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Was my burger precooked?

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escondido123 Aug 7, 2012 10:50 AM

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.

  1. p
    Puffin3 Aug 9, 2012 06:19 AM

    Here's a tip. Order your burger medium rare. If they say they don't take 'special orders' it's because they have all the burgers on the flat top being moved along usually left to right according to their 'doneness'. If the burger is fresh they always have specific areas for each degree of 'doneness'.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Puffin3
      Davwud Aug 9, 2012 08:08 AM

      Ya. Completely untrue.

      Here in Ontario (and I suspect other places) unless you grind your beef in house you aren't allowed to cook to anything less than well done.
      As well, most big chains won't do it because of possible litigation if someone becomes sick.

      DT

      1. re: Puffin3
        tommy Aug 9, 2012 08:09 AM

        Some places that cook to order simply don't accept temperatures. I might not be following but I'm not sure how that proves or disproves that a burger isn't being made to order.

        1. re: Puffin3
          e
          escondido123 Aug 9, 2012 09:33 AM

          Ordering medium rare is one things, getting medium rare is another.

          1. re: Puffin3
            f
            fourunder Aug 9, 2012 03:06 PM

            Your post makes no sense...
            1. the Op already ordered MR....so they do take special orders.
            2. you reason they do cook according to their doneness, so they could accommodate
            3. many places use fresh ground and do not offer each degree of doneness.

          2. c
            cacruden Aug 8, 2012 08:47 AM

            If they have a good turnover on burgers the restaurant could be using predictive methods to start cooking the burgers with the expectation of orders to fill. So as other's have said - verification would be needed.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cacruden
              c
              cgarner Aug 9, 2012 09:39 AM

              this is exactly what I thought when I read the OP, it would also explain why one burger was more done than the other

            2. e
              escondido123 Aug 8, 2012 07:58 AM

              Thanks all, I think I will try to get a glance into the kitchen or next time talk to the owner about how he cooks his burgers...he wasn't around last time.

              1. f
                fourunder Aug 8, 2012 07:45 AM

                As others have noted, unless it's a fast paced restaurant, the burger was most likely not pre-cooked. It doesn't make sense to cook something beforehand, but then again after watching restaurant makeover shows, the decisions made on food quality and spec cooking can be very questionable.

                I suspect the burger was either cooked over a very hot flame grill or on a piece of equipment like a Panini Press......the latter would cook a burger in under 2-3 minutes, depending on size. Either method would get the burgers out in 10 minutes or under with a properly run kitchen and wait staff.

                I would agree with others that most pre-cooked burgers would be well done....and dry.

                1. cowboyardee Aug 8, 2012 06:29 AM

                  Impossible to say just from a description, but if the burger wasn't quite thick, I'd tend to give the restaurant the benefit of the doubt just on the basis that your burger was actually medium rare. It's not impossible to precook burgers to medium rare, but it is more problematic than cooking em to medium or medium well, makes less sense, and it's uncommon. Meanwhile, it's not particularly hard to have a burger cooked and plated in under 10 minutes, nor is it hard for it to be 'missing something' despite being cooked to order (perhaps their beef was low quality and/or frozen for a long time; perhaps they didn't salt it; perhaps the grind was overly fine or the patty overworked; perhaps the fat content was lacking; perhaps they perpetrated some other cooking 'sin' like using a microwave to help it along and just fired it very briefly on a very hot grill or flat top). Impossible to say for sure, but I'd think one or several of the above problems is just more common than a place that precooks to medium rare.

                  1. Melanie Wong Aug 8, 2012 01:59 AM

                    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.

                    1. scubadoo97 Aug 7, 2012 05:31 PM

                      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
                        e
                        escondido123 Aug 7, 2012 05:46 PM

                        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
                          d
                          d8200 Aug 7, 2012 06:20 PM

                          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
                            e
                            escondido123 Aug 7, 2012 06:33 PM

                            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
                              s
                              seamunky Aug 8, 2012 12:13 AM

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

                        2. re: scubadoo97
                          bagelman01 Aug 8, 2012 07:27 AM

                          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. bagelman01 Aug 7, 2012 01:54 PM

                          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
                            Will Owen Aug 7, 2012 02:07 PM

                            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
                              bagelman01 Aug 7, 2012 02:36 PM

                              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
                                coll Aug 7, 2012 05:36 PM

                                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
                                  Davwud Aug 8, 2012 04:23 AM

                                  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
                                    c
                                    Clams047 Aug 8, 2012 06:33 AM

                                    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
                                    RealMenJulienne Aug 8, 2012 06:54 AM

                                    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
                                      bagelman01 Aug 8, 2012 07:23 AM

                                      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
                                        coll Aug 8, 2012 08:07 AM

                                        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
                                      c
                                      cresyd Aug 8, 2012 12:39 AM

                                      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
                                        Davwud Aug 8, 2012 04:24 AM

                                        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
                                          Samalicious Aug 8, 2012 06:58 AM

                                          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
                                            Mutch2Do Aug 8, 2012 06:53 PM

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

                                            1. re: Samalicious
                                              d
                                              d8200 Aug 8, 2012 10:02 PM

                                              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
                                              bagelman01 Aug 8, 2012 07:25 AM

                                              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
                                                tommy Aug 8, 2012 07:54 AM

                                                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
                                                  bagelman01 Aug 8, 2012 08:50 AM

                                                  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
                                                    tommy Aug 8, 2012 09:04 AM

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

                                              2. re: cresyd
                                                dave_c Aug 8, 2012 11:34 AM

                                                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. b
                                          Bkeats Aug 7, 2012 01:04 PM

                                          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
                                            e
                                            escondido123 Aug 7, 2012 02:57 PM

                                            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
                                              fldhkybnva Aug 8, 2012 07:32 AM

                                              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
                                                e
                                                escondido123 Aug 8, 2012 07:55 AM

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

                                          2. j
                                            joonjoon Aug 7, 2012 01:03 PM

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

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: joonjoon
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                                              escondido123 Aug 7, 2012 02:55 PM

                                              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
                                                tommy Aug 8, 2012 05:56 AM

                                                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
                                                  e
                                                  escondido123 Aug 8, 2012 07:54 AM

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

                                                  1. re: escondido123
                                                    tommy Aug 8, 2012 08:20 AM

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

                                              2. re: joonjoon
                                                ipsedixit Aug 8, 2012 07:55 AM

                                                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
                                                  e
                                                  escondido123 Aug 8, 2012 09:25 AM

                                                  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
                                                    ipsedixit Aug 9, 2012 08:12 AM

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

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