How to Know if the Burger Patty Is Cooked?

Burger is arguably the most popular fast food around the world. It can be found in almost any corner of the world and everyone is familiar with it. Cooking a burger is relatively easy which has played a large part in making burgers such a worldwide known food item.

Cooking a burger patty can seem relatively simple as you only need to prepare the ground meat, shape it into patties, and cook it on the grill or a pan but it can also be sometimes difficult to cook the patties properly.

Burger patties only get flipped once and flipping more than that can ruin the flavor of the burger. This makes the task of knowing when to flip the burger very important as you will not get a second chance to fix things. So, you need to be certain that the patty is cooked on one side before flipping it.

This is not only important to ensure taste but also to make sure that no harmful microbes stay in the meat that can cause serious illness. The methods of making sure that the burger is properly cooked are described below in great detail so read along to cook the perfect burger every time.

How to Know if the Burger Patty Is Cooked? 3 Signs

There are three main signs to know that your burger patty has been cooked and needs to be taken off the grill or skillet which are temperature, color, and firmness. The temperature of the meat, especially the temperature of the middle part, is the most determining factor of your burger patties’ doneness.

Other factors such as color and firmness can be used as an indication to know if the burger patty has been cooked as well. Oftentimes, you might not have a thermometer with you while cooking the burger so these signs can be taken into account.

The methods to understand the condition of your burger patty based on these signs are discussed below in detail.


The most useful method of understanding whether your burger patty is properly cooked or not is to measure the temperature of the patty. Instant-read thermometers are the best for this task as the needle can get deep inside the center of the beef patty.

Insert the needle of the thermometer through the side of the patty and push it at least 2-3 inches inside it. Then you can take the reading of the thermometer to get an idea of the level of doneness of your burger patty. I suggest spending a few bucks to buy a kitchen thermometer that will come in handy for various cooking.

Here is a table showing the level of doneness of the burger patties relative to the internal temperature.

Temperature in FarenhiteTemperature in celciusLevel of doneness

USDA recommends cooking burger patties until the internal temperature registers at 160 F or 71 C which makes the burger well-done. This ensures that no harmful microbes survive the cooking process.


You can tell the level of doneness of a burger patty based on the internal color of the patty and the color of the juice that comes out when you pinch it. Cutting a burger patty lengthwise is a good method to understand the level of doneness of the burger but you can only apply this method if you are cooking multiple burgers.

Color can be deceiving sometimes but usually, when the inside of the burger is not pink anymore, it is an indication that the burger is done cooking.

The color of the juice that runs from the burger is also another indication of the burger patty being done cooking. Take your thumb and index finger to pinch the burger patty or use a spatula to poke it. I use the spatula because using my fingers sometimes burns the tip of the fingers. Notice the color of the juice that comes out from the burger.

The levels of doneness relative to the color of the juice that comes from the patties are shown in the table below.

Color of the juiceLevel of doneness
RedRaw to rare
Pale pinkMedium-rare to medium
ClearMedium-well to well-done


You can also tell the level of doneness based on how the burger feels. You can press down with your spatula to feel the firmness of the burger patties to see how they feel. 

The general rule is that the burger patty gets firmer as it cooks. I suggest that you familiarize yourself with this method because oftentimes, you will not have any thermometer nearby to take measurements.

Here is a chart showing the level of doneness relative to the firmness of the burger patties.

FirmnessLevel of doneness
Feels very soft and coldExtra rare
Slightly springy centerRare
Slightly firmMedium rare
Firm and springyMedium-well
Fully firm and cooked throughWell-done

How to Tell if a Burger Is Cooked Without a Thermometer?

You can check the level of firmness of the burger patties, the color of the exterior and interior of the patties, and the color of the juice that comes out from the burger patties when slightly poked to get an idea about the level of doneness of the burger patties.

I usually slightly poke the burger patties with my spatula to see the color of the juice that comes out to determine the level of doneness of my burger patties.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Slightly Undercooked Burger Okay?

No, a slightly undercooked burger is not okay to eat. Undercooked or raw meat consumption can lead to harmful microbes like E. coli infesting our bodies and resulting in severe illnesses.

I would always suggest that you follow USDA’s guidelines and cook the meat until the temperature in the middle registers at 160 F.

How Long Does It Take to Cook a Burger?

How long it will take you to cook a burger will depend on the level of doneness you want it to reach. Grill burger patties for 2½ minutes to 3 minutes per side for medium-rare burgers, 3½ to 4 minutes per side for medium, and 4½ to 5 minutes per side for well-done burgers. I usually cook for about 3 to 3 ½ minutes on each side on medium-high heat.

Is It Safe to Eat a Burger That Is Pink in the Middle?

It is safe to eat a burger that is pink in the middle only if you check the temperature with a thermometer and it registers 160 F or 71 C.

Sometimes beef can remain a little pinkish in the middle even after getting thoroughly cooked. So you can safely eat the burger if the middle is pink only when you are sure that the patty is properly cooked through and through.

At What Temperature Should I Cook My Burger?

Burger needs to be cooked at medium-high to high heat, between 350-400 F or 176-204 C.

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