These 7 Things Will Make Your Deer Burgers Great

When you’re eating hamburgers one of the biggest problems you want to avoid is the slide, or the dump, or whatever it is you call the mess that happens when you’re about to take a bite and get nothing but bun.

Why? Because everything between the two pieces of bread has shot out of the bottom and hit the plate with a thud. Meat, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, whatever you have added — it’s all laying in a thudded clump of condiment-lathered mess on your plate. Worse, possibly, is that it landed in the baked beans and splattered them everywhere. Or maybe even in your lap.

Venison burgers are like venison chili in that there’s no one or perfect or specific way to make them. Everyone has their own style and can create whatever they prefer, from nothing but bread and meat to a stacked masterpiece. (Photo: Getty Images)

You’ve probably seen some of these television food shows where the host is at a restaurant that offers the World’s Largest Burger With Everything Possible On It! The host gives his “Wowwww!” expression and then tries to eat six pounds of stacked stuff. What we don’t see his his blood pressure climbing and possibly the back-alley hurling.

The simple way to avoid The Dump is to not overload your burger, right? Keep it simple, add a little bit of this and that instead of way too much, don’t turn the ketchup-mustard-mayo-sauce into a gob of slurry, and you’ll be better off. The other thing is to not make the patties too big or mounded like a semi-squished meatball. Make a real patty about the size of the bun, maybe a quarter-inch thick or a bit more, and keep all of them the same size so they’ll cook evenly.

Or, of course, you can just grill your deer burgers and eat them without much of anything else to get max flavor from them. Some folks like them that way, too.

But if you want to jack up the burgers, try these tips:

Different Buns
Break away from the norm with some Ciabatta buns, pretzel buns, Kaiser buns or others that may have different textures and flavors. These often will be a bit stronger, too, which is to say they won’t fall apart like the white bread buns most often purchased for burgers.

However, I prefer the white bread buns most often purchased for burgers. I just like them better, especially if they’re toasted a bit. Potato rolls are good, too.

Wickles Pickles, or your other favorite spicy pickles or relish, provides a nice crunch and tang.

Pickle Changeup
Hey, it’s really hard to beat dill pickles but I also love other kinds. Especially spicy pickles like those from Wickles, which is a homegrown Alabama brand gaining traction. Occasionally I’ll go with some sweet-and-sour pickles, which have more sugar in the brine and are tasty. Some tangy chow chow relish also can jazz up a burger (or hotdog) but too much can result in The Dump. Apply judiciously.

Hey, Easy With the Condiments
A gentle application of condiments — ketchup, mustard, mayo … yes, mayo — offers just enough flavor to give a taste without being overpowering. I like a Dijon mustard, too, although good ol’ yellow is fine. Mustard should have a little bite to go with the sweetness of the ketchup – which is sugar and tomatoes – and the savory of the mayo, which of course is made with eggs and is blessed by angels.

That’s a Big Slab of Onion!
Some folks are onion folks and some aren’t. I love onions, probably from the days when my great-grandmother would have a fresh one sliced for her peas and green beans. I don’t remember when I first tried one but I have never not liked them, especially on burgers.

A sweet or tangy onion, sliced not too thin and not too thick – perhaps 1/4 inch — is enough to get the texture and flavor but not be overpowering or disappear. You also can do some griddled semi-caramelized onions like in this fantastic Oklahoma Onion Burger I had hunting at the Chain Ranch in 2015.

Cook the Meat Correctly
Whether you’re grilling or using a skillet indoors (hey, some folks have to), it’s probably best to get the patty seared on the outside with just enough texture to hold it together. That way it doesn’t crumble and fall apart. I prefer mine with a little pink in the middle, and definitely not overcooked to a gray hockey puck. Yuck. Disgusting.

A fried egg with a runny yolk can add a burst of flavor. This isn’t venison, but it was a quite tasty burger at The Claddagh Irish Pub in downtown Indianapolis and the egg made it better. (Photo: Alan Clemons)

Yes, a Fried Egg
I love eggs. Scrambled, poached, boiled, in tuna salad, at breakfast, on a Cobb salad, and most definitely fried. With a runny yolk. To have that runny, delicious goodness mingled with the meat and other things just adds to the waves of flavor.

Yes, I know some folks hate runny yolks. That’s fine. If you’re one of them then I’d suggest skipping the egg on your burger. A solid or well-cooked yolk — to me — isn’t good. But, to each his own.

Cheese, For The Win
Although i’m fond of cheese and enjoy different kinds – bleu, Havarti with dill, gouda, Stilton, – i’d rather have cheddar on a burger. Good, sharp cheddar is hard to beat. Wisconsin cheddar, of course, which has a great history and litany of awards, if you can get it and it’s real. Not #FakeCheddar, and not the plastic-wrapped slice of synthetic extruded whatever America thinks is cheese. If you like that, fine. I’d rather have something real, though.

Bacon? Sure, that’s a great addition, if you want another flavor boost. But that may be another story for another day.

For an appetizer, I’ll take some grilled spicy Conecuh sausage with my cold beer while tending the burgers on the grill. Good. Tasty. Sausage, mmmm.

Doug’s Deer Burgers
Submitted by Doulgas Hendershot

1 lb ground venison
1 lb fatty ground beef
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
1 Tbsp finely chopped green pepper
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine ingredients, and form into patties. Grill over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes. At about the 4 to 5 minute mark, put a slice of smoked provolone cheese on top. Put on a bun, add your fixings and enjoy!


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Fire Up Your Kitchen!
If you’re interested in more great venison recipes, you’ll darn sure want to have“The Sporting Chef’s Better Venison Cookbook” in your kitchen or deer camp. Wild game chef and hunter Scott Leysath has packed this 176-page book with great info, photos and more.