A Basic Griddled Bison Burger That's Simple and Tasty

Our Homemade Griddled Bison Burger

A properly seasoned cast iron griddle is a great kitchen tool for cooking bison burgers, but it does have some limitations.

The good news: Cast iron griddles heat very evenly. They can be used on top of barbecue grills, or inside during bad weather providing an adequate kitchen exhaust system is available. They work well over any gas source-barbecue or inside range, and also electric stoves that are equipped with coil style burners.

The bad news: They are less than ideal when used on electric ranges that have ceramic tops. Bad enough if one drops the griddle on the ceramic top and breaks it. But ceramic top ranges can be slow to heat up, pulse through all stages of heating, and are a complete nuisance to clean.

2 lbs
1 - 1 1/4 tsp
1/4 - 1/2 tsp
ground bison, 80 to 90% lean, medium texture preferred
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
cooking oil (grape seed, peanut, or sunflower preferred) - DO NOT use Olive Oil*
     *Please see our SMOKE POINTS TESTS
     (Olive oil has a tendency to burn and can give bison an off-taste)

  • Break the ground bison up into small chunks by hand; spread the chunks evenly over a baking sheet. Sprinkle the ground meat with salt and pepper.

  • Shape the seasoned ground into 5 patties measuring about 4 inches in diameter and little over and inch thick. Try not to handle the meat excessively while shaping it into burgers. Over handling or compacting raw ground can result in a cooked burger that just doesn't have the right mouth feel to it. Density is increased and a lack of tenderness may be noticeable.

  • Place the bison burger patties on a baking sheet or large plate. Cover burgers loosely with some plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the patties to set. (Patties can always be made well in advance.)

    Bison meat broken up and ready to be made into burger patties. Bison meat formed into burger patties, ready to cook.

  • To be absolutely safe, it is always best to cook ground meat until it is well done-to an internal temperature of at least 160F. At that temperature bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses, such as e-coli and salmonella, are rendered harmless. Bacterial problems are however more common to large scale commercial beef and poultry processing, not the bison industry. Buying bison from a reputable supplier, or GRINDING YOUR OWN AT HOME can minimize risks associated with consuming medium-rare to medium well done burgers (135F to 155F internal meat temperature).

  • Like all meats, cooking bison properly is best done with the use of accurate thermometers. Grill surface thermometers (coil or laser), even an inexpensive oven thermometer; can help ensure that your burgers are being cooked in a temperature range that is ideal for ground bison.

    Laser Grill Surface Thermometer Coil Grill Surface Thermometer Coil Grill Surface Thermometers Oven Thermometer On Grill Surface

  • An instant-read digital stick thermometer is also essential to test for doneness. Although not inexpensive, the Thermapen is tops in design and accuracy. Accurate readings within 1 degree Fahrenheit can be obtained in less than 3 seconds.

    Thermapen Digital Probe Thermometer

  • Put the seasoned cast iron griddle, ribbed side up, on top of a cold gas range top, electric stove burner, or barbecue grill. Heat the griddle to the 475 to 500F range. Check the temperature with a coil or laser thermometer. An oven thermometer can also be used, but is only relatively accurate if covered before the reading is taken. A roasting pan cover is ideal for this purpose.

  • Brush some cooking oil on the top side of the burgers. Place the burgers on the preheated griddle, top side down.

  • Except when the burgers are being flipped over, the griddle is best covered. A large roasting pan cover or deep dish aluminum tray are both suitable. Covering the griddle this way while the burgers are cooking will help retain heat, and will also help protect the stove top area from any splatter.

  • Grill burgers for 4 minutes without disturbing. Then flip the burgers over and cook the opposite side for 4 minutes.

  • Flip the seared burgers twice more over the next 4 minutes, or cook until an internal temperature of 135F to 140F is reached. Check with an instant-read digital stick thermometer to be sure. Approximate total cooking time: 10 minutes.
  • After coming off the griddle allow the burgers to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

  • In our tests, a 90% lean 6 1/4 oz bison burger finished at 5 1/2 ounces when cooked to medium-rare/medium doneness. Burgers were best 5 minutes off the grill, but they were acceptably hot and juicy after 10 minutes of resting as well.

