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MASTER GUIDE TO SMOKED HAMBURGERS

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Smashed burgers and grilled burgers are great, but smoked hamburgers take the BBQ classic to a new level. These slow cooked patties stay super juicy and boast delicious wood-fired flavor. And the best part? Smoking hamburgers is easy to do on a Traeger Pellet Grill.


Guide to Smoked Hamburgers

Any guide to smoked hamburgers needs to start with a few basics. For tender, juicy burgers it begins with the meat, and for most of this guide to smoking burgers, , we will be talking about beef (although you can also smoke turkey, lamb, salmon, and veggie burgers as well). Here’s what you need to know before you start smoking:

Choose ground meat with ample fat. At Treager we’re partial to a mix of 80% lean to 20% fat, which you will find at all supermarkets. If you want to go a little lower fat, you can try 85/15, but any less fat than that and your burger just won’t cook up juicy and tender. Ground chuck makes for a flavorful burger, but if you grind your own, you can experiment by adding such cuts as brisket or sirloin for a deeper flavor (explore our Meat Cuts pages to learn more).

Consider what size patty you like. This is subjective. Some folks like a thick 8-ounce burger while others prefer smaller 4-ounce patties. The good news is that smoking hamburgers works well with any size patty. Because the temperature is so low, there’s less worry about overcooking thinner patties, and thicker ones will cook through more evenly.

Don’t overhandle the meat. When making patties, try not to overwork the meat. You can use fancy hamburger patty shapers or ring molds, but they’re not necessary. You can simply use clean hands to press a ball of ground beef into the patty thickness you want. But if you have hot hands that can start to melt the fat in the meat, you might want to try this trick: place a pile of ground beef on a deli container lid. Top it with another lid and press to form a perfectly even patty. Some folks like to indent the center of the patty to help it cook evenly, but this is more important when using high-heat methods. The low heat of smoking will cook the patty more evenly dimpled or not.

Season the patty. In most cases, you want to season the outside of patty just before cooking. This is because any salt you use will draw out moisture making the burger tough. Simple salt and pepper are always a good choice, but for a hint of garlic and cheese, try Traeger’s Burger Rub. Or add a bit of sweet and heat with Traeger Beef Rub.

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Some chefs, however, do like to season the meat itself before shaping it into patties as Diva Q does in her Smoked Whiskey Burgers. (Otherwise, the bourbon she adds to the meat would run right off the patty.) Watch her video below for a walk-through:


How to Smoke Hamburgers

Once you have your patties shaped and seasoned it’s time to start smoking.

One thing to keep in mind: Smoking burgers takes longer than grilling. Depending on your grill temp, they can take anywhere from 45 minutes to almost 2 hours.

Which pellets to use for smoked burgers? Since you are going to the trouble of smoking your hamburgers, it makes sense to use a wood pellet that will give you the most wood-fired flavor, such as hickory or mesquite. If you want a milder smoke flavor, however, use cherry or apple.

What temperature should the grill be set to? For most smoked hamburgers, you want to set the grill temperature between 180°F and 225°F. The lower the temperature, the more smoke. You can also use the feature if your grill has it. At the lower temperature, the burgers will take longer to cook, up to 2 hours when cooked at 180°F. At 225°F, they can take 45 minutes to an hour.

Forgo the flip. When smoking burgers, especially in a Traeger which uses convection cooking (meaning the hot air gets blown around the food), there is no need to flip your smoked burger.

Use a meat thermometer to guage doneness. Once you start smoking burgers regularly, you will get a sense as to how long they take to cook to your desired doneness. However, because a smoked burger will still look pink even when fully cooked, it’s important to use a meat thermometer to guage doneness.

If your burger is thick enough, it can hold a leave-in thermometer like the MEATER®, which is especially good for smoking because you can monitor the temperature remotely during its relatively long cook.

For a thinner burger that can’t hold a leave-in thermometer, use an instant-read meat thermometer and start checking before the end of the suggested cook time.

The USDA says to cook beef burgers to 160°F for safety, which translates to well done. Because a smoked burger cooks gently, it may still be juicy at this temperature. However, most burger connoisseurs prefer burgers cooked to medium-rare or medium. For a medium burger, take the patties off the heat between 140°F to 145°F.

Pro tip: A smoked burger will still look pink even when fully cooked.


How (and Why) to Smoke-Sear Burgers

While a smoked burger is delicious, it can lack the crisp bits you get when you grill or sear burgers over high heat. To get the best of both worlds, you can smoke the burgers until just shy of your final preferred doneness. Take them off the grill and increase the grill temperature to between 450°F and 500°F. Grill them for a few minutes on each side. Alternatively, heat your Traeger Flatrock or other griddle and sear them as done in this pub burger. (For more on grilling burgers on a pellet grill, look here.)

Alternatively, you can sear the exterior first on a hot grill or griddle, and then finish the burger over some smoke as is done in this Smoked Carolina Burger.

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How Long to Smoke Burgers

As mentioned earlier, how long it will take to smoke your burger depends on a few variables including how big your burger patty is, the temperature of the grill, and even the weather. At 180°F or so, it can take up to two hours. At 225°F it may take 40 minutes or so. You can always cook the burger partway through to get the smoke flavor, then crank up the heat to finish more quickly.


What About Cheese?

Cheese tastes great on a smoked burger. The question is when to add it. If you are only smoking the patty (and not finishing with a sear), add the cheese toward the end of cooking but give it more time on the patty because the low grill temperature means it won’t melt as fast. If you plan to finish the smoked burger on a hot grill or griddle, add the cheese at that point.


Tips for Smoked Hamburgers

Here’s a quick review of smoked hamburger tips:

  • Use ground beef with a good amount of fat.

  • Don’t overhandle the meat making the patties.

  • Use Super Smoke if you have it for more flavor.

  • Temp the burger to check for doneness as it won’t have as many visible markers as grilled.

  • Consider a final sear on a hot grill or griddle to sear the exterior and add toasty flavor.

  • Serve with your favorite burger toppings.

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Best Smoked Hamburger Recipes

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This BBQ Smoked Burger gets optionally topped with some Homemade Smoked Ketchup.

Our Smoked Carolina Burger gets topped with chili and coleslaw making it practically a full meal on a bun.

Find our why one Traeger fan calls Diva Q’s Smoked Whiskey Burger “the best burger I have made or eaten.”

Smoked Pastrami Burgers get topped with slices of the cured meat for a salty savory bite that’s unbeatable.

The title of this recipe may say grilled, but these Guinness Burgers get smoked briefly before grilling for wood-fired flavor.

For a straight-ahead smoked burger try the aptly named Smoked Burger.

Topped with balsamic onions and a “special” sauce, this Smoke & Sizzle Burger tops what you get at most pubs.

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