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Who doesn't love a good cheeseburger? They're so easy to make and a great way to use ground venison. The mini versions are fun to make and even more fun to eat! They're a fun treat for kids and adults alike. I know my little guy loves having a burger that's just his size. If you love fun-sized food, keep reading!
How do you get venison burgers to stick together?
Most people will tell you to add fat, eggs, and/or breadcrumbs to get your burgers to stick together. But the truth is, you don't actually need to add any of those things. It's all about the method you use to thaw the meat. You know that pool of liquid in your package of thawed ground meat? That's called myoglobin and it's natural for it to leach out of the meat when it thaws. But, it's the main reason that your venison burgers don't stick together. If you thaw ground meat on paper towels, the excess liquid is removed from the meat and leaves the meat a little more sticky instead of being slippery. It's no surprise that the stickier the meat is, the better it will hold together. Give this trick a try and it will make all the difference!
How much fat do you add to ground venison?
There is a lot of debate as to how much and what type of fat to add to ground wild game meat. There are 2 typical options for type of fat - pork or beef. But the amount you decide to put in varies widely. 80/20 (80% meat, 20% fat, by weight) is pretty common but a lot of people also do 85/15, 90/10, 95/5, etc. It is really up to personal preference. I actually prefer to grind my meat without any additional fat. I do this for a few different reasons. It's nice to have a clean slate when it comes to deciding what I want to make. I like to have the freedom to add however much or how little fat I want depending on what I'm making. The second reason I don't add fat when I grind it is that it's much easier to grind as 100% meat. It's an extra step to source the fat from a local butcher. Plus when you add fat into the grinder, it can get gummed up quickly. Grinding meat as 100% meat without added fat ensures a much faster grinding process.
Don't be fooled, I do still think fat is an important part of cooking wild game. But, I like to make the decision of how much fat to use when I'm cooking it instead. Lard is my absolute favorite fat to cook with. It adds the richness of pork fat without all the work of grinding it in. I like to make my own but you can also find commercial versions that are 100% pork fat without all the added preservatives.
What seasonings do you use for venison cheeseburgers?
Some people like to try to cover up the flavor of venison in cheeseburgers. But I like to embrace the flavor and enhance it. One ingredient that I find adds a lot of flavor to burgers is Worcestershire sauce. Worcestershire sauce gets forgotten about frequently but it's a great addition to many red meat dishes, especially burgers. If you're looking to add salty, sweet, acidic and umami flavor all from one ingredient, Worcestershire sauce is what you need! Add some salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion granules and you have yourself a perfectly seasoned burger!
What is a smashburger?
Smashburgers are exactly what you think - burgers that have been smashed. You start with a meatball instead of a patty, and use a flat surface to smash it as it's cooking. A super hot cast iron griddle is a great tool for making perfectly cooked burgers. Instead of smashing the burgers individually, I like to place all the meatballs on the hot griddle, cover with parchment paper, and smash them all at once with a sheet pan. It works great and saves a lot of time. Applying pressure to the burgers ensures that more surface area of the burger touches the pan while it cooks. The result is a perfectly caramelized burger with crispy edges and lots of flavor. Using Worcestershire sauce in the burger also helps the meat caramelize because it has a small amount of sugar and molasses in it.
Starting with meatballs instead of patties also helps keep more of the liquid in the burger while you smash it. I'm not exactly sure how it works, but it does! Another tip to keep the meat moist is to add the cheese as soon as you flip them so that the cheese melts and the meat doesn't get overcooked. Nobody wants unmelted cheese and a dry burger patty!
Putting it all together:
I went with classic toppings of mayo, ketchup, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions but you can definitely switch it up to your liking. The flavor combinations for burgers are endless but as long as you use my base recipe and technique, they will turn out delicious. Use your creativity and enjoy!
Venison Burger Sliders
- cast iron griddle
- sheet pan
- 6 slices cheddar cheese, cut in half or in smaller squares/rectangles
- 12 brioche slider buns (toasted - optional)
- 4 small tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 4 leaves leaf lettuce, cut into approx 3"x3" pieces
- 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
- mayonnaise, for serving
- ketchup, for serving
- If meat is frozen, allow it to thaw enough to pull it out of the package. Then place the meat in a paper towel-lined bowl and allow to thaw overnight. Letting the liquid drain out of the meat will help the burgers stick together.
- Once meat is thawed, add in worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion granules, salt, and pepper. Mix together by hand until well-combined.
- Divide meat into 4 equal parts. Then divide each quarter into 3 equal parts and roll into balls. You should have 12 balls total.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper into a rectangle the size of your griddle. Don't cut it too big or it could catch on fire!
- Heat cast iron griddle over high heat. Add lard to pan and spread it around so the whole griddle is coated.
- Place meatballs on griddle spaced evenly. They'll need space to be smashed into burgers.
- Place parchment paper over meatballs and press down with a sheet pan. Apply pressure all of the sheet pan to make sure you press them all evenly. Don't be afraid to really squish them!
- Cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip. As soon as you flip them, top with cheese. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes and remove from griddle.
- Spread mayo on each bun half. Place cheeseburgers on bottom halves of buns. Top with ketchup, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes. Enjoy!