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Bison Burgers and How to Cook Them

July 18, 2011 | Tags: Deborah Madison , Food | Post comment

Bison Burgers and How to Cook Them

Many years ago I met a bison rancher named Hugh Fitzsimmons in San Antonio, Texas. When he realized that I wasn’t a strict vegetarian, we finished our lunch and went directly to his house where he made me a bison burger. One bite and I was a fan, and grass-fed bison is the meat I find feels most nourishing and health supporting.  Grass fed bison is extremely low in fat (it has far less than chicken, pork, and beef), low in cholesterol, high in omega-3s and CLA (conjugated linolaic acid), and is a good source of vitamin E, selenium, and betacarotene. 


Because of the extremely minimal fat content,  bison cooks differently than beef, even when making something as basic as a bison burger. As Hugh told me then, you have to cook it over low heat, that’s the most important thing, but it cooks more quickly than ground beef. Also, because of the lack of fat, which has it’s own flavor that can mask other seasonings, you can be sparing with the salt and pepper. In fact, Hugh didn’t even use salt when he cooked mine and it didn’t really need it.

When a bison burger is done, it should still look dark pink in the middle and the flavor should be robust, but sweet, not gamey. It will, of course, be brown on the outside, but the inside can be cooked and still quite pink, and that’s what you want.  If brown throughout, it will be too dry.


For a 4-ounce burger cooked in a skillet, press the ground bison meat into a plump patty, heat a pan with a some olive oil (or brush the patty with oil) because there is virtually no fat in the meat. Then you can treat it as you wish —put it on a whole grain bun, add sautéed onions, tomatoes, some leafy greens, mustard etc.  Or just enjoy the meat's flavor as it is with a little salt and pepper.


If you want to grill a bison burger, Hugh advises having your grill set 4 to 6 inches over medium hot coals, not any closer. Again, it’s the lower heat that makes the difference.

I sometimes add diced onions and herbs to the meat before cooking it for extra flavor. I might even add a little cheese for both its flavor and fat. You can also use ground bison to make Italian meatballs, chili and even a Bolognese sauce. If you haven’t tried grass-fed bison, I hope you will.

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