Attention to a few minor details will transform your venison burgers from good-enough to spectacular. Even if you decide to not use all twelve of these tips, any one of them will up your burger performance, so employ as many as you like.
Freshness is the key
The fresher the ground venison is, the more tender and flavorful the burger will be. If your meat processor has on-site butchers, ask them to grind the meat fresh for you. For the absolute freshest grind, of course, you need to grind your own. You can do this with a home grinder or in a food processor with this past fall’s venison.
Avoid over-working the mixture
The more you handle the meat, the tougher your burger will be. In a large bowl, pull the meat apart into small chunks, add salt or burger seasoning, and with your fingers spread apart, toss gently until loosely mixed.
Keep your hands moist
A bit of dampness at the start will keep your hands from getting sticky. It also allows the meat to come together faster and prevents over-handling which in turn will leave your meat dripping with flavors.
Add fresh veggies to the mixture
There isn’t a strict recipe to follow. For 5 pounds of meat, I use about 3 pounds of veggies. I use a combination of green peppers, onions, mushrooms, or pre-cooked bacon depending on what I have on hand.
Make burger patties with a slight dimple in the center
Divide the meat into equal portions and form patties about 3/4-inch thick at the edges and 1/2-inch thick in the center. Since burgers shrink and pull in as they cook, this dimple will even out as the venison burgers cook, resulting in an even patty-shaped burger at the end.
Keep the burgers as cold as possible
Unlike other meats that will cook up better if brought to room temperature before hitting the grill, you want the patties cold so they stay together and stay as juicy as possible. Put the patties in a covered tray or on a platter and in the fridge while the grill heats up. This helps the flavor-carrying juices to stay in the meat.
Use a hot grill
Keep your grill at a steady, high heat (you can hold your hand 1 to 2 inches above the grill level for 2 to 3 seconds). If using charcoal, you want ash-covered coals to produce even heat. With a gas grill, keep the lid down while cooking; with a charcoal grill, leave the lid up. Keep the temperature between 450 and 500 degrees.
Flip your burgers only once
Constant turning will toughen and dry out meat, and if you flip too soon, your venison burgers will stick. Cook 2 minutes per side for rare, 3 for medium-rare, 4 for medium, and 5 for well-done.
Avoid pressing down on the burgers
This is an all too common mistake in burger grilling. It’s also one that’s heartbreaking to witness. When the cook takes a spatula and presses down on each burger, the juice just pours out onto the flame, taking all that moistness and flavor with it. No picture so that you don’t get any ideas! Stop the madness! Let your burgers hold onto their natural juiciness and just let them cook in peace!
Allow the burgers to rest
Resting allows burgers, like all meat, to finish cooking and allows their juices, which have collected on the surface during grilling, to redistribute throughout the patty for maximum juiciness. Since venison burgers are generally somewhat small (compared to giant roasts), just 10 minutes will suffice.
The bun should just be the envelope to an amazing package
So, what makes a great bun? It may depend on the burger, but most of all, you want it to be soft. You want to be able to bite through it. People think if they have a big burger you have to have a big, thick bun, but that’s not the case. If you have a hard bun, you can’t bite through it. It becomes a backslider, where all the contents shoot out the back of the burger.
Don’t forget the toppings
The toppings list for venison burgers is endless, but here are a few fresh ideas:
- Fresh leaks (wild onions)
- Deep fried morel mushrooms
- Venison chili
- Cheese (Jalapeno, American, Sharp, Cheddar, Swiss, Pepper-Jack)
- Deep fried pickles
- Deep fried onion rings
- Fried egg
- Pickled cucumber
- Wild hog bacon