When you start talking about wild game burgers, the first thing asked is how much fat and what type of fat do you add to wild game meat when making patties. I am here to tell you that I don’t add any fat to burgers, and you shouldn’t either. Here’s why.
Adding fat usually means adding a domestic animal's fat into a wild animal ground. This, for me, is counterproductive to what we as hunters are trying to accomplish when we say we want to know where our meals come from. You have to add domestic pork or beef fat to your burger, and 99% of the time that is store bought bulk fats or bacon.
There is this huge misconception that if you don’t add fat your burger patty will be dry and chalky in texture. Again, this is only true if you are inexperienced with handling or cooking ground game meat.
So how can we avoid using domestic animal fats and only use 100% wild game meat, yet still get a moist delicious burger? That's why I’m here, to help you. Let's get into it shall we?
The Perfect Wild Game Burger
I am going to break down the perfect burger into three easy-to-follow parts: grind, temperature and cooking. If you follow the steps below, you’ll have a delicious wild game burger that anyone will enjoy.
If you take your meat to a butcher for processing, there are a few things you need to ask and make sure they do.
- Make sure it's just your game animal. Butchers are notorious for taking scrapes from multiple animals and doing one huge grind. You can ask the butcher to just grind your meat separate, or even better, ask them to just put all scrapes in a bag and you can grind at home.
- If they are grinding it for you, ask for the largest grind plate they have; a No. 32 plate is a perfect grind. The bigger the grind, the meatier the burger. Most butchers will use a No. 22 or smaller plate, and it tends to leave you with almost a paste.
- Have them package it flat, not in the ground meat tubes. When you stuff the meat into a tube it's like stuffing a sausage. You end up with a mushy meat, plus it thaws at different rates and this will lend to a mushy core.
- Get all silver skin and funk off before the grind. If they don’t, you will end up with chewy ground meat.
I recommend getting a meat grinder and doing it at home. This way, you are the only one handling your wild game meat. You can get a good intro grinder for under $200. It will pay for itself after the first deer.
You want to keep the meat and grinder parts as cold as you can. I like to grind meat while it’s still 25% frozen. This guarantees the meat will stay cold. From there, I place in a glass bowl lined with paper towels and allow the meat to “drain” for an hour or so; this will take out any blood and water retained within the meat.
Next, take the meat out and season to your liking. Make a meatball between the size of a baseball and golf ball. Get a square of parchment paper and smash the meatball down. Round the edges and keep pressing until it's a half-inch thick. Set aside and finish the patties. Once they are all finished, put them back in the fridge for 30 minutes. This is a key step. This step will allow the meat to form, and all the fibers will meld together and keep your burger from falling apart. Unless you are doing a smash burger (smashing the patty onto a griddle or flat top), then this is a step you don’t want to skip.
Get your grill nice and hot; a nice medium-high heat is ideal. Pull those patties from the fridge and place them directly on the grill. Don’t touch them again until you start to see the juices rising to the top of the meat and the sides start to cook. Once you see that, after about 5 minutes, you’re going to flip once, and once only. The more you mess with the burger patty, the more moisture it loses. Once you’ve reached an internal temperature that you're comfortable with, pull the burger patty and let it rest for a few minutes.
*Common Mistake: Many grillers overcook meat. You want to eat these game burgers at medium; with the lack of fat, they will dry out quickly. Keep an eye on them so they don’t turn to hockey pucks.
Now that we have the foundation for the perfect burger patty, let's get into the perfect burger.
Wild Game Mushroom & Swiss Burger
- 2 pounds ground wild game meat (venison, elk, moose, etc.)
- 2 tbsp garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire
- 1/4 cup onion, minced
- 1/2 tbsp cracked pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 pound baby portobellos, sliced
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1/4 tsp cracked pepper
- Garlic mayo (mashed smoked garlic and mayo mixture)
- Leaf lettuce
- Swiss cheese
- In large glass bowl, mix game meat along with all other patty ingredients
- Take a baseball size handful of meat mixture and roll it into a ball. On a piece of parchment paper, press down on the ball, and with the other hand, follow along the sides to form a perfect patty. Continue this until all patties have been formed. Place all the patties in the fridge for 30 minutes before cooking. This is key.
- Preheat grill to high heat.
- Place the burgers on the grill and don’t touch! Once they’ve cooked for 5-8 minutes, flip once. ONCE. Add cheese after the flip. Pull patties, cover and let them rest.
- While the burgers are resting, start on your mushrooms. Begin by melting the butter in a skillet, add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper, and cook until mushrooms are soft. About 3-5 minutes.
- Start building your burger: bun, garlic mayo, patty, mushrooms, leaf lettuce, garlic mayo, top bun. Enjoy!