With a bit of experimenting and research, we’ve come up with some great tips for making sous vide burgers. We’re aiming for juicy, great texture and the medium to medium-rare temperature we like. Nailed it!
The taste test included different ways to season the burgers and two different cooking temperatures. We also scanned the best sous vide sites and summarized what you need to know to make a delicious sous vide burger.
The soft texture and pure meaty flavor are the highlights of a sous vide hamburger. Your favorite toppings will elevate it even more.
And if you love sous vide cooking, check out our best sous vide recipes (and tips).
Grilled vs Sous Vide Burgers
There are many sous vide-ers out there who don’t think it’s worth making a sous vide hamburger. They firmly believe that burgers are much better and quicker on the grill or smashed in a skillet.
Quicker? Yes. Better? That’s a matter of personal taste. Give them a try and see where you stand.
Benefits of sous vide hamburgers:
- Doneness: Sous vide burgers are cooked to the exact temperature you like – every time. This does take a bit of trial and error. For example, you will see a pretty large variation for ‘medium rare’ sous vide temperature settings from 124F-135F/51-57.2C on various websites. But when you find the temperature for doneness you like, you can expect 100% consistency from there on.
- Juiciness: You can always count on a juicy, tender burger.
- Make ahead: Freeze a batch of burgers after your sous vide them. Then you just have to warm them and grill or pan fry them for a perfect burger.
- Safety: As long as you are cooking above 130°F/54.5°C, bacteria will be killed and burgers will be perfectly safe to eat – even at medium rare.
- Stress free cooking: You only need 40 minutes for cooking, but there’s a nice long window up to 3 hours where there will be no change to the temperature and texture.
- Appearance: You can still achieve a nice grilled or crusty brown exterior after the sous vide process with a 2 minute grill or pan fry.
- Crowd-friendly: The sous vide method is fantastic for a larger crowd. You can prep the burgers (even at different temperatures) well ahead of time and do the two minute grill part when guests arrive.
- Burgers less than 1 inch/2.5cm thick are not worth doing in the sous vide experts say.
- Sous vide burgers take longer to make than grilled or frying pan burgers. And more steps – sous vide, resting time, grilling time.
- Most agree you should only season the surface of the burger so if insist on a lot of fillers…. Stay tuned on this one.
Expert Tips for Sous Vide Burgers
Anyone who has dabbled with sous vide cooking has undoubtedly crossed paths with Serious Eats (Anova/Food Lab/Chef Kenji) and Chef Steps (Joule). And perhaps Sous Vide Everything (youtube), Amazing Foods and us (!) Two Kooks In The Kitchen.
Here are tips to make a great sous vide hamburger – from these and other sources.
Burger size: for sous vide, it’s best to make burgers that are 6-7 ounces (170-198g) and 1 inch (2.5 cm) or just slightly thicker. As with other cooking methods, there will be some shrinkage with cooking.
Don’t overhandle the patties: When making burgers (and this is true for any burger), don’t over handle and pack the meat. Form the patties as lightly as possible to avoid dense burgers.
Bagging: Interestingly, vacuum sealing a burger is NOT a good idea. It packs the meat too much making the burgers too dense. For sous vide burgers, the displacement method with plastic bags (e.g. zipper lock) is best.
Seasoning: Most experts advise that sous vide burgers should only be seasoned on the outside. Apparently, salt mixed in with the meat draws out moisture, making the burgers drier. I tested the seasoning theory (without salt) – see below.
Fillings: I haven’t tried this, but Sous Vide Everything filled their beef patties with red pepper and mozzarella cheese (use only low moisture). Maybe worth a try?
Timing: Most blogs agree that 40-45 minutes is the minimum time needed for the sous vide cook. One said they cooked the burgers for 3 hours and there was no difference from the 40 minute timing.
Temperature: Surprisingly, there is quite a variation in temperature recommended for the same medium-rare doneness as I mentioned above. I believe the reasons for this variation are:
- what people perceive medium rare looks like, and
- how some chefs taking into account the 10% increase in temperature that will take place in the finishing step (grilling or pan frying) – perhaps this is why they start with a lower temperature.
Rest time: Don’t skip this. Rest your burgers for at least 10 minutes after the sous vide process and before grilling to maintain juiciness.
Achieving a brown crusted surface: The best way to do this is to plunge the cooked sous vide burgers in the bag into ice water (1/2 ice, 1/2 water) for 10 minutes. This cools them down and allows an extra minute or two for searing to get the surface more charred. (I usually don’t bother with the chilling as I don’t find it makes a huge difference to the taste and, of course, the burger goes straight into a bun with toppings, so you don’t see much anyway.)
