Burgers are the staple food of backyard cooking for friends and family. However, burgers come in various different forms, and the meat used to produce the burger will impact how you may wish to cook it. For instance, you may wish to try and infuse smoke into the burger, or you may just want a hot/fast cook. Are you working with a homemade burger patty or a frozen patty? Below we’ll look at all these topics for how to cook burgers on a pellet grill/smoker. Let’s begin.
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- Cooking Time Grilling: Typically 15 to 18 minutes
- Cooking Time Smoking: Typically 30 to 45 minutes
- Pellet Grill/Smoker Temp: For smoking around 225 F, for grilling as hot as it gets
- Direct/Indirect Heat?: Smoking indirect, grilling direct (if you have it)
- Burger Internal Temp When Done: 160 F (we’ll discuss this)
- Best Pellets For Burgers: Oak, Hickory, Mesquite, maybe Charcoal pellets
I’m no BBQ expert, my expertise is how pellet grills/smokers work and the range of makes/models on the market. When it comes to how to cook on a pellet grill/smoker, I’ll be referring to the professionals.
The Best Method To Cook Burgers On A Pellet Grill/Smoker
Ok, to start this article, I want to show you one of the best approaches I’ve seen to date on how to prepare and cook burgers on a pellet grill/smoker.
The reason is, this approach by Anderson of the Anderson Smoke Show actually takes advantage of the smoke your pellet grill/smoker can produce to make the best-tasting burger possible.
After all, after spending the additional cash on a pellet grill/smoker over a basic charcoal grill or a gas grill, surely you want to be able to taste the smoke it can produce?
Another reason I particularly like the approach above for a smoked burger is it can be done not only on a horizontal pellet smoker/grill but also on a vertical pellet smoker as the max cooking temp is 300 F.
If you’re looking for a grilled/semi-charred burger, we’ll discuss that approach below. However, for me personally, I’m a fan of a nice juicy burger instead.
As such, before we get into actually smoking/grilling a burger on your pellet grill/smoker, we need to discuss the meat you’re using if you want to go with the homemade burger approach.
If you’re only interested in quickly grilling frozen burgers, well, I’ve produced a separate section on that topic below. While convenient/quick, a frozen burger is not going to give you the best end result.
1: What Ground Burger Meat Are You Working With?
Ok, again, if you’re just working with a frozen burger, you can skip this section. However, if you want to produce a nice moist, tasty burger on your pellet grill/smoker as Anderson does in the video above, we need to talk meat.
Specifically, what type of ground meat are you working with? For this example, I’m going to presume your working with beef, but obviously, burgers can be made from other meats/poultry.
With ground beef, there are actually many different types, depending on what cut of meat from the beef cattle the ground beef is produced from.
For instance, in Anderson’s video above, he specifically states he made his burgers from ‘ground chuck‘. That’s important, and its partly why I’ve chosen to reference it as the best method to follow.
Chuck ground beef is from around the shoulder of the cow. The reason that’s important is that it means the fat content of ground chuck beef is typically between 15 to 20%.
You need enough fat in your burger patty, or your burger will be dried out by the time its cooked. Therefore, chuck ground beef is generally regarded as the best option for a homemade burger.
You can use ground beef made from sirloin (7 to 10% fat) or rounds (up to 10% fat), but if you do, you’re probably going to want to try to add some additional fat into your mix.
So fat in a burger is key to its flavour and juiciness once its cooked, and with a beef chuck burger, the fat content is 15% to 20%, but for even more flavour, you can go for Wagyu.
Wagyu beef cattle are originally from Japan. However, they have been imported to the American Northwest and reared by companies such as Snake River Farms.
Wagyu beef fat content is typically between 20 and 35%, and it can produce some of the tastiest/juiciest burgers possible. Then again, its expensive, so think of it more as a treat.
2: Preparing The Burger Patty & Seasoning
A burger patty may or may not be just beef mince formed into the patty shape. As stated above, if you are working with very low-fat content beef mince, on its own, it probably won’t hold together.
Therefore, other ingredients may be added. For instance, in Anderson’s video above, he adds an egg and some bread crumbs. These both act as a binder and add additional texture to the burger.
You’ll also be adding seasoning, this could be as basic as salt and pepper. However, you can add in some BBQ rub etc, but don’t go nuts adding too much seasoning. You’re not cooking a brisket here.
For some additional information, I’ve included another video on how to produce a beef burger patty. Note at the start of the video how its stated the fat content of your beef mince is so important.
So a couple of important points to take away from the video above. First, when forming the patty, do not squeeze it. Its a patty, literally pat it into shape.
Second, push your thumb down in the centre, as this will stop the patty from expanding into a ball shape when its cooking, and it will also help the centre of the beef burger cook as well.
A little bit of salt, but if you’re going to follow Anderson’s approach in the video at the start of the article, the bacon is adding salt, so don’t over-salt the burger.
Then pepper or some other mix of seasonings/spices to suit your own personal preference. The video also discusses cooking the burger and resting, and we’ll get to that below.
3. The Best Pellets For Cooking A Burger
Ok, so the best pellets to use on your pellet grill/smoker for cooking a burger will be partly down to personal flavour preferences, but also it will depend on how to want to try and cook it.
Different wood species of pellets produce different amounts of heat, many people don’t know that, but its true. For instance, Oak pellets will produce more heat than Apple pellets per lb.
Therefore, