mention an exceptional burger topping.

a burger cooked to medium cut in half a burger cooked to medium cut in half

You can cook a burger to that perfect medium or medium rare with an air fryer.

Pamela Vachon/CNET

Speaking of spatter-free, this is the single most compelling reason to employ the air fryer for burger prep. Your clothing, skin and stovetop all avoid the sizzling oil droplets that — safely contained within the air fryer drawer — like to escape the pan during regular skillet cooking. The smoky, greasy, meaty aroma, which is otherwise appealing at a burger dive, but not so much in a studio apartment, is also minimized. Cleanup was limited only to the nonstick, air fryer drawer.

Read more: I’ve Been Making Bacon Wrong. Here’s the Best (and Cleanest) Way to Cook it

Stil, there are some drawbacks to air fryer burgers

burger patties in air fryer burger patties in air fryer

With an air fryer, you can’t smash the patties down as easily as you can on a grill or griddle.

Pamela Vachon/CNET

The air fryer isn’t perfect when it comes to burgers, and the drawbacks as I experienced are twofold. First, since you can’t really access the patty while it cooks, you’re unable to smash it down in such a way that it doesn’t shrink up significantly while cooking. Since an English muffin is the best burger containment method — I will not be considering opposing viewpoints at this time — this didn’t bother me so much, since the resulting patty fits the intended vessel perfectly. Expect shrinkage when considering the size of your patty before cooking.

Second, if you’re like me and believe that a burger without cheese isn’t worth eating, things get a little more complicated. Because of the air circulation action of the air fryer, it’s hard to anchor cheese on top for a quick melt at the end of the process. My first attempt with a sliced single, an ideal burger cheese — and I am a cheese pro, so don’t come at me — flew off and unhelpfully adhered to the surface of the air fryer drawer. 

a tempting double patty cheeseburger sits next to an air fryer a tempting double patty cheeseburger sits next to an air fryer

Am I seeing double?

Pamela Vachon/CNET

My second attempt where a slice was halved and layered for extra heft was more successful, even more so when I moved the patties to the back edge of the fryer basket which gets less aggressive air circulation. This may just be a quirk of my model, but I’d be prepared to experiment. I wouldn’t even consider shredded cheese on top of a patty, but I absolutely would consider a cheese-stuffed burger, which should work nicely.

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