Top Rated Bison Burger Recipes
While bison might not be the grilling meat at the top of everyone's list, it should be. Especially when you try it with this recipe. Bison doesn't have a gamey taste at all (despite what some think) and is in fact delicious (I was scraping up the bits of burnt meat off the grill pan). It pairs fantastically with sweet grilled peaches and gets a touch of tang and saltiness from the feta and a mild kick from the jalapeño in this recipe. The best part? Bison meat is very lean so you cut back on a lot of calories and fat without sacrificing taste — although I guess that trade off doesn't work when you eat two of them like I did (they were really good).You can always subsitute ground beef for bison if you can't get a hold of it and still keep these flavor combinations. While I used grilled baguette, you can also use brioche buns instead.Click here to see 7 Must-Try Burger Recipes.
The Best Bison Burger Recipe
Lightly pack burger patties, less is more. Overworking will result in a loss of tenderness.
Salt WILL cause the burgers to crumble. You can add seasonings as you build patties, but avoid salt, or seasonings with salt until they are formed. Even better: wait until they're cooked to salt!
How we cook our burgers:
- Thaw, but keep refrigerated before you start.
- Loosely form patties. We like to keep them on the thicker side when we make them.
- After patties are made, make a thumb print in the center of each one. Your burgers will end up being flat with this little hack!
- Warm up your pan (yes, pan! one of our favorite ways to cook burgers is a cast iron pan on the stove) and melt a little butter. Sometimes we throw in a bit of chopped garlic.
- Cook low and slow, no more than medium heat! Don't be afraid to flip your burger often, but DO NOT SQUISH. You want all those wonderful juices to stay in your burgers!
- Salt and pepper to taste once burgers have finished cooking.
Our Temperature Guide:
- Rare- 120 °F
- Medium Rare- 125 °F
- Medium- 130 °F
- Medium Well- 135 °F
- Well- 140 °F
**Remove from heat 10°F below target temperature and allow to rest to avoid overcooking**
How To Make Home-Ground Bison Burgers
This content series is sponsored by The Bison Council with a goal of educating the public about the culinary, health and taste benefits of eating bison.
I've got a cousin who sort of freaked me out the first few times I met him. It might have been something in his crazy eyes, or in his motorcycle stories, or perhaps his way with moonshine. I gotta admit: it took three or four family reunions before I finally figured that his eyes weren't crazy, they were intense. His motorcycle stories weren't reckless, they were just eccentric. His moonshine wasn't. well, his moonshine was still moonshine, but it was the smoothest damn moonshine in Pennsylvania. You've probably all got a cousin or two like that, don't you?
Bison is a bit like the crazy cousin at the ruminant family reunion. It's similar to beef in appearance, flavor, and cooking methods, but it's just eccentrically different enough that you'll need to go through a bit of a how's-your-father session before you're 100 percent comfortable working with it.
The American bison industry has been picking up recently with ground meat and other cuts becoming more regularly available in standard supermarkets. Over the next few months, I'll be going over some of the major cuts of bison that you're likely to encounter in the wilds of the meat department and how to deal with them to maximize deliciousness.
Bison, Beef, and Burgers
What are the main difference between bison and beef? It largely comes down to flavor and fat content. Bison has a reputation for being much gamier than beef, but in reality, modern bison is only very mildly gamey. Indeed, I've had cuts of bison that I'd have trouble differentiating from beef in terms of flavor. A lot of this has to do with the fact that bison by its nature is a leaner meat, and many of the identifying flavor compounds in various meats are stored in their fat.
So why would someone want to use a leaner meat? Well there's health reasons, of course, and I've found that a lean bison tends to be of higher quality—better flavor and more tender—than equivalently lean beef. It's also a nice changeup. A lean bison ribeye or burger, when cooked properly, is perfectly tender and moist and makes for an interesting change from the norm.
Of course, you'll need to make some adjustments in the way you form and cook hamburger patties to compensate for the lower fat content.
Packaged ground bison is readily available. Just like packaged ground beef, it suffers from being overly compressed in its plastic wrapping—it's compressed and dense even before you start working with it, which means that for skillet-fried or grilled patties in which a lighter, looser texture is desired, it's not the best option.
But for certain applications, it's a perfectly acceptable product to use. Of all the types of burgers in my repertoire, smashed burgers and sliders are the two that work best with pre-ground meat. With smashed patties, you end up compressing the meat anyway, and with sliders, the patties are so thin that texture doesn't really come into play.
For grilled or skillet-fried burgers, you'll need to go with a different tack: grind the meat yourself. By grinding meat fresh and handling it with care, you create a much lighter, almost fluffy patty full of internal nooks and crannies that are essential for capturing the dripping juices that can make even a lean burger taste juicy and moist.
Sound daunting? Don't worry, it's not! All you need is a food processor or a stand mixer with a grinding attachment, and a bit of know how.
I tested a number of different cuts of bison for grinding, both on their own and with some extra added bison fat, and I found that chuck was the best all-around option. It makes sense—it's the single cut of beef that I'm most likely to grab for my burgers as well. As with beef chuck, bison chuck is one of the most intensely flavorful cuts on the beast with a decent balance of fat and lean meat (though obviously bison is leaner).
