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How To Cook Burgers Without Smoke

Everyone loves a burger, right?

But the smoke that comes along with cooking a perfect burger – not so nice.

Especially if you live in a tiny apartment with thin enough walls that your annoying neighbor three doors down can hear your smoke alarm going off. And complains EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Does she never go out?!

I’m here to solve your problems (well, not all of them, just the smoke one).

Here’s how to cook a burger without smoke.

Cook the burger on medium heat (350°F) in an appropriately sized pan. The pan should have about ½ inch empty space maximum. Use an oil with a high smoking point such as canola oil, and grease the burger (not the pan). Refrigerate the burger before cooking to ensure it’s cold.

Watch the heat

The leading cause of smoke is excess heat. 

One of the best things you can do to prevent smoking is to turn down the heat. It used to be my default to just turn the hob on full whack for everything. 

But once I got a bit more into cooking, I realized this wasn’t the way to go. I was crucifying most of my food and the flat STUNK of smoke.

For burgers, use medium heat. In practical terms, this means 350-370°F. 

Surprisingly, I haven’t just plucked this number out of thin air.

There are a few things that lead to this magic number.

  • The smoking point of beef fat. This is 420°F, so you don’t want the temperature to get above that.
  • The smoking point of your oil. This can vary, but if you use an appropriate oil it will be around 400-450°F (more on this later). This brings the maximum temperature down to 400°F.
A browned burger
The Malliard reaction is responsible for the brown crust on burgers
  • The Maillard browning reaction. This is the chemical reaction that creates the crust on the outside of the burger. It’s ESSENTIAL that this reaction happens. It’s what makes the burger delicious. The reaction occurs between 280-330°F degrees. You want the pan to be well above this to ensure the reaction happens quickly. 

Taking all these points into consideration, between 350-370°F is the perfect temperature.

High enough to get a good crust, but low enough to minimize smoke.

Use an appropriate oil

Pick an oil with a high smoking point. There is a fancy scientific explanation behind smoking points, but I won’t bore you with that. It is, as the name suggests, the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke.

Different oils smoke at different temperatures. Here’s a guide.

OilSmoke point (°F/°C)Neutral/Flavoured
Avocado oil (refined)520°F/°270CNeutral
Safflower oil510°F/265°CNeutral
Olive oil (light)465°F/240°CNeutral
Ghee/Clarified Butter450°F/230°CFlavoured
Peanut oil450°F/230°CNeutral
Corn oil450°F/230°CNeutral
Soybean oil450°F/230°CNeutral
Sunflower oil440°F/225°CNeutral
Sesame Oil410°F/210°CFlavoured
Canola Oil400°F/205°CNeutral
Coconut oil (refined)400°F/205°CNeutral
Vegetable oil400-450°F/205-230°CNeutral
Lard370°F/185°CFlavoured
Vegetable shortening360°F/180°CNeutral
Butter350°F/175°CFlavoured
Coconut oil (extra virgin)350°F/175°CFlavoured
Olive oil (extra virgin)331ºF 166ºCFlavoured
Olive oil (virgin)320ºF/160ºCFlavoured
Margarine300ºF/150ºCFlavoured
Smoke points of different oils

If you’re trying to reduce smoke, it makes sense to go with the oil with the highest smoking point. But anything above the temperature you’re cooking the burger at will be fine.

I recommend cooking your burgers at 350-370°F, so any oil with a smoking point above 400°F will be fine.

Be aware that some oils impart more taste than others, so consider this when choosing an oil.

The cost will also be a factor. Buying in bulk will significantly reduce this. 

You can pick up a gallon of canola oil on amazon for a reasonable price. It will come in handy when you’re cooking anything that requires a high frying temperature, such as steak. A worthwhile investment!

Use the correct fat % (80/20)

If you’re pro enough to be making your own burger, you probably already know to aim for 20% fat.

But it can’t hurt to repeat it for the newcomers. 

This amount of fat will keep your burger moist while also not leaking loads into the pan, where it can heat up and start to smoke.

