Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What would be the main differences between frying hamburgers and cooking them in the microwave oven?

I'm stuck in a hostel with only a microwave oven and a water cooker.

share|improve this question
I hope you're not stuck there long. –  uncle brad Mar 30 '11 at 14:12
Burgers have got to be one of the least appetising foods when microwaved. Can you do anything else instead?! –  KimbaF Mar 30 '11 at 16:00
Related: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/8214/… –  justkt Mar 30 '11 at 18:18
I should have read the answers and comments before I tried. It tasted mostly plastic and was completely uneven, and the microwave oven stank. –  user4697 Mar 30 '11 at 19:28
If you're hosteling, you can consider traveling with a sterno camping stove, about $5-10 off Ebay. –  user26522 Aug 13 '14 at 17:38

7 Answers 7

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In short, kind of, but only with the proper accessories/equipment. You'll never match a grill or griddle but you can get surprisingly close.

As was mentioned in other answers, what you're going to lose most is the sear.

I was given a Corningware Microwave Browning Dish a while back and found that it actually works pretty well when you're stuck with only a microwave. They were apparently popular when microwaves were new and exciting, but people didn't know how to use them well and they faded into oblivion. I've seen them on sale on eBay so you might be able to find a good price there if you're going to be stuck in the hostel for a while.

The basic idea is, there's a special kind of microwave-safe metal inside the base of the casserole. You heat this with nothing on it for 3 minutes to get it nice and hot. When you drop the patty on, it immediately sizzles. You use the microwave function to heat the inside, while the hot surface sears the outside. Although you're likely not going to get a perfect burger, you do get a real nice Maillard reaction on the outside of both sides (assuming you flip halfway) and if you play with the cooking time and power (to reduce that rubbery texture from overcooking), you can get something that's (in my opinion) a good 75%-quality burger compared to a griddle or grill. I actually burned pork chops on it once, that's how hot the surface gets.

As a bonus, similar to a nice Boos block, there is a gutter around the outside and the plate is slightly concave, so the juices run off into the reservoir and the burger won't sit in fat during the cooking.

After reading the other answers (ElendilTheTall's specifically), I would think if you combined the steaming method to cook the burgers, with the microwave browning dish to sear, you could probably get a really good result. If the burgers were fully cooked via steaming you could probably heat the dish and sear the burgers without even turning the microwave on (except to heat the casserole initially).

I believe Alton Brown did an episode where he talked about a specific type of brick that you can find at most hardware stores which is microwave-safe for the same searing purpose, but I can't find that info right now.

share|improve this answer

I don't get it. A questions was asked: CAN I? YES! You can! I live out of my microwave. I make hamburger patties in the nuker all the time (as well as pasta and rice, which everyone says DON'T! I say Why not?!)

I buy my 85/15 patties from SAMs club so they're pre-made, not very thick. Paper plate, 2 pieces of paper towel on the plate, 2 frozen patties on the plate, one piece of ppr towel over the patties, 5-6 min on 50% power gives me medium/medium-well patties. IF THAWED you could probably do it in 3-4min. If I season the patties I do so after about 4min and remove the top ppr towel. If I'm making a cheese burger, after the burgers are done I add the cheese slices, add 30sec @100% power and leave them in the microwave to 'rest' and melt while I prepare my plate. You may need to adjust the length of time a bit depending on your microwave and your desired wellness of the patties.

Perfect burgers? No. As good as coming off the grill? No. Still perfectly OK burgers for a quick meal in about 8min total.

share|improve this answer
I just tried it once. The patties were quite thick, and I might have used full power. Thanks for letting me know that it is indeed possible! –  user4697 Dec 14 '11 at 20:36
Ahhh... College life. –  Coomie Oct 11 '12 at 7:23
A word of caution. If any paper like a paper towel is in the oven gets soaked with oil and is heated, it may ignite. I use to heat hot dogs on a paper napkin on the job. After reusing a paper napkin a couple times, it blazed up when I opened the door. I quickly slapped it out, preventing any damage to the oven. After that I never reused a paper, (30 seconds a dog) in order to prevent it getting hot enough. –  user21556 Nov 28 '13 at 6:18

Honestly, you can't. You'll miss the Maillard reaction on the outside of the burger, and the oil and fat heating it through. There are different types of heating, and the microwave is really not suitable for red meat.

I would suggest reshaping the meat, and possibly adding a few more ingredients and making meatballs in the water cooker. You could probably make a decent sauce in that cooker too.

I'll admit that my gut instinct was "build a fire outside and put a frying pan on that", though. And I'm a peaceful vegetarian.

share|improve this answer

When you fry you get all kinds of "goodness" that you won't get from microwaving; caramelizing and texture, for example. I'm certain somebody will post a Wikipedia link to the real word I'm looking for. I hate to recommend this, but you might want to look for a frozen hamburger product that's designed to be microwaved.

share|improve this answer
The Maillard Reaction is probably what you're thinking of. –  ElendilTheTall Mar 30 '11 at 14:36
Bing, bing, bing. Give the tall one a prize. –  uncle brad Mar 30 '11 at 14:40
I'll take the full set of Global knives, Bob. –  ElendilTheTall Mar 30 '11 at 14:44

Yes - cooking hamburgers in a microwave is possible.

Tonight I made some using 3 minutes on high (1100W), with 1 min flips (i.e. flip three times). I used a rotating microwave with a plastic dish and no fancy stuff. (There was a bit of juice in the dish afterwards.) Leave the dish alone for a minute or so after cooking as it'll be really hot. The patties shrink a little so make them flatter than you require.

share|improve this answer

I did see an episode of Man vs. Food a while back that featured a burger joint that steamed its burgers along with a hefty chunk of cheese - but you'd have to experiment a lot to get decent results. As Uncle Brad says, you wouldn't get a nice browning on the burgers, because microwaves work by heating the water content of the food.

share|improve this answer

Cover it with waxed paper or plastic wrap. Also, the burger will continue to cook for 1 minute or so after the microwave is done, so keep that in mind to avoid overcooking.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.