Nothing will gunk up a meat grinder or food processor blade faster than tough connective tissue, so when breaking down your chuck, make sure to trim out as much tough silverskin and tough connective tissue as possible while leaving in the fat (you're going to need all the help you can get in keeping things juicy).
The easiest way to do this is to start by splitting open a rolled chuck and butterflying it so that it lays flat, working as much as possible by cutting between muscle seams, which will expose connective tissue that you can remove with the tip of a sharp boning knife.
Once you've cleaned up the butterflied sections, cut them into long, thin strips, which should expose even more connective tissue to trim.
Finally, cut across the long strips to form cubes that are between an inch and two inches on each side. For the meat grinder, you can go on the larger side, but for the food processor you'll want to cut them a little smaller.
Whether you're grinding beef, chicken, bison, mammoth, dolphin—heck, when you're grinding anything—the most important thing to remember is to keep everything ice cold.
Let me repeat that: keep everything ice cold.
And once more: KEEP EVERYTHING ICE COLD.
The colder your meat, the firmer it is, and the better it will chop. The idea with grinding meat is to chop the meat, minimizing the amount you mush and smear it. Both of these actions will ruin its texture, and more importantly with bison, it'll cause it to shed moisture faster as it cooks.
I store my meat grinder in the freezer at all times so that I have it ready to grind at moment's notice. To keep things extra cold, I place the chunked up bison in the freezer for a short period until it's nearly frozen but still slightly pliable.
If you go the food processor route, you'll want to make sure that the pieces don't touch each other when freezing them so that they freeze evenly from all sides
With the grinder attachment, I grind the meat at a relatively high speed (on my Kitchenaid I go at a setting of 6 or 7) so that it gets ground before it begins to warm up. If you choose to grind it twice for a more uniform texture, make sure that it gets chilled again in between grinds if it begins to warm up.
In the food processor, you'll want to go in small batches, pulsing just until ground and dumping the ground meat out onto a rimmed baking sheet so you can pick through for any larger un-ground chunks that can go back into the processor with the next batch.
Once the meat is ground, minimum handling is the key to maintaining good texture. You just spent all that time and effort getting yourself some light, airy, fluffy, freshly ground meat to save you from using the pre-packaged stuff. The last thing you want to do is compress it!
I form patties directly on a rimmed baking sheet by dumping the ground meat out onto it and forming it into even piles, which I then gently form into shape, pressing the meat together just until it holds its shape and is flippable without falling apart.
Once you've got your patties formed, the only other thing to remember is that leaner bison burgers will cook a little bit faster than equivalently-sized beef burgers—fat is an insulator and will slow down the transfer of heat energy through a burger patty.
What does this mean? It means you'll want to really blast it with high heat in order to be able to get a nice char on its outer surface before it ends up overcooking in the center. To guarantee the juiciest, moistest interior, you'll want to check your burgers with an instant read thermometer and pull them off the grill when they hit around 125°F, which will guarantee a medium-rare center.
With really excellent meat, I often like to serve my burgers naked with nothing but perhaps a swipe of mayo and a slice of cheese. Of course, onions and pickles never hurt anyone.
Except maybe my cousin. If you ever meet him, ask him how he got those crazy eyes.
- 1 pound ground bison
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup crushed crackers, or more as needed
- 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning (such as Club House® Italiano)
- 1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 pinch garlic salt
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- 1 pinch coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon barbeque sauce
- 8 slices cooked thick bacon
- 4 slices Cheddar cheese
- 4 burger buns
- 4 leaves green leaf lettuce
Combine ground bison, egg, crushed crackers, Italian seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, black pepper, and coarse salt in a large bowl. Use your hands to form mixture into 4 large burger patties. Place on a plate lined with waxed paper and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Preheat grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil the grate.
Grill burgers for 2 minutes. Flip and brush with barbeque sauce. Flip again and cook until burgers are no longer pink in the center, about 8 minutes total. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C).
Turn off the grill. Add 2 slices cooked bacon and 1 slice Cheddar cheese to each burger close lid and let cheese melt, about 1 minute. Transfer burgers to buns and top each with 1 lettuce leaf.
A fried egg can add a wonderful richness to the lean yet flavorful bison. Crispy fried shallots are amazing, sweet and add a nice texture. Fry up some green onions/scallions in the same skillet that the burgers are cooked in and add on top of the burger. Blistered shishito peppers totally kick it up. All these toppings can be cooked in the same skillet as the burgers so you aren’t making extra dishes .
Bison burgers are also great bunless. Top with some smoky bourbon bbq sauce for a more steak like option .
3. Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Bison Chili
This slow cooker sweet potato bison chili is bold in flavor, and Whole30-compliant, so it is nourishing and delicious.
To make the chili, you’ll combine ground bison, onion, garlic, diced green chilies, sweet potato hunks, and fire-roasted tomatoes. The well-spiced chili is seasoned with a blend of chili powder, cumin, and ground chipotle (or ancho chili powder).
This chili is hearty and delicious on its own, but you can amp it up by serving it atop a bed of greens, with a protein-packed fried egg on top.