Tailor To Your Taste
- Most like to keep it simple with salt, pepper and sometimes garlic powder. I also tried Montreal Steak Seasoning which was quite good I thought. Other options are paprika, smoked paprika, onion powder, chili powder, thyme or cumin. Sometimes I slather on spicy BBQ sauce after sous vide and before grilling.
Choose your doneness
- See recipe for temperatures, keeping in mind there is a range and you’ll have to find your own sweet spot
- The list of toppings is no different from regular burgers. A few great options are: tomatoes, shredded lettuce, dice or caramelized onions, cheese, bacon, aioli, horseradish, the usual condiments (ketchup, mayo, mustard, relish), avocado, mango, salsas.
The Taste Test
We tested two temperatures: 134F/56.7C and 138F/58.9C for medium-rarish.
We tried 3 different options (see picture below):
- Surface seasoning only with Montreal Steak Spice (left)
- Surface seasoning with salt, garlic powder and pepper plus 1 tbsp ketchup and a sprinkle of garlic powder and pepper mixed into each burger patty (middle).
- Surface seasoning with Montreal Steak Spice plus 1/2 tbsp ketchup and a sprinkle of garlic powder and pepper mixed into each burger patty (right).
All 3 burgers were cooked at the same 138F/58.9C temperature for the same 1 hour time.
Taste Test Conclusion
I encourage you to do your own experimenting with temperature and seasoning. So much has to do with personal preference.
For me, the perfect temperature is 138F/58.9C if seasoning only on the outside. And 136F/57.8C if using a bit of ketchup or BBQ sauce mixed into the ground beef.
As far as seasoning goes, I recommend fairly aggressive seasoning on the outside before sous vide and re-seasoning before grilling. If you do choose to mix some seasoning into the meat, add no more than 1/2 tbsp ketchup or BBQ sauce per patty and use any dry seasonings you like except salt.
My first choice is #1 (burger on the left) which had the purest beefy flavor – with #3 (burger on the right) as a very close second. The middle #2 burger is not recommended.
You can sous vide the burgers, cool them, then transfer to a sealed container or bag to freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, warm them up from frozen in the sous vide at 125F/51.7C for about an hour. Pat them dry and grill for a minute per side on high.
Sous vide burgers will also be fine in the fridge for several days until you are ready to do the final grill.
How to make sous vide burgers
Sous Vide Burgers
- Sous Vide equipment
- 1 1/4 pounds (570g) lean ground beef
- seasoning: Montreal Steak Spice, Note 1
- buns, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, onions, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, mango, salsas, horseradish
- HEAT SOUS VIDE WATER BATH to:° 134F/56.7C – 136F/57.8C for medium-rare -ish (although some would call this medium). I use 136F-138F. ° 137F/58C-138F/59C for medium° 140F/60C for medium well-ish
- PREPARE HAMBURGER PATTIES: Lightly form 3 patties of about 6-6 1/2 ounces/170-185g each, 1 inch/2.5cm thick. Don't over handle the meat. Season burgers generously on both sides and edges with Montreal Steak Spice (or simply salt, pepper and garlic powder). Place in a large zipper lock bag. Do not vacuum seal the burgers or they will be too packed and dense.
- COOK SOUS VIDE: Place bag with burger patties in water with the displacement method Note 2. Cook for 40-45 minutes up to a maximum of 3 hours.
- REST AND FINISH BURGERS: Remove burgers from water bath and bag. Pat dry well with paper towel. Rest for 10 minutes while you prepare grill of skillet. Sprinkle burgers with salt and pepper. Sear chops on grill or in skillet. To pan sear: Heat a skillet to high (8-9/10). Add a tsp of vegetable or grapeseed oil. Sear burgers for 1 minute per side until browned. To grill: Heat grill to high (~500-550F). Spray burgers with oil. Grill for 1 minute per side and until browned. Add a slice of cheese on second side if you like. Serve in buns with your favorite toppings.
- Seasoning: instead of Montreal Steak Spice, use salt, pepper and garlic powder (or other seasonings you like). Season generously. If desired, you can mix 1 1/2 tbsp ketchup or BBQ sauce (no more than this) into the meat along with a sprinkle of garlic powder and pepper.
- Seal bag with displacement method: Place unzipped bag of burgers into water until top of bag is just above water line. Air will be pushed out. Then zip up bag. Let bag go – it should sink below water line. If bag doesn’t sink, clip to side of container or add a metal spoon in bag.
- Make Ahead
- You can sous vide the burgers, cool them, then transfer to a sealed container or bag to freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, warm them up from frozen in the sous vide at 125F/51.7C for about an hour. Pat them dry and grill for a minute per side on high.
- Sous vide burgers will also be fine in the fridge for several days until you are ready to do the final grill.