whole food ~ well made

seared burger up with pesto

A Pan-Seared Burger on Salt Treats Ground Meat Like Steak

What if you treated a hamburger like a steak? That’s the question that went through my head as I was itching to get grilling but the weather was not cooperating.

Instead, I took a recipe from my own book for a steak seared on salt and applied it to the bulk of defrosted grassfed beef I’d pulled out for dinner the day before.

When you’re pining to get grilling, here’s a great indoor technique for salt-seared seared burgers.

Hot Salt

I’d originally been inspired by playing around with salt block cooking. Salt can withstand temperatures up to 1200 degrees F, so it can’t burn.

And since it has a drying effect of food, it’s a great medium for searing meats to a succulent crust.

raw burger in a cast iron pan ready to cook

It’s a terrific technique to use for steaks, but, I wondered, how would a hamburger fare?

Meat + Salt

Typically, I salt meat cuts in advance–the bigger the cut, the longer in advance.

{In my cooking workshops, I encourage people to be a little more bold with the salt, since most home cooks under-salt their meat. I recommend kosher salt for best control and to sprinkle from 4-6 inches above the meat, not for effect, but for dispersion.}

With this technique, you don’t salt the meat, but the pan!

And there’s no oil involved.

seared burger dinner with salad and sweet potato fries

That’s it: good meat meat + kosher salt + hot pan = a juicy, pink burger with a burnished, lip-smacking crust on the outside.

Preferably, that pan is a cast iron skillet to utilize its heavy-duty heating capacity. {And turn on the exhaust fan, while you’re preheating it.}

Is it salty? In all the right ways because meat loves salt.

And the best meat like this grassfed burger from Bunchgrass Beef needs little more than salt, IMHO.

How to Sear

Searing is a matter of applying intense, steady heat to food with a dry surface and then standing back and waiting. That’s it! {Though if you feel uncertain a digital meat thermometer is reassuring.}

In this case, the heat from the cast iron pan and the hot salt do all the work. You only need to trust the ground beef to cook without getting over-involved.

a bite of burger, salad and sweet potato fries

This can be hard, I know, but nothing beats trying. This salt-seared burger is an ideal way to practice searing (and salt-searing) more expensive cuts of meat.

And you can try it on other ground meats, too, like bison, lamb or turkey.

The perfect bite

Although there’s a time and a place for a burger on a really good bun, this is how I crave a burger when it’s too cold to eat outside… On a plate with pesto over a pile of salad greens with a side of oven fries.

After eating this, I did not miss the grill a whit anymore. Especially once it started snowing again.


and become a forager

Salt-Seared Burger

This recipe is a simple and bold technique to sear a burger on salt. A cast iron pan is best, but any heavy-bottomed skillet will work. Serve it on a bun in the usual way or on a plate with an herb sauce such as pesto, chimichurri or chermoula with sweet potato fries and a salad.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 13 minutes
Servings 3 people
Calories 281kcal
Author Lynne


  • 1 pound ground beef grassfed
  • kosher salt


  • Preheat a cast iron skillet in a 350 degree F oven for 10 to 15 minutes while you form the burger patties. (You can also preheat the skillet on the stove top, but this method heats the pan more evenly.)
  • Place the skillet on the burner over high heat. (The ideal heat setting is hot but not full blast, but depends on the power of your stove. ) Sprinkle the kosher salt to disperse it evenly in the pan. I use 1/4 teaspoon for a single burger but not all of the salt is in contact with the burger (as in the photo). 
  • When the salt makes popping sounds, place the burgers into the salted pan and cook without moving for 3 1/2 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the burgers and cook for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes more for medium rare or a minute or two longer for more done. Serve immediately.


In this recipe, one pound of ground beef yields three 5 1/3-ounce burgers because this is my preferred burger size. You can make the burgers any size and adjust the cooking time accordingly.


Calories: 281kcal

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