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Was my burger precooked?

Ordered two medium rare cheeseburgers with fries at a local restaurant. We were served in less than 10 minutes. The cheese was melted, the burger had those fat grill marks and a smoky taste, but one was medium, the other medium rare. Everything came so fast I just have the feeling they were pre-cooked because it was missing that "fresh" flavor. What are the signs of a precooked burger since I can't find my way into their kitchen.

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  1. why does it matter? If you enjoyed it, go back. If you didn't, go elsewhere.

    7 Replies
    1. re: joonjoon

      I found the burger ok but something was missing and I'm trying to figure out what made the difference. I'm going to be doing reviews on my blog so wanted to get a handle on this. I consider issues like this very Chowhound.

      1. re: escondido123

        I'd be very careful of making the claim of "pre-cooked" burgers in your "review" on your blog. Unless you have verification from the restaurant, it's not fair, or helpful.

        1. re: tommy

          Since the restaurant will not be named fair or helpful doesn't really play a part.

          1. re: escondido123

            Oh. I thought you were going to review the restaurant.

      2. re: joonjoon

        I echo joonjoon's sentiment.

        Did it taste good? If so, who really cares whether it was "precooked" (and what exactly constitutes "precooked" anyway?).

        1. re: ipsedixit

          It was ok, not great. I was just trying to figure out how it was done. Don't see what's wrong with asking the question.

          1. re: escondido123

            It's the way you asked the question (e.g., "missing that 'fresh' flavor"), that gave it a negative connotation.

      3. I wouldn't say that your burgers were pre-cooked. You say that they were medium/medium rare. I think if they were pre-cooked, they would have been well done. If you pre-cooked brugers and then let them cool and then re-heated, by the time they got hot again, they would have been cooked all the way through to dry and probably mealy. If I'm cooking a rare burger, I probably don't do more than 3-4 minutes a side max so getting them in 10 minutes would be just about right in terms of time.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Bkeats

          I saw a show recently where the chef precooked a bunch of burgers and set them aside for final firing. Whoever was watching over him said "Hey, we don't precook our burgers" and he had to start over.

          1. re: escondido123

            I also saw this recently, on Anne Burrell's new show on Food Network in which there is a competition among 4 chefs to be the new chef at different restaurant each week.

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              That's where I saw it. Thanks for jogging my memory.

        2. They might not have been precooked, BUT have been PRE-COOKING. During lunch rush, it is not unusaul for some restaurants to have burgers and franks on the grill cooking and ready for service quickly.

          The Wendy's hamburg Chain started with this model and developed their Chili as a way to use burgers that had sat on the flattop beyond the freshness time. They did not use holding drawers as does McDs and BK.

          18 Replies
          1. re: bagelman01

            That would explain much of their quick popularity. I remember this old coot I worked with going on about how this new Wendy's place had burgers that tasted really fresh, just like homemade. I had my doubts but gave them a try one day, and found that mine was well above average for fast food, if not quite equal to a good flat-grilled restaurant burger. Interesting about the chili, too!

            1. re: Will Owen

              Although this is not a 'Chains' discussion..............

              McDs>>precooks and holds in warming drawers
              BK>>precooks, holds in warming drawers, dresses bun and Mircowaves the burger
              5Guys, places raw burger on the flattop after an order is placed. They are forbidden by franchise agreement to have any burgers precooking, allowing up to 10 minutes as acceptable time from order to delivery.

              1. re: bagelman01

                Actually I believe McDs and BK buy their burgers already precooked, probably for litagation reasons if nothing else. BK I know for sure their Angus is, it comes complete with grill marks. They taste OK for what they are. I've bought them wholesale for home in the winter, and got no complaints. They would never be rare or medium rare though.

                1. re: coll

                  I worked at BK in the 80's and burgers came raw and frozen. They were then placed on a conveyor belt. Then held in a steam tray until finishing and nuculating.

                  I don't think McD's burgers come cooked. I believe I've seen pink meat being put on the griddle.

                  DT

                  1. re: Davwud

                    Does BK still microwave their precooked burgers as they did in years past? I was always amused at their ads vs. McDonalds "fried" burgers. Granted, BK was using a flame-broil method, but then they were typically held aside & later microwaved upon order.

                  2. re: coll

                    Mcdonalds patties are not precooked. When I worked there the early 2000s they came pink and frozen in a box clearly labeled "raw". The were cooked in a big George Foreman-like press and sometimes held in a plastic steam tray if we had an overrun.

                    1. re: coll

                      Youngest daughter's Boyfriend works at McDs (his family owns 12 of them). He confirmed that the burger come in raw and are cooked in the store. There is a discussion of the cooking method in a current thread on Chains Board.

