How to Hold Hamburgers in a Steam Tray


Hamburgers must be kept hot -- at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit -- until eaten in order to prevent bacterial growth that can cause food-borne illness. If you can't serve hamburgers fresh off the grill or pan, a steam table works to maintain a safe temperature. Hamburgers should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 160 F, higher than beef steaks and roasts because the meat is ground and potentially comes in contact with more contaminants. The biggest disadvantage of steam tables is they tend to dry out hamburgers if stored there long-term.

Things You'll Need

  • Steam table
  • Hot water
  • Instant-read meat thermometer
  • Beef broth (optional)
  • Preheat the steam table to about 165 F, ensuring it is hot enough to keep all the food at a minimum temperature of 140 F. Fill the steam table with hot water so it takes less time to reach the set temperature.

  • Cook the hamburgers until each one reads 160 F with an instant-read meat thermometer. If the hamburgers were pre-cooked, reheat them to a minimum of 165 F. You cannot rely on the steam table to reheat hamburgers; the hamburgers should be reheated quickly and the steam table only used to maintain temperature.

  • Place the hamburgers in the steam table pan immediately after cooking or reheating.

  • Add hot beef broth -- at least 165 F -- to the bottom of the pan with the hamburgers, if desired. The liquid broth helps keep the burgers moist and adds flavor.

  • Place a lid over the hamburger tray to keep steam contained around the burgers. This prevents the juices in the hamburgers from evaporating and instead uses the resulting steam to keep the meat moist.

Tips & Warnings

  • While a steam table works to keep hamburgers hot, the burgers still taste best when eaten as soon after cooking as possible. Try to time your cooking so the hamburgers rest in the steam table for as little time as possible.
  • Do not add cheese to the hamburgers while they are in the steam table because it will melt and fall off the meat.

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