Every time I try to cook burgers or meatloaf, my ground beef just ends up turning gray/white, instead of normal charred dark brown. I cant understand why.

I have tried buying lean ground beef and regular ground beef and I always get the same result.

I have tried cooking them in the oven and on a cast iron pan. I have even tried leaving them in the cast iron pan till they start to burn. (The meat just develops a sort of thin burnt, light brown crust, on top of the gray patty, which you can essentially peel off. The whole burger doesn't develop a nice dark brown crust)

I have tried making the burgers with egg, with breadcrumbs, and without either. I get the same result each time, just a unappetizing gray lump.

The patties are never crowded, I have even tried doing one at a time.

None of my raw ground beef is gray either, it is nicely red. It just slowly goes gray when cooking.

Please explain why this keeps happening.


I have seen this link already Cook Burger on Stove - Turns Gray

This does not help me as I have already tried putting oil on the burgers and putting extra oil in the cast iron pan for them. Frying them does not make them dark brown either.

I also already mentioned I have tried making the patty without egg and breadcrumb.

I also mentioned I tried different variants of fat content. My supermarket only has mince labeled as lean, regular, and fatty (which is more fat than meat) . There are no fat percentages on them. I have tried Lean and regular separately, and I have tried mixing the two.

My cast iron pan is a large 30cm pan and is utilizing the largest gas plate on the grill, on its highest setting, therefore the temperature must be hot enough.

If there is something I seem to have missed from that "duplicate post", I would appreciate it if you could kindly point it out, otherwise can someone please possibly shed some insight as to why this happens? My burgers always end up as a gray lump throughout, sometimes with partial light browning due to overheating/crusting.

Thank you

  • Related / Possible duplicate: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/13001/…
    – Cindy
    Feb 27, 2018 at 10:12
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Cook Burger on Stove - Turns Gray
    – user34961
    Feb 27, 2018 at 10:31
  • edit applied, that question did not solve my problem, this is an elaboration on a similar issue.
    – gunter
    Feb 27, 2018 at 13:02
  • Have you checked the label or print on your ground beef to see if it contains any added salt solution?
    – Cindy
    Feb 27, 2018 at 13:56
  • 3
    Or just heat your cast iron pan until smoking and see if that helps. Also, don't touch the meat for 3 or so mins so it can form a crust. Usually when you're not getting a good crust it's either the pan isn't hot enough or the food is continually moved around/stirred.
    – lspare
    Feb 27, 2018 at 15:19

3 Answers 3


Brown meat tastes good - Anne Burrell

Of course you know this, the browning of the meat is a result of the Maillard Reaction, if you are not getting this result you are probably not cooking at a high enough temperature.

Temperatures need to be high to bring about the Maillard reaction, but as long as the food is very wet, its temperature won’t climb above the boiling point of water. At atmospheric pressure, only high-heat cooking techniques can dry out the food enough to raise the temperature sufficiently. It’s not the water that stops the reaction, but rather the low boiling point...

Too hot, however, and you end up with a patty that is raw in the middle and crusty on the outside. To counter this there are two separate techniques I will use (depending on the weather...)

  1. In fair weather (using my grill outside) I will heat one side of the grill to "High" and the other side to a medium temperature. First I will 'sear' the burger patty on the High side (both sides of the patty) then move the burger to the medium side, where it can finish more slowly and thoroughly. You can do this in reverse if you like.

  2. In inclement weather (using my oven's broiler) placing the oven rack on the highest setting preheat a cast iron skillet under the broiler for 5 minutes. Place your patties in the skillet and return it to the broiler for 3-5 minutes per side (+/- your patty thickness). Because the broiler is acting on the TOP of the patty rather then the bottom the juices flow away allowing for a quicker maillard reaction. When done set your skillet on the stove top (cool) for a few minutes to let the meat rest and reabsorb some of the juices that should be in the pan at this point. (note: cheese should only be added in the last minute of this technique)

You can accomplish similar results using a pan on the stove top, but I prefer either of these methods.


Cooks illustrated (recent recipe) suggest mixing in baking soda to ground beef, wait about 20 minutes... then cook as usual ..this helps the PH level.

They recommend 3/4 tsp to two lbs of 85% ground. I have tried it and it works


You could use a hot pan for searing the sides and outside. Then finish it off in the oven if it is still raw in the center.

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