Cooking Wild Recipe: Buffalo Burgers

If you love a big, juicy burger that’s loaded with flavour, this recipe is for you! When you serve one of these super-sized patties on a bun with all the traditional toppings, it’s absolutely the best burger you’ll ever sink your teeth into.

For an exceptionally juicy burger, buffalo (and other venison meat) that is ground for patty making should be at least 80 to 90 per cent lean meat with the reminder being beef fat or suet.

Since members of the venison family are naturally lean, especially buffalo which is reputed as having about 80 per cent less fat than beef, when the meat is ground it needs a little domestic animal fat to help it bind into patties. Beef fat is also tastier than game fat so even cuts that may have some natural fat content should be trimmed before grinding and the fat discarded and replaced.

If you don’t tackle the humungous chore of butchering your own buffalo, ask your butcher to grind it according to your preference for patty making using the above ratio as a general rule of thumb.

If you up the fat content too much (some home and commercial butchers add up to 30 per cent fat to ground venison meats), you’re missing out on the opportunity of eating healthier, not too mention that you’re apt to end up with a greasy burger resembling a regular ground beef patty that shrinks drastically upon cooking.

On the other hand, if you cut down the fat content any lower or eliminate it altogether, you’ll have a drier, less flavourful burger that doesn’t pay justice to your trophy.

I don’t add any fat content to ground venison meats that are used for other types of recipes such as spaghetti sauce, chili-con-carne and taco filling — as it is not needed for binding properties in such dishes and thus adding it serves no purpose. When I get a burger craving, I like to take my ground meat out of the freezer and thaw it overnight in the fridge. In the morning I mix it up with desired ingredients and form it into patties, working lightly so the heat from my hands doesn’t melt the fat, which tends to make the patties a little dense.

Once the burgers are formed, I cover them with plastic wrap and let stand in the fridge to mature until grilling time. This Old World method of aging the patties before cooking produces a richly flavoured burger!

If barbecuing the burgers on a charcoal grill, oil the racks lightly to prevent sticking and strive to maintain medium heat. I find that a light brush of oil helps to seal in moisture.

For a medium-rare burger, cook about five minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 160 Fahrenheit. You can increase cooking times for a higher degree of doneness but for safety’s sake, they should not be served until proper temperature of at least 160 is reached. Do not overcook buffalo — or any venison meat for that matter as it can cause meat to dry out, become tough and lose flavour.

To pan-fry the burgers, sear them first to lock in flavour, then cook in lightly greased pan over medium setting until done to likeness.

If making these patties in the winter when the backyard barbecue is snowed under, try cooking them using your oven broiler. Lightly grease the broiling rack, and grill under 350 to 400 Fahrenheit broiler about five to eight minutes per side. For a touch of smoky outdoor flavour brush the patties with hickory or other barbecue sauce during last few minutes of broiling.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground buffalo
  • 1 diced onion
  • 3 gloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt or steak spice of choice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground dried chili peppers (more or less to suit taste)
  • Pinch of fresh or dried herbs of choice
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg

Mix all ingredients with a wooden spoon. Form lightly with hands into four large (or six medium-sized patties). Place on plate, cover and refrigerate until cooking time. Serve on buns in traditional hamburger fashion with a side of fresh-cut french fries, if desired.

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