When many think of venison burgers, their thoughts turn into a horror show of burnt hockey pucks that taste like paper and are drier than the Sahara. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Occasionally you might happen across a wild game burger in a restaurant that uses venison and it is the juiciest, best burger you have ever tasted. How do they do it? The secret isn’t so much in the cooking of the burger, but how it is crafted.
Pork Fat – The Dirty Little Secret
A good venison burger starts right at the grind. The secret that those who craft a good venison burger won’t tell you is that it is not just deer meat in there. Sometimes they mix venison with ground beef or ground pork, but an easier way to do it if you have your own grinder is to add pork fat rather than mixing meats.
Fat is flavor. Fat is juiciness. Pork fat or lard, unlike beef fat, goes down smoothly in a grinder and doesn’t leave a weird greasy residue in your mouth. By grinding your venison together with pork fat, it turns the lean and gamey meat into a finely marbled patty. Even looking at it raw, very few will be able to tell it isn’t a beef burger.
Cooking a Venison Burger
Since you mixed pork fat into the grinding process, your venison burger is already partially seasoned, gaining a pleasant bacon-y flavor is never a bad thing. Before cooking, since your venison had enough fat to prevent it from drying out in seconds, you can salt and pepper it as you normally would.
As for how to cook a venison burger, the differences between grilled and pan-cooked burgers are minimal. Cooking in a pan allows you to cook in more fat to get more juiciness and flavor while grilling will allow you to impart a smokiness to the meat. So ultimately the choice of cooking device is whatever you prefer.
Now, for the final key in cooking a good venison burger: Getting that patty to lay flat. This is even a challenge for hand pattied beef burgers. However, a flat patty not only cooks evenly, but the entire party gets those crispy browned bits, which is where the real flavor of a burger comes from. There is actually a pretty simple trick into getting the patty to lay flat.
After placing the patty on a high heat, take your thumb and press it about half way into the center to create a dimple. This will prevent the patty from bulging up in the center as it cooks, and thus, prevents the sides from being curled up when you flip it.
Topping a Venison Burger
Like any other burger, you can top a venison burger with whatever you want. You can do a simple cheese, ketchup, and mustard combo, or add more bacon for that extra bacon-y flavor. You can even add a little Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or barbecue sauce during its last minute on the grill for a big burst of flavor.
However, if by chance you didn’t add enough pork fat during the grinding process, there is one topping that might be able to save your burger – tomatoes. The juiciness of a tomato can often be enough to cover for a dry burger. Unfortunately, this trick doesn’t work well if your guests don’t like tomatoes.
If you ended up skipping the added fat altogether, tomato, pickle, and fresh crunchy onion together create the ultimate burger combo without the need for a moist burger. However, having a moist and tender patty makes for a pretty unforgettable taste bud experience.