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When it comes to cook out classics – grilled burgers are one of the first things that come to mind for most.
And it’s easy to see why – burgers are super easy to make on the grill, tasty, and can be ready to go in almost no time.
But there’s another way to cook burgers – on the smoker – that leads to incredible flavor on your bun. The catch? It takes a little longer to smoke burgers than to grill them.
Smoked burgers are the way to go though if you’ve got a little extra time on your hands and want to dial up some tasty smokey flavor. And they’re incredibly easy to make!
Choosing the Right Beef for Smoked Burgers
Generally speaking, I’m a fan of using beef with a higher fat ratio for burgers (something like 80 % lean 20% fat), no matter whether I’m cooking on the grill or smoker.
The reason is because fat naturally makes burgers juicier and more flavorful. And the higher the fat content, the easier it is to achieve juicy burgers – especially considering how long smoked burgers spend over the heat!
Also try to use the freshest ground beef possible, whether it’s from the store or whether you ground your own beef yourself at home.
Forming Your Patties
You don’t need to do anything crazy or special with your patties for smoked burgers! Our recipe is simply salt, pepper, garlic powder, and an egg (which is acts as an adhesive to keep your burgers from falling apart).
We keep our smoked burgers recipe simple because the star of the show is the smoke flavor, but that’s not to say you can’t add other mix ins and still make a great burger here. Feel free to use your regular burger ingredients or add popular mix ins like onion, Worcestershire sauce, butter, cheese, etc.
Form your seasoned ground beef mixture into round patties that are just a little bit wider than the buns you plan to put them on, keeping in mind that the patties will shrink in size while they cook. Generally speaking, we like to make our burger patties anywhere between 1/2 thick for a thinner burger and 3/4 inches for a thicker burger.
Smoker Set Up & The Reverse Sear
If you’re not in any hurry, we like to set the smoker to 225ºF for burgers – this way the meat will have plenty of time to cook and absorb that smokey flavor we’re after. This is a much lower temperature than you’d set a grill temperature to for burgers if you were cooking them hot and fast.
At this temperature, your burgers will spend about an hour on the smoker for them to reach an internal temperature of 140ºF.
If you don’t have quite that much time to spare you can set the heat to 250ºF instead, which will shave about 10-15 minutes off of your cooking time while still allowing your burgers to absorb plenty of flavor.
For smoked burgers we like to utilize the reverse sear method, where the meat is first slow cooked to your desired doneness level. After the burgers are cooked through and full of smokey flavor, you’ll transfer them to a scorching hot grill for a quick sear (about 1-2 minutes per side) – to put the finishing touches on the delectable outer crust.
Personally, I use my pellet grill for smoked burgers – so it’s easy to crank up the temperature with the press of a button after the meat is done smoking. But if you’re working on a more traditional smoker, don’t worry if your burgers have to rest for a few minutes while the cooker heats up to searing temperatures.
How To Make the Best Smoked Burgers
We’ve already touched on a few pointers for maximizing your burger flavor and juciness on the smoker, but here are a few other recommendations we have to help elevate your cook:
Pay attention to the type of wood (or charcoal) you use. Charcoal smoking or stronger woods like oak, mesquite or hickory will lead to stronger smokey flavor on your burgers compared to fruitwoods like cherry and apple. Which wood is best for burgers is a question of personal preference, but it’s important to match up the right type of wood for the level of smoke flavor you’re looking for.
Use a probe meat thermometer for your cook. Burgers are easy to “eyeball” when you’re just cooking them on the grill. But on the smoker, you aren’t going to know exactly how done they are at any given moment without a probe thermometer. A thermometer allows you to cook burgers to the perfect temperature, every time.
Take advantage of the smokey burger flavor profile. Don’t get me wrong, I love a smoked burger with typical burger toppings like tomato, pickles, and onion. But this is also a perfect time to try different burger toppings that pair perfectly with smokey beef. BBQ burgers, bacon ranch burgers, mushroom swiss, and hatch chile burgers come to mind as perfect ways to compliment a smoked patty, but the possibilities are endless.
Toast your buns. Not only does the toasty bread add a layer of flavor to your burger, it helps to keep the structure of your bun in tact while you eat. You can easily toast your buns on the smoker or grill grate – just throw them on while you sear your burgers!
Smoked Burgers [Easy Recipe]
- Probe meat thermometer
- 1 lb ground beef we like 80/20 ground chuck
- 1 egg whisked
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- Preheat smoker to 225ºF
- Combine ground beef and egg in a large bowl until evenly combined, careful to not overwork the beef
- Form 4 evenly round burger patties from the beef mixture and place them on a plate
- Season burger patties on both sides with mixture of kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder
- Place burgers on the smoker and close the lid. Cook until they reach an internal temperature of 140ºF, measuring temperature occasionally with a probe thermometer. This part can take about an hour or maybe a little longer
- Remove burgers from grate and increase heat to at least 375ºF, ideally closer to 450ºF
- Place burgers back on grate for a quick sear, about 1-2 minutes per side or until a dark crust forms
- (Optional but recommended) Toast your buns on the smoker grate
- Remove burgers from smoker and let them rest for 5 minutes. Then assemble your burgers, serve, and enjoy!