Going the smoking route is a terrific way to come up make a killer burger. Not only does smoking a burger produce a juicier result, but the smoke also creates excellent char and crispier edges. Once you try a perfectly-smoked burger, you will not want to return to conventional burgers (and let’s just forget about the drive-thru burger options).
But, if you want to get the process right, ‘how long to smoke burgers’ is a crucial question. As a rule of thumb, you should smoke the burgers for one hour or until the internal burger temperature goes up to 135 degrees Fahrenheit – whichever happens quicker.
Smoking a Hamburger on a Pellet Grill:
To prepare a great hamburger, you need to start by getting the perfect mix of grounded beef. If possible, you should grind your own meat, as that will allow you to get the meat-to-fat ratio right.
However, if you will be buying the meat from a grocery store, you should at least make sure that the grounding was done in-house (if the meat was grounded the same day that you are buying it, even better). Go for ground beef that has a meat-to-fat ratio of at least 85:15. If you prefer an even juicier burger, we recommend going with an 80:20 ratio.
Once the meat has been chosen, it is time to get the patties ready. Avoid any seasonings, since the salt can extract some of the meat’s moisture, and, consequently, alter the texture of the burger.
Convert the meat into patties, but make sure that you are only working the meat as and when needed. Shape the burgers so that they have a thickness of around 0.5 inches, and will be broader than the buns you will be placing them on. The cooking process will shrink the patties, which is why you should keep the size slightly larger than the size you want for your finished burger.
After forming the patties, season both sides of the burger, using the seasoning options that you like best.
How to Smoke a Hamburger?
After the meat is ready, the next step is smoking the hamburger.
We recommend using the hickory wood, as it can provide you with a decent smoky flavor during the short while that you will expose your burgers to the smoke. After preheating the grill, place the burgers on your grates, and remember to close off the lid. Generally, burgers can be smoked for about an hour, although the precise time can vary according to the burger thickness. For the first step, you should aim to get your burgers to an internal temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
The second step in this phase is searing the burgers. You need to take up the grill temperature to ‘high’, and open your deflector tray to promote direct heating – and just like that, you are roasting your burgers on a wooded fire. For this step, you should aim to get the fire up to a temperature of at least 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sear the burgers for around two to three minutes on each side. Alternatively, you can sear until the burgers have reached your desired level of doneness (according to the FDA, the ideal temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit). If your objective is a cheeseburger, you can add the cheese after the first flip of the burger. Once you think that the burger has been seared and smoked to perfection, they are ready to be served on toasty buns, along with the condiments of your choice.
Tips and Tricks for Smoking Burgers:
Although the smoking process is fairly simple and straightforward, there are a few tips that can be the difference between a very good and a perfect smoked burger. Thos tips are:
- Always remember to opt for grounded beef that has the right meat-to-fat ratio. The smoke and heat can get rid of some of the fat, so make sure that at least 15% of your chosen meat consists of fat.
- When smoking burgers, opt for stronger woods (we mentioned hickory, but mesquite and oak are also good options). The burgers will not be exposed to the smoke for too long, which is why you want the smoke to impact the burger for the entire time that it remains on the smoker.
- When cooking, focus on temperature and not on color. Smoking triggers a chemical reaction that causes the meat to turn light pink. Sometimes, the meat is pink for the entire one hour that you smoke the burger. However, if you use an internal thermometer, you will realize that, regardless of the pinkness, the burger has been perfectly cooked. Hence, let the burgers reach the recommended temperature of 16 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and do not fret too much about the pink color. With smoking patties, the visual cues are not as clear or accurate as they are with cooking on a grill. Use a thermometer, and watch out for the following internal temperatures:
- 120 degrees Fahrenheit for a rare burger
- 130 degrees Fahrenheit for a medium-rare burger
- 140 degrees Fahrenheit for a medium burger
- 150 for a medium well-done burger
- 165 for a well-done burger
- The smoking rules still apply. Smoking only changes the cooking time and temperature – it does not have any impact on the method. So, if you do not open up the lid for flipping other cuts, you need to keep the lid closed while smoking burgers as well. Opening the lid is not required for smoking, although you will have to do it once you start searing them.
- Adding the cheese should be the last step. If you want the perfect cheeseburger, do not add the cheese until you have seared one side of the burger. Adding the cheese after searing a single side will ensure perfect melting, so that the burger is ready to serve once it is added to the bun along with your chosen toppings and sauces.
Our Final Thoughts:
Smoking is one of the best and easiest ways to prepare a cracking burger, especially if you follow the process and tips outlined in this blog. To learn more about the different burger-making methods, please feel free to check out some of the other blogs on our website.