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Were my hamburgers "fried"?

I made hamburgers last night on our handy cast iron skillet, no fat or any oil added--naked. They were delicious and my SO loved them. Since she's always on a diet though, she said she couldn't eat them again like that because they were "fried". Argument ensued about whether they were fried or not. She says yes; I say no.

I suppose I could have broiled them instead, but I didn't.

Question is: Were they fried?

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  1. Yes, but the SO's argument as to why she can't eat them makes very little sense.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Erich

      Agreed the argument makes no sense. Technically you probably "pan-fried" them (as opposed to deep-fry), which is similar to saute except you don't turn them as much. Though you could argue that since you didn't "add" fat that it doesn't fit into either of these techniques. . . . semantics really . . .

      From a diet standpoint it wouldn't change the calories really if you did it this way, broiled, or even grilled really.

    2. I think technically, yes. But to the extent that frying often implies cooking in oil, no.

      But I get your distinction - the result was different from what you would have gotten if you'd fried them in a regular pan with some oil...

      She probably owns a George Foreman grill.

      1 Reply
      1. re: inaplasticcup

        +1 on your opinion.

        Putting them in a pan without oil will render the fat out of them. Depending upon how much fat they had to begin with, they were either cooking in a lot of their own fat, or a negligible amount. I wouldn't call them fried. What you did is exactly what a restaurant does on their griddle.

        Frying, to me, means that you pour cooking oil, or use solid cooking fat, into the pan and the food cooks by mostly by contact with the oil, not the bottom of the pan.

        Do you own a grill pan with ridges? That may be the key to solving your problem. As for the GF grill, I stopped using mine when the burgers started tasting like they were steamed.

        Consider also telling your SO that lean meats, such as those with 7% or less fat, are way ahead of the 80-20 or 75-25 stuff you find in restaurants and in the bargain meatcases.

        I think this is more of a perception issue than a real complaint.

      2. yep, they were fried...or maybe you call it an extended saute

        1. I think the term is "pan broiled".

          1 Reply
          1. re: Big Easy

            Yes, that is exactly the term. Frying requires extra fat. Dropping meat into a hot dry skillet is not frying. The sole exception is something like bacon, which throws off so much fat that if it's not constantly drained it does fry. Perhaps if your burger patties were fatty enough - I know the ground beef we had 50+ years ago often was! - you'd need to drain off the excess to keep them from frying, but at our current levels of 15-20% fat, and just two patties, you are definitely pan-broiling.

          2. I think there's two issues here, one of terminology, and one of health and diet.

            Terminology is debatable - an egg cooked this way is a "fried" egg, but butter is added. I wonder if the burger would be considered "fried" if you put it under the broiler in the cast iron skillet? The end result would be the same, fat-content wise. Alternately, cooking in a grill-pan on the stovetop, is this grilled? Fried?

            My two cents - not based on significant research, mind you - is that if you are going to eat a beef hamburger, you should eat it however you enjoy it best, because the health differences are going to be negligible between cooking methods. Even a steamed patty is still going to be a hunk of beef. Sure, don't wrap it in bacon, don't batter it and deep fry it, but the differences between a skillet and a broiler and a grill just aren't significant enough to worry about. If you are on a diet, limit hamburger intake, period. Maybe you two could agree to making them once a month, and not worrying about the cooking method.

            1. All great, thoughtful and knowledgeable responses. Thanks.

              I'm going to have her read your responses, then she can decide.

              1. It was definitely not fried. Frying indicates it was cooked in fat, either fully submerged - deep fried, or partially submerged - pan fried.

                If anything it was griddled. Since no fat was added, there should be no caloric difference between using a cast iron skillet with no added fat vs. broiled vs. grilled

                4 Replies
                1. re: ESNY

                  "It's not FRIED. It's GRIDDLED. Now shut your lowfat burger hole and eat."

                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                    That's exactly what I was thinking.

                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                        yep. There's that.

                        Actually, I think my response would be "tell you what. Since I'm obviously not qualified to maneuver through the jungle of your complicated silly-ass semantics, here's a pound of hamburger and a skillet -- the stove is over there. Knock yourself out, babe."

                    1. Words like "fried" can mean different things in different situations. For example, a "fried chicken" is understood to be deep fried, where as a "fried egg" is understood to be cooked in a little bit of fat in a pan. In this case the proper terminology for what you made would be called a "griddled" burger - there's really no such thing as a "fried burger" afaik. Try going to a restaurant and ordering a "fried burger" and you'll probably be met with some extreme confusion.

                      As for her saying she can't eat them that way again...well that's just plain silly and makes absolutely no sense considering you didn't add any oil to your burger. I would simply ask her how she would like them cooked in the future. Or make her some boiled turkey burgers.

                      6 Replies
                        1. re: joonjoon

                          No! not all fried chicken is deep fried. The best fried chicken in the world, Stroud's, pan fries their chicken. :)

                          1. re: bbqboy

                            I didn't say all fried chicken is deep fried, just that the term "fried chicken" is understood to be deep fried by default. Places that shallow/pan fry their chicken will usually specify this.

                            1. re: joonjoon

                              hmmm. I've never understood that to be the case, but I'll accept your belief.
                              Maybe a new thread is in order. :)

                            2. re: bbqboy

                              Even pan fried chicken has a significant amount of cooking in the pan when cooking. The burger the OP described is not even remotely in the same category as pan fried chicken.

                              1. re: RGC1982

                                Agreed, but I was just interested in joonjoon's belief.
                                I started a new thread:

                          2. Frying is cooking in hot fat. Pan frying is frying in a flat pan. You did not add fat, but the beef has fat in it that will come out into the pan as it heats up. IMO that is frying.

                            But putting the label aside, a better discussion is the nutrition and healthiness of the burger and more importantly the entire meal. Using low or moderately fat ground beef, how much difference will there be in the fat content of the meal comparing broiled, grilled, pan fried with no added oil and pan fried with a bit of added oil to prevent sticking and assist browning?

                            If the burgers were that delicious, consider cutting down the size of them by 1 ounce which would compensate for the extra fat from frying vs. other cooking methods.

                            19 Replies
                            1. re: BruceMcK

                              By your reasoning, liquids other than fat also come out into the pan as the burger heats up, so I guess in addition to frying, the OP also boiled the burger

                              1. re: ESNY

                                Boiling is cooking food in boiling water. The water in the burger comes out as steam and evaporates (although if a lid was on the pan and there was enough moisture it could be considered steaming).

                                Some of the fat from the burger will run down to the pan surface, which creates an environment that I consider to be pan frying.

                                1. re: BruceMcK

                                  Not only is this line of reasoning ridiculous, it's factually incorrect. Moisture from the burger needs to get to the boiling point in order to steam and evaporate. That kind of temperature will only be achieved at the bottom of the pan, so yes, the burger is being boiled, steamed and fried at the same time. That sizzle you hear is steam, after all. By correctly following your line of reasoning a burger cooked this way would be steam-fried. This is all quite silly - I mean, it's not like a burger cooked on a grill is "grill fried." Or a broiled burger "broiler fried." Where do you draw the line? Is a marinara sauce fried? A stew? They all spend time in a pan with oil.

                                  1. re: joonjoon

                                    So when you cook bacon in a cast iron skillet on top of your stove...what are you doing??

                                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                                        In the parts I'm from it's generally either called cooking or sometimes frying or griddling. See my post above - depending on the dish, we use different words to describe the same cooking process. ie, fried chicken does not use the same cooking technique as fried egg or fried bacon.

                                        But all of that aside, "fried burger" is just not a term that's commonly used so it's almost meaningless. If you try a google search for "fried burger" - the majority of resulting entries are "deep fried burger".

                                        1. re: joonjoon

                                          "In the parts I'm from it's generally either called cooking or sometimes frying or griddling"


                                          In the parts I'm from and have traveled to.. it's called *frying* bacon...or sometimes cooking bacon when/where it is generally/commonly understood you will be *frying* the bacon....I've never seen "griddled " bacon on a menu...even in places where it is cooked/fried right before your eyes on a flat top!

                                          22But all of that aside, "fried burger" is just not a term that's commonly used so it's almost meaningless"


                                          Not commonly used & Meaningless in the parts you're from... and to you personally maybe...but not to everyone nor everywhere.


                                          1. re: Uncle Bob

                                            Now I'll really release a fly into the ointment -- my bacon isn't EVER cooked in a skillet on top of the stove, thus it's not fried, griddled, or sauteed.

                                            it's laid out on a rack on a cookie sheet (lined with foil for easy cleanup), then blanketed with a piece of parchment, and BAKED.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              Maybe DP should start baking his burgers... ^-

                                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                "Maybe DP should start baking his burgers..."
                                                Would baking be a good way to cook burgers? I would not expect to get a nicely browned exterior by the time the inside is cooked through. Sometimes I will pan sear a burger or steak to brown it then finish it in the oven, especially for thick ones. It gives a nicely cooked interior without the risk of overcooking the outside that sometimes happens with a big burger or steak when pan frying.

                                                1. re: BruceMcK

                                                  I would think a good initial sear at broil or near-broil temps would be a good idea before baking.

                                                  But then again, if you put them under the broiler, they'd be broiled and not baked, right? Oh, the semantics of burger cookery...

                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                Very common procedure in some large volume establishments...and homes.
                                                Good eats all!!

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  "laid out on a rack on a cookie sheet (lined with foil for easy cleanup), then blanketed with a piece of parchment, and BAKED"

                                                  now that is a good way to cook bacon :)

                                          2. re: joonjoon

                                            I was going to say ridiculous too, and even contemplated asking the OP if their SO was worth this kind of aggravation, but decided that it was out of line. I guess I am sensitive to "frying" accusations due to my years spent listening to my overweight MIL, who looked down her nose at some of my cooking for years while declaring "WE don't FRY." Yes, that was true, but the rest of her eating habits were far worse than what a little fried chicken cutlet might have done for her general health. She even purchased fried chicken every other week, yet still had the gaul to try to put on the "holier than thou" act for me in my kitchen. So, you see, this is really MY mental problem, and I am just over-sensitive to it.

                                            Now to be fair, many diets require that the food be grilled, or else the points/calories/exchanges are way out of whack. This is why I suggested the stove top grill pan as a compromise. All of the fat would run off to the sides.

                                            1. re: RGC1982

                                              Sounds like the SO needs some education on food science which would go along way in terms of healthy eating and enjoyment.

                                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                                Perhaps SO needs some education regarding the fact that a "skillet" isn't a "frying pan." Perhaps OP needs a new SO. Like the OP whose husband hated the smell of bacon cooking. Most agreed: ditch the husband, keep the bacon :)

                                            2. re: joonjoon

                                              "Not only is this line of reasoning ridiculous, it's factually incorrect."

                                              Wow. That’s harsh. I thought that we could discuss things on this board without calling peoples’ ideas ridiculous, and without stating that things are factually incorrect without providing a reference.

                                              The definitions I gave are commonly found in dictionaries, cookbooks and in food media. Some people on this thread agree, some disagree, and I can accept that without calling their line of reasoning ridiculous.

                                              To respond to your specific comments and questions: Grills and broiler pans usually have slots or grates to allow the fat to drip or burn off, so the meat does not sit in fat that either rendered out of it or was added to the pan. Because of that I would not call a grilled burger “grill fried” and I would not call a broiled burger “broil fried”. Oil may be added as an ingredient to a sauce or stew, but they are not cooked on or in oil and it is not used to aid in heat transfer or browning. I consider the normal cooking method for sauces and stews to be simmering and stewing. Oil may be added at the start to aid in sweating or browning some of the ingredients, but that does not mean the entire dish is fried.

                                          3. re: ESNY

                                            so maybe he braised the burger - such a silly semantic argument for such a ridiculous initial complaint . . . . but still kind of fun in the "food geek" sense

                                        2. If she's really looking to cut out fat, she shouldn't have eaten the burger at all, even if you'd boiled it instead of griddling it. Most of the fat from a burger is already in the meat.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. I totally don't mean to be an ass at all, but does it really matter if you/ she liked it? The reason I ask is b/c we JUST got a cast iron skillet from The Foundary on a great sale a few weeks ago and we are loving using it for all sorts of things I never really imagined. It's been fun doing stuff "stove-top", esp in this hot weather when it didn't warrant getting the grill going.

                                            1. I don't understand her concern about fried without oil.

                                              Technically the burgers were pan-fried (fried).

                                              However, you did not add oil so any oil that remained in the pan came out of the burgers.

                                              If she's worried about extra fat from the grease sticking to the burger, that's a little too extreme in my opinion. An alternative would be to broil or grill them where the oil drips off and away from the meat.

                                              nother alternative is to skip the cheese and not use mayo.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: dave_c

                                                I personally am not a fat or calorie counter, but in defense of the OP's SO, it is not uncommon for people who are trying to lose weight to try to avoid fat as much as possible. It's by no means scientific, and it is a bit misguided, but there's a very simple logic to the dieter's thought process - fat in my food must necessarily result in fat on my body.

                                                I personally think it's better to eat the burger just as you like it, and balance out the rest of the day's or week's meals accordingly with lighter fare. But we Americans seem to have a hard time approaching things with a sense of balance sometimes...

                                              2. Yes, you fried it.
                                                But in my mind, it is the best way to do a hamburger.
                                                Many will disagree. That's ok.