  • Kids Burgers

    • A 5 1/2 ounce burger can still be a lot of meat for some kids, big or small. Different sized burgers could be made and grilled as an alternative. But for the sake of consistent doneness, and less grill chaos, we suggest sticking to this exact recipe with one exception. Once grilled and allowed to rest for at least 5 minutes, where less is better, split the burger horizontally to create two halves of about 3 ounces a piece -- a perfect size for those smaller appetites.

      A Kids Size Bison Burger

  • Leftover Bison Burgers? They make great COLD CUT BISON BURGER SANDWICHES

Cast Iron Griddle Problems

The biggest drawback with cast iron griddles, if one can call it that, is that they are only suitable for cooking medium-rare to medium done bison burgers. Because cast iron holds heat so well, once a bison burger is done to medium the time span to well done is a very short one, usually just a couple of minutes. But over that couple of minutes, because the griddle is in the 500F heat range, the moisture inside the burgers is literally being boiled away. (See:The Searing Myth below)

A griddle can produce a well done bison burger, but unfortunately the moisture loss that occurs during the process will leave one with a drier less appetizing burger. For the best way to prepare well done burgers, see our JUST THE BASICS BISON BURGER RECIPE.

The Searing Myth

The biggest misconception about searing is that the process locks in moisture. The crust or shell formed during the high heat searing process was thought to be watertight. Or so the thinking was in culinary circles from about 1850 until the 1930s. Then through basic experimentation it was disclosed that the crust formed through searing was not all that watertight after all, in fact it was actually porous.

All one has to do to verify this is to either sear or sauté some meat until it is done to one's liking. That sizzle heard from the pan, the grill, or the griddle during the entire cooking process is the escape of moisture-mostly water and some fats. Moisture loss increases when cooking temperatures continue to elevate, or when they are maintained at elevated levels for too long. This is why doing a well done bison burger on a cast iron griddle without compromising juiciness is difficult.

Although searing cannot prevent moisture loss, it can brown and add considerable flavor to your bison burgers.

Seasoning Meat with Salt, Pepper and/or other Spice Blends

There are four ways that burgers can be seasoned.

  • Add seasoning to the ground before the meat is shaped into patties.
  • Sprinkle seasoning on the burger patties just before they go on the griddle.
  • Season the patties while they are on the griddle
  • Season the patties after they have been fully cooked
Our advice; forget about the last three. They will only give you a brief taste of the seasonings on the outside crust of the burger and that's about it. For continuity in flavor throughout the burger, add seasonings to the ground bison before it is shaped into patties.

Seasoning Cast Iron Kitchen Equipment (skillets, frying pans, Dutch ovens, griddles)

Cast iron seasoning is actually a natural non-stick curing and finishing process done using cooking oil. Our preference is peanut or grape seed oil. When done properly the treated finish will look like it has been lacquered and will be quite glossy in appearance.

A number of new cast iron products are now pre-seasoned. Buy it, take it home and start using it that day is the manufacturer's claim. But then again most products are now being made off-shore, and who knows what they are using when they season cast iron products coming from great distances away?

We suggest start from scratch with all cast iron products, pre-seasoned or not.

Wash the equipment in warm water using a non-abrasive scrubber. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Place in a low heat oven for a couple of minutes to make sure the cast iron is completely dry. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for a few minutes.

Set the oven to 500F, use the convection option if available.

Using a pastry brush, and a couple of tablespoons of peanut or grape seed oil, coat the equipment with oil. Mop up any excess with some paper towel.

Line the bottom rack of the oven with aluminum foil so that excess oil lands on the aluminum foil, not the bottom of the oven. Place the oil coated cast iron equipment upside down on the middle rack of the oven.

Bake for one hour at 500F, turn off the oven. Keep the oven door shut, leaving the equipment inside the cooling oven for the next 5 hours.

Remove the cast iron item from the oven. Wipe down with some paper towel and it is ready to use.

Clean in warm water only using a non abrasive scrubber when necessary. (Anything abrasive will score the surface and the equipment will have to be re-seasoned.)

Any rust indicates that a breakdown in seasoning has occurred. Wash, dry and re-season as soon as it is possible. Foods should not come off as metallic tasting, appear sooty or off-colored. If that happens re-seasoning is also required.

When not in use, store cast iron equipment in a dry place.