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HomePhysicsFor the Greatest Burger, A Quadruple Flip

For the Greatest Burger, A Quadruple Flip

• Physics 15, 123

A brand new mathematical mannequin predicts when and the way typically to flip meals on the grill to make sure it’s cooked to perfection within the shortest time potential.


A simplified mannequin means that flipping a burger 4 instances is probably the most environment friendly route to completely cooked perfection.

On the subject of burgers, Jean-Luc Thiffeault likes his uncommon. The mathematician from the College of Wisconsin-Madison, who places his style desire right down to his French-Canadian ancestry, has now derived a mannequin that may decide when and the way typically to flip a burger on a grill to prepare dinner it to your liking as shortly as potential [1]. He notes that the mannequin will seemingly attraction extra to teachers than to skilled cooks as a result of it treats the burger as a easy uniform slab. However, he says, it has benefits over fashions that contemplate extra reasonable burgers as a result of it doesn’t require a supercomputer to carry out the calculations. “It won’t give precise cooking instances, however it nonetheless offers some perception into the cooking course of.”

Thiffeault’s research entails a mathematical “burger” whose properties can readily be analyzed. He assumes that the mannequin’s patty has a homogeneous, stable construction and symmetric thermal properties: no matter which facet lays on the grill, warmth strikes upward via all components of the 2-cm-thick burger on the similar pace. He locations the room-temperature burger (25 °C) on a flat floor that has a uniform temperature of 200 °C. Using warmth switch equations, he then makes use of the mannequin to calculate the optimum variety of flips and time intervals between flips to make sure that the burger is cooked via within the shortest time potential—which for this research was each level contained in the burger reaching a temperature of 70 °C. (This temperature would offer you a well-done patty, for a rarer patty the aim could be nearer to 50 °C.)

Thiffeault notes that temperature-related optimization issues sometimes concern themselves with an object’s temperature at some particular time. In distinction, his burger-cooking one pays consideration to the temperature historical past of each level within the slab. Requiring that every level in a slab has sooner or later reached a sure temperature could be very totally different from requiring that each level concurrently be above that threshold, he says. “In case you required that, it will be not possible to prepare dinner a burger on a grill.”

Within the mannequin, cooking a burger with out flipping it takes an infinitely very long time. Including in a flip permits the patty’s prime floor to begin warming, bringing the overall cooking time to an inexpensive, finite worth. Thiffeault finds that cooking time quickly decreases with every further flip of the burger up till 4 flips. After that, including extra flips supplies minimal time enchancment. For instance, his mannequin determines a cooking time of 80.5 s with one burger flip slightly below midway via. That point drops to 65 s for 4 flips however solely shaves off a further one or two seconds if the flip quantity is upped to twenty. The mannequin exhibits that “after about three or 4 flips, it’s form of pointless so as to add in anymore,” he says.

That discovering will likely be welcome information to these grilling meat on a sizzling summer time’s afternoon. However Thiffeault notes that even 4 flips could also be too many for individuals who wish to reduce their time on the BBQ. If flipping as soon as is extra your model, Thiffeault’s mannequin exhibits that you just don’t wish to wait till the burger is half cooked earlier than turning it over. Somewhat, it would be best to flip when the underside third appears performed. Doing so means an extended cooking time for the second facet however a shorter time general. And with one flip, Thiffeault says, “you must get good grill marks with out spending quite a lot of time sweating.”

–Katherine Wright

Katherine Wright is Deputy Editor of Physics Journal.


  1. J. L. Thiffeault et al., “The arithmetic of burger flipping,” Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena 439, 133410 (2022).

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