Use the correct size pan

This is a big one that many people overlook. 

Smaller pans mean less smoke

When you put your burger in the pan, it will soak up heat from the spot you put it in, but the empty areas of your pan will stay VERY hot. 

As your burger cooks, the oil you used and juices from the burger will run all over the pan. When they reach the hotter, empty edges of the pan, they’ll start to smoke. 

Avoiding this is easy.

Either use a smaller pan, so there’s nowhere for the juices to run. A pan with around ½ an inch room around the edge of the burger is ideal.

If you don’t feel like going out to buy a new pan, I have an even better solution for you…

Cook several burgers at once! Now you have the perfect excuse when your wife asks why you need two burgers for dinner. You’re getting rid of the smoke she always complains about.

Use the correct sized hob

As well as the pan size, you also need to consider the hob size.

  • Too small, and the pan won’t heat up enough.
  • Too big, and the pan’s dry edges will heat up and cause any splatting oil to smoke.

The hob should be around the same size as the pan.

Oil the burger rather than the pan

Instead of oiling the pan, you can oil the burger. 

oil is sprayed on a burger
By oiling the burger you can reduce the amount of oil you use

Use an oil mister or a brush (preferably silicone like the ones I’ve linked to) to lightly coat each side of the burger in oil. This will reduce the amount of fat you use and mean there’s less chance of the oil spreading to a part of the pan that’s too hot.

 Less oil means less potential for smoke. 

Plus, it’s healthier. Win-win.

Keep the fat IN the burger

If you’re trying to get the perfect burger, it can be tempting to poke your thermometer in your burger to check it’s temperature.

DON’T DO THIS!

The holes mean more liquid seeps out, and this leaves you vulnerable to smoking. Plus, it dries the burger out.

Keep your burgers cold

Ever grind your own burgers? 

Then you’ll already know the benefits of keeping your meat cold. 

Warm fat will melt and leak out of your burger as soon as it hits the pan. 

The juices will smoke, and you’ll be left with a dry burger. The burger will also probably fall apart since it’s the fat that holds it together. 

With a cold burger, the fat will remain in the burger long enough for the meat to cook a bit and prevent it from escaping.

The overall effect is minimal smoke and a juicy burger.

Keep your burgers in the fridge until you’re ready to put them in the pan. You should never leave them to rest at room temperature.

Put a lid on the pan

I know I’ve just been talking about ways to keep moisture in the burger so it doesn’t smoke in the pan.

But you’ll always have some escaping moisture, and you want to keep it in the pan for as long as possible.

As it evaporates, the remaining moisture will heat up faster and this could lead to smoking.

More moisture means the heat is more spread out and so no one part gets too hot. An innovative way of keeping the fat and juices in the pan is to use a lid.

Lid with steam on
Steam will condense on the pan lid

Okay, it’s not that innovative. But it does work.

The evaporating liquid will condense on the lid and fall back into the pan.

The lid also keeps any smoke you do get in the pan and gives the burger a slightly smoky taste. 

They don’t call me the burger queen for nothing. 

Cook the burger in the oven

Grilling or frying aren’t the only options when it comes to cooking burgers.

You can also use the oven. If the burgers are contained and shut behind a door – they can’t smoke.

To cook a perfect burger in the oven:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F
  2. Heat an oven-safe cast-iron skillet over a medium-high heat on your stovetop. Sear the burgers for 2 minutes on each side
  3. Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and cook the burgers for 10-15 minutes, depending on how well done you like them. I go for 12.5 because that means you get the best of both worlds. Still juicy, but you’re definitely not going to get food poisoning.
  4. To make sure the burgers are cooked, you can test the temperature. The FDA says a burger is safe once it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F (you’ll need a meat thermometer if you’re planning to do this).

Be EXTRA careful taking the skillet out of the oven. I know you think you’ll never do it… but I know at least two people who’ve forgotten the handle will be hot. OUCH.

