Thick, moist, and juicy - these venison burgers are a memorable culinary experience. When you bite into one and the juices drip down your chin, you will be in burger heaven. A few simple tricks make for the best burger, showcasing this lean and healthy wild game meat.
I grew up eating a lot of wild meat - my dad was an avid hunter and fisherman, so our freezer was always stocked with a variety of game, wild ducks, geese, and fish. Sometimes there was even bear meat. We ate so much moose and elk meat that we kids didn't think twice about it, eating it like other families ate beef. It was a staple meat for us and a cheap way to feed a large farm family. My mom cooked it in a variety of ways and it was always delicious.
My sister and her husband are hunters and trappers, and every now and then I am lucky to receive the gift of a few packages of wonderful wild game meat or sausages. Sometimes it's deer, other times it's elk or moose meat. They are masters at hanging the meat properly and cutting and packaging it themselves. Their deer, in particular, is properly hunted and well hung and trimmed, so it doesn't have the strong gamy taste that venison can sometimes have.
The other day I was rummaging through the freezer and lucked upon a lovely package of ground venison still hiding in there. I instantly started craving a thick, juicy venison burger. Deer meat is a very dark meat; extremely lean and nutritious, higher in iron, protein, and zinc and lower in saturated fat than other red meats, 5 times higher in omega-3 fatty acids than beef, and having one of the best omega-6 to omega-3 ratios of all meats. However, its extreme leanness can make for dry burgers that can have trouble sticking together. Venison does best when you add some fat to keep the ground meat moist and some kind of binder to help the meat stick together.
Venison is the ultimate grass fed red meat - sustainable, organic, and environmentally conscious, and coming from animals truly living a happy life in nature as intended.
So, How Do You Get Moist and Juicy Venison Burgers?
Bacon to the rescue! Everything's better with bacon, right? Deer meat is so lean there's barely any fat on it. Adding the equivalent of a little more than one slice of bacon to each large venison burger makes all the difference to the juiciness factor. As the hamburger cooks, the little bits of bacon melt and dissolve into the meat, creating tiny moisture pockets that you can't see, but which add a lightness and juiciness to the burger that is incredible. Bulky fillers can sometimes make a burger too dense or rubbery, but the added trick of using a bit of tapioca starch (mild and without taste) as a binder keeps the burgers together beautifully, while still retaining their light, tender, meaty texture.
No added salt is needed to flavour these burgers - the bacon provides enough. Just a bit of garlic and pepper for flavour and a spoonful of tapioca starch, and that's it.
Mix the meat as lightly as possible, then shape it into 6 thick patties.
These burgers are heavenly. Grilled until they are still slightly pink inside, then allowed to rest for a proper amount of time, they are unbelievably moist and juicy. They are the star of this burger symphony.
After they're cooked just to tender perfection (take them off the grill when they're still a little bit pink inside) they just need to rest a bit so all those juices can redistribute themselves throughout the meat.
Add a supporting cast of your favourite burger trimmings, and you will be singing the hallelujah chorus in your head as you take a bite.
If you're me, you certainly won't want to be singing it out loud, as a sign of respect for your fellow diners (but if you're alone as you eat your burger - go for it).
* * * * *
Venison Burgers: Thick, Juicy, and Flavourful
- 2 lbs (900gms) ground venison (deer meat) or other lean, wild meat: moose, elk, bison, etc.
- ½ lb (225gms) bacon, finely diced 7-8 slices/ 1½ cups, loosely packed
- 2 tablespoons tapioca starch or cornstarch
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 hamburger buns
- trimmings for burgers: mayonnaise, relish, mustard, tomato jam, hot sauce, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pickles, etc.
- *Tip: the bacon is easier to mince if it is still partially frozen. Keep the slices in a block, and dice it as small as possible (¼ inch/.5cm or less).
- Put the venison into a shallow bowl. Sprinkle it evenly with the diced bacon, tapioca starch, minced garlic, and pepper. Use your hands to combine it. Try to mix it as lightly and gently as possible - do not overmix.
- Divide the meat mixture into 6 equal parts, and gently pat it into wide, thick patties (1-inch/2.5cm thick). Push your thumb into the middle of each patty to make a shallow indented dip - this keeps the middles from bulging up to a dome shape and prevents all the juices from dripping off. Brush both sides of the patties lightly with the oil.
- Heat the barbecue grill to medium heat, and cook the burgers over direct flame with the barbecue lid covered, for about 5 minutes per side, flipping them once. You still want them to be slightly pink in the middles so the venison burgers are moist and juicy.
- Alternately, you can pan-fry the venison burgers in the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 to 6 minutes per side, until the outsides are crispy and brown and the insides are still lightly pink.
- Remove the burgers from the heat and cover them loosely with foil or a large bowl inverted over them. Let them rest for at least 5 minutes.
- Grill the buns or heat them in the oven. Serve the venison burgers on the buns with your favourite hamburger trimmings.
- Makes 6 venison burgers.
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