When cooking burgers for a large group, it's possible to keep them warm until they're all ready. Allowing them to cool makes them less appetizing and, more importantly, poses the danger of foodborne illness.
After cooking hamburgers, you can keep them warm in an oven preheated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. An alternative method involves putting them on a warming tray.
Hamburger Patties for a Crowd
In an interview with LIVESTRONG.com, Bonnie Balk, R.D. of Maple Holistics, discusses safety precautions involved in grilling hamburger patties for a crowd. She emphasizes that proper handling is the key to ensuring burgers are tasty and safe.
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First, cook hamburgers until their internal temperature is high enough to destroy harmful bacteria. Balk notes, "A food thermometer is a helpful way to ensure that the inside temperature is 160 F. (For turkey burgers, the safe temperature is 165 F.) Rule of the grill: Never partially-grill meat or poultry."
She gives several suggestions for keeping burgers warm. "When your burgers are done grilling, make sure to keep them warm, at 140 F or higher, until you're ready for chow time. Place cooked meats on the side of the grill rack, but avoid putting them over the coals where they can overcook. Alternative methods consist of either placing your cooked burgers in an oven set at 200 F, or on a warming tray."
Meat Slow-Cooking Safety
When cooking meat in a slow cooker, Balk warns that the meat should be completely thawed before starting. "If you can, preheat the cooker with hot liquids, as this will bring it to high temperatures and will reduce the time needed for your food to be in the danger zone of 40 to 140 F," she adds. Don't use the "warm" setting for cooking, because it's strictly for maintaining heat after food is cooked.
As in grilling, use a thermometer to make sure the meat reaches the proper internal temperature. You can keep it warm in the slow cooker, as long as the appliance's temperature is higher than 140 F.
"Once the food is cooked, do not leave it in the slow cooker to cool down, because you're welcoming bacteria to grow. When reheating food, the slow cooker is not your utensil: A stove top is more ideal," Balk advises.
Read more: How to Reheat Hamburgers
Leftover Burger Safety Tips
Cooking destroys the parasites and bacteria like Salmonella and Escherichia coli contained in red meat, but food can become contaminated again if not stored correctly, cautions FoodSafety.gov. Because of the potential for a foodborne illness, after your crowd has devoured their burgers, continue using safe practices in storing leftovers.
Contrary to a popular myth, you don't need to allow food to cool before putting it in the refrigerator. In fact, the reverse is true. Within 2 hours of preparation, place perishable food in a refrigerator set at 40 F or cooler, advocates Washington State Department of Health. If you forget, and leave food out past this time, throw it out. In cases where the outside temperature is hotter than 90 F, discard food after 1 hour.
According to the USDA, when following the above admonition, leftover burgers will stay good in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days. If you choose to freeze the leftovers, they'll keep up to 4 months. These safety guidelines apply whether the burgers are cooked in the oven or on the grill.