I use these hot handle covers. They’re much more convenient than oven gloves because:

  • they don’t get burnt
  • they’re easier to clean
  • they take up less storage space

Open the windows / use the extractor fan

All the things I’ve spoken about above will minimize smoke, but I can’t promise they’ll get rid of it entirely.

So, a good old fashioned fix for too much smoke is to open your windows.

Yeah, it might be freezing outside, and if you’re vertically challenged like me, you might have to climb up onto your kitchen cabinets to reach the window.

BUT it’s a small price to pay to stop your house stinking of smoke for the foreseeable future.

If you have an extractor fan, don’t forget to turn that on too. It might seem obvious, but if you don’t cook regularly, you can easily forget it’s even there.

How To Cook Burgers Without Smoke

Everyone loves a burger, right?
But the smoke that comes along with cooking a perfect burger – not so nice.
Especially if you live in a tiny apartment with thin enough walls that your annoying neighbor three doors down can hear your smoke alarm going off. And complains EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Does she never go out?!
I’m here to solve your problems (well, not all of them, just the smoke one).
Here’s how to cook a burger without smoke.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 1 person
Calories 204 kcal

Equipment

Correct sized pan
Lid
Oil mister (optional)
Silicone brush (optional)

Ingredients
 

  • 1 portion high smoke point oil e.g. peanut oil

Instructions
 

Watch the heat

  • One of the best things you can do to prevent smoking is to turn down the heat.
  • For burgers, use medium heat. In practical terms, this means 350-370°F.

Use an appropriate oil

  • Pick an oil with a high smoking point.
  • If you’re trying to reduce smoke, it makes sense to go with the oil with the highest smoking point. But anything above the temperature you’re cooking the burger at will be fine.
    I recommend cooking your burgers at 350-370°F, so any oil with a smoking point above 400°F will be fine. (see table).

Use the correct fat % (80/20)

  • If you’re pro enough to be making your own burger, you probably already know to aim for 20% fat.
  • This amount of fat will keep your burger moist while also not leaking loads into the pan, where it can heat up and start to smoke.

Use the correct size pan

  • When you put your burger in the pan, it will soak up heat from the spot you put it in, but the empty areas of your pan will stay VERY hot.
  • Use a smaller pan, so there’s nowhere for the juices to run. A pan with around ½ an inch room around the edge of the burger is ideal.

Use the correct sized hob

  • As well as the pan size, you also need to consider the hob size.
    Too small, and the pan won’t heat up enough.
    Too big, and the pan’s dry edges will heat up and cause any splatting oil to smoke.
  • The hob should be around the same size as the pan.

Oil the burger rather than the pan

  • Use an oil mister or a brush (preferably silicone) to lightly coat each side of the burger in oil. This will reduce the amount of fat you use and mean there’s less chance of the oil spreading to a part of the pan that’s too hot.

Keep the fat IN the burger

  • If you’re trying to get the perfect burger, it can be tempting to poke your thermometer in your burger frequently to check it’s temperature.
  • DON’T DO THIS!
    The holes mean more liquid seeps out, and this leaves you vulnerable to smoking. Plus, it dries the burger out.

Keep your burgers cold

  • Keep your burgers in the fridge until you’re ready to put them in the pan. You should never leave them to rest at room temperature.

Put a lid on the pan

  • Put a lid on the pan.
    The evaporating liquid will condense on the lid and fall back into the pan.
    The lid also keeps any smoke you do get in the pan and gives the burger a slightly smoky taste.

Cook the burger in the oven

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F
  • Heat an oven-safe cast-iron skillet over a medium-high heat on your stovetop. Sear the burgers for 2 minutes on each side.
  • Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and cook the burgers for 10-15 minutes, depending on how well done you like them. I go for 12.5 because that means you get the best of both worlds. Still juicy, but you’re definitely not going to get food poisoning.
  • Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and cook the burgers for 10-15 minutes, depending on how well done you like them. I go for 12.5 because that means you get the best of both worlds. Still juicy, but you’re definitely not going to get food poisoning.

Nutrition

Calories: 204kcal
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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