The ingredients you'll need
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make these tasty bison burgers. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
Lean ground bison: I use a mixture of 85% lean and 15% fat.
Dijon mustard: This traditional French mustard is creamier, thicker, and less vinegary than yellow mustard.
Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you should reduce the amount you use, or the burgers could end up too salty.
Spices: I like to use onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, dried parsley, and cayenne pepper.
Avocado oil for the grill: This oil has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point, making it an ideal cooking oil.
I walked outside this morning to a brilliant golden-yellow sunrise and a flock of robins. Humid air was only the last hint I needed to determine that here in Florida, spring is on its way.
Beautiful weather means grilling weather. Spring and fall are the perfect grilling seasons it’s neither too hot nor too cold to be outside, making it a joy to fire up the grill and soak in the sunshine.
For that very reason, I’ve been working on my grilling game specifically, on grilling bison burgers. An added bonus is that any bison burger recipe can be a healthy bison burger recipe, because bison meat is lean, high in protein, and chock-full of iron with a slightly sweet flavor profile that’s excellent for burgers.
Plus, my friends over at Fire & Flavor are helping me transform into a grillmaster with a supply of all natural premium charcoal and fire starters.
Fire & Flavor Lump Almond Wood Charcoal
I decided to use sweet, subtle, and nutty almond wood charcoal for today’s grilling adventure. It’s pure lump charcoal, which is simply pieces of wood burned down to charcoal lumps.
Getting a fire going is simple with just a few squares of odorless, tasteless, and chemical-free fire starter tucked into the charcoal.
Fire & Flavor Charcoal Fire Starters
They work great with any charcoal, whether it’s lump or briquette.
Once you get your grill to temperature, all you have to do is maintain it at medium heat, or 350°F, the best temperature for grilling bison burgers.
While your grill is heating up, you can get your burger patties ready. Remember to handle the meat gently and minimally excess handling will dry it out. Ground bison is leaner and little more crumbly than ground beef. A little spritz of nonstick olive oil cooking spray will help form an exterior crust and prevent sticking. Top with burger seasoning just before you grill.
Raw bison burger patty ready to cook
You’ll know your bison burgers are done when their internal temperature is 135°F to 140°F. They might even be a little pink inside that’s OK, because color is not a reliable indicator of doneness for burgers. Use an instant-read thermometer for accuracy.
You can serve the bison burgers any way you like, but for a healthier spin, try a lettuce bun!
Double stack bison cheeseburger on a lettuce bun
Be sure to check out Fire & Flavor for grilling and smoking supplies, recipes, and more.
Instead of the usual beef burgers, try bison burgers! Bison meat is naturally lean, so it is an excellent alternative if you are trying to lower your fat and calorie intake. If you've avoided bison meat thinking it would have a gamey aftertaste, you're in for a pleasant surprise. The taste is similar to beef but a bit sweeter, and it's not gamey at all. Plus, the marbling in bison meat makes the lean meat juicier and more tender than beef.
The American bison has been called "buffalo" since the early 1600s, but it isn't a "true" buffalo. While all belong to the bovine family, the American bison is more closely related to the European bison, or wisent, than the Asian water buffalo or African buffalo.
Ground meat generally loses about 25 percent of its weight when cooked. If you want a generous bun-size burger, start with at least 6 ounces of 90/10 or 85/15 ground bison. Feel free to make the burgers larger for meat-lovers or smaller for young children or sliders. The recipe is easily scaled up or down.
About the recipe
Like all burgers, I find the least amount of handling creates the best burger flavor. And simple flavors for this burger are best.
With this brand of ground bison, I’ve found no reason to add anything else to the burger to flavor it other that salt and pepper. So you can put away your panko crumbs, egg yolks and Worcestershire sauce. We’re having burgers tonight friends, not meatloaf.
Because the meat is 85% lean, the right cooking time is important. Just like other meats, bison cooking standards are 160 degree internal temperature. That DOES NOT mean you have to cook it to a charred, well-done burger puck. A few minutes on each side on a hot grill will keep your burgers meaty and juicy. Delish.
I was inspired to keep with the healthy flavors by making this burger California-style. And what’s more California-style than avocado, fresh tomato and sprouts.
Ketchup, mayo and even my beloved pickles are shelved in favor of spicy Dijon mustard, leafy green lettuce and a few thick slices of onion.
If you want to make this true California-style, go In-n-Out-style and make it “protein-style” and leave out the bun and wrap yours in an extra large leaf of red leaf lettuce instead.
And don’t forget the cheese! A slice of creamy Havarti adds the perfect mellow, melty cheesiness every burger needs.
If you try this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below, or take a photo and tag it on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
The Beloved enjoys grilling, but he doesn&rsquot do it very often. When he does, he always wears a big old welding glove to protect himself from the heat of the flames.
They aren&rsquot expensive and they&rsquoll keep your arms from getting singed.
I really hope you love this bison burger recipe, you guys! If you make it, please share a photo with me, either in the PCO Facebook Group or on instagram by tagging @onlinepastrychef and using hashtag #pcorecipe. Thanks, and enjoy!