Ground Bison meat is very lean and can be unforgiving to the common practices many use when making beef burgers. As we approach burger season we wanted to share with you our top ten tips for cooking the perfect bison burger.
10 Tips for Cooking Bison Burgers
- Don’t add salt until after the bison burger patties are formed! Ever. Even a little bit. Salt draws the water out of your meat and the proteins start to dissolve—this equals bison mush and not bison burgers. In fact, if you are salting your beef burgers you might want to stop that practice as well. Read The Burger Lab: Salting Ground Beef article on Serious Eats for more information on the science of salt and burgers.
- Don’t overwork the meat. When you squish the meat with your hands work up the proteins and cause them to cross-link with each other. This destroys the potential for tender burgers. Pack the patties loosely and not tight. The less you work the bison patty the better.
- Either season burgers once they or formed or gently season it as you form the patties. But make sure your bison seasoning does not include salt! Do not work the seasoning into the bison meat. It is best to dry season the outside of the bison burger rather than overwork the meat. If you simply must use wet rub or marinades simply brush them on the outside of the burger after the patty is formed and just before start cooking.
- Don’t add eggs, wet ingredients, cheese or bread crumbs to bison burgers unless you were going for bison crumble or bison mush. We are not making bison meatloaf here. The goal is bison burgers. Keep it pure.
- Create a little thumb indent in the center of your burger patties before cooking. This will help create a flat finished burger that is cooked evenly throughout.
- The best kept secret to juicy bison burgers is to leave the juices in the burger while they cook—do not press the burger down while cooking and watch delicious juices drip out of the burger.
- As will all bison meat, cook low and slow! Do not rush the cook or you will rush bison pucks to the dinner table. Low and slow is the best motto for cooking bison meat.
- Unlike steaks you do not want to allow your bison burger meat to come to room temperature. Keep your bison burgers cold until you are ready to cook them.
- Flipping bison burgers often is actually a good thing. It allows them to cook evenly. Just be sure you greased your grill before cooking because bison burgers are lean.
- If you want to get fancy with your bison burger, dress it up after you remove it from the grill. Melt cheese in the last 2 minutes of cooking, but add sauce, fixings and bonus items once your bison burger is done cooking.
Delicious Topping Ideas
The basics: Onion, Pickles, Tomatoes, Lettuce, Bacon, Ketchup, Mustard, Mayo (or Miracle Whip if you are in that camp), and Cheddar, Swiss, American, Pepper Jack, Mozzarella, or Provolone cheese.
Gourmet Topping Ideas: Umami Dust, Aoili, Chipotle Lime Mayo, BBQ Sauce, Caramelized Onions, Jalapenos, Pepperoncini, Spinach, Kale, Fried Egg, Avocado, Hummus, Crispy Fried Onions, Arugula, Balsamic Syrup, or Ranch Dressing.
Gourmet Cheeses: Pimento Cheese, Blue Cheese, Goat Cheese, or Feta Cheese.