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        OK then it's just Burger King. I'm going to say they were introduced between five and 10 years ago? Like I said, I've made them at home and they're pretty good. Now I'm talking about precooked at the factory, not at the restaurant. A lot of bars and that type of place also use them. They really do taste grilled/smoky.

                    2. re: bagelman01

                      Regarding 5 Guys (and this is based on one of those Food Network 'how is this made' shows) - I was under the impression that when people enter the store (not place their order), that's when they put the raw burger on the flattop. Either way, the way they made it sound was clear that it wasn't a case of "pre-cooked", but more along the lines of "pre-cooking". Because one person could come and just order fries/soda and another person could end up ordering 10 burgers. Still, a degree of 'pre-cooking' appeared to be happening.

                      1. re: cresyd

                        That's not how I've seen it. So two people walk in, two burgers are put on the flat top. What if neither orders a burger??

                        DT

                        1. re: cresyd

                          Nope, they wait until you place your order and then the cashier screams "TWO PATTIES!" right in your face and makes you drop your wallet. Then the grill guy screams something back and they starting cooking then.

                          1. re: Samalicious

                            CanNOT stop laughing at the image this puts in my head!! Nicely played...

                            1. re: Samalicious

                              Now I'm thinking of the classic SNL skit with Belushi shouting "cheezborgor cheezborgor!" and Dan Akroyd is behind him repeating the tickets and slapping patties on the flat top.

                            2. re: cresyd

                              NO. It happens that I have the 5Guys training video and this is NOT allowed. as a cashier takes an order, he/she calls out the number of patties needed to complete the order even before finishing ringing the sale.

                              1. re: bagelman01

                                Unfortunately I have received a precooked burger at Five Guys. Given that I've only been a handful of times, it seems that it can happen. Whether it's supposed to or not is a different story.

                                1. re: tommy

                                  5Guys locations are shopped 4-6 times per week during lunch, dinner and late nite (45 minutes before closing) and one of the questions on the questionaire is whethher the shopper observed any burgers either precooked being held on the grill, or being started cooking ahead of an order being placed (shoppers are shown the training video). If a shopper reports such a franchise non-compliance that offending employee will be out of work pronto, the manager reprimanded, and the franchise put at jeopardy.
                                  5Guys corporate is very serious about this.

                                  (Disclosure: I trained mystery shoppers for the previous company that shopped 5Guys in New England, not the current shopping company).

                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                    I don't doubt that. But the fact remains.

                              2. re: cresyd

                                A couple 5 Guys opened up locally. From what I've seen in my visits is that burgers are dropped when ordered.

                                My issue is that they were crowded and the grill was packed with burgers. The burger came out tasting like steamed meat versus grilled/fried.

                        2. How thick were they? It's pretty easy to cook a burger to med/rare in less than 10 min.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            Well I figure 3 minutes to get order to the kitchen and back out and it was less than 10 minutes and one was medium and other medium rare. Never had a burger from a restaurant quite like it with no crust on the outside just wide grill marks and very smokey. Just odd to me.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              If the burgers were two different temperatures I would say that were not precooked. However, in a busy kitchen it's not uncommon for cooks to save "mistakes" and serve them on a different ticket. Maybe the grill had a hot, or cold, spot so two burgers placed at the same time would cook differently. Maybe they forgot to place TWO burgers on the grill and started one a couple of minutes after the other. If this restaurant sells a lot of burgers, they might load up the grill with patties, and serve them as needed. An experienced cook would have a good idea how many mid-rare, medium, well-done (etc.) burgers they sell in a given timeframe and might start a few ahead of time. There are lots of variables to consider with restaurant kitchens.

                              Also, as someone stated, it's not uncommon for fast food or low-end places to buy product with fake grill marks stamped on them. Burger patties and chicken breasts are big culprits for this trick.

                              1. re: d8200

                                I just couldn't figure out how you'd get dark grill marks yet the rest of the surface was grey not browned. Thanks for the explanation.

                                1. re: escondido123

                                  ooh, grey burger patties with dark grill marks and strong smokey taste. exactly what my school cafeteria served!

                            2. re: scubadoo97

                              It's not about individual cooking time, but the corporate acceptable time for cooking and assembly and serving many orders during a meal period. The average order includes custom ordered toppings and fries.

                            3. A freshly cooked burger that's medium rare will still have juices flowing when served and the aromatics of searing meat are still present. A pre-cooked, reheated burger does not. It's easy to see when you cut it in half.

                              On the other hand, the few times I've tried to order a medium-rare burger at a place that pre-cooks before a busy lunch hour, the server has told me that medium-rare is not possible with the confession that the patties are pre-cooked.