Bison Burger

Bison burger on brioche rolls with sauce and toppings.

The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yields: 4 burgers

Instead of the usual beef burgers, try bison burgers! Bison meat is naturally lean, so it is an excellent alternative if you are trying to lower your fat and calorie intake. If you've avoided bison meat thinking it would have a gamey aftertaste, you're in for a pleasant surprise. The taste is similar to beef but a bit sweeter, and it's not gamey at all. Plus, the marbling in bison meat makes the lean meat juicier and more tender than beef.

The American bison has been called "buffalo" since the early 1600s, but it isn't a "true" buffalo. While all belong to the bovine family, the American bison is more closely related to the European bison, or wisent, than the Asian water buffalo or African buffalo.

Ground meat generally loses about 25 percent of its weight when cooked. If you want a generous bun-size burger, start with at least 6 ounces of 90/10 or 85/15 ground bison. Feel free to make the burgers larger for meat-lovers or smaller for young children or sliders. The recipe is easily scaled up or down.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground bison
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or more as needed, or vegetable oil or ghee)
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • Optional toppings: Cheese, sliced tomatoes, sliced red onion, lettuce, sliced dill pickles, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, burger sauce

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for bison burgers plus optional toppings.
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  2. Shape the meat into four 6-ounce burgers. Make each patty a little larger than the bun since it will shrink while cooking. Add an indentation in the center of each burger with your thumb. This will prevent swelling in the center as they cook. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

    Shaping the ground bison and seasoning.
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  3. Heat the unsalted butter in a heavy skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Add one or two burgers to the skillet and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, waiting until the bottom of the burger releases easily from the pan before flipping.

    Bison burger in the cast iron skillet.
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  4. Continue to cook the burgers, flipping occasionally, until they register 160 F on an instant-read thermometer. Repeat with the remaining burgers.

    Thermapen taking bison burger temperature.
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  5. Assemble the burgers in the buns with your choice of sauce and toppings.

    Assembly of one bison burger with bun and toppings.
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  6. Enjoy your bison burgers!

    A juicy bison burger on a plate with tomatoes, lettuce, onion, and pickle.
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Tips

  • All bison are pasture-raised and grass-fed, though some might be fed grains the last few months. If you want to avoid bison that have been fed grain, look for "100 percent grass-fed" on the label. Also, if the label simply states the product is "buffalo," it could be water buffalo. Look for the USDA inspection stamp on the package.
  • Don't season the shaped burgers too far ahead of time. Sprinkle them with salt and other seasonings just before cooking.
  • When cooking, never press the burgers with a spatula. This will squeeze out essential juices.
  • To avoid cross-contamination, use two plates—one for the raw burgers and a clean one for the cooked burgers.
  • To make toasted buns: spread the cut side of each bun with about 1/2 teaspoon of butter. Toast the buns in a skillet over medium heat, cut-sides down, until browned. Assemble the burger in the buns with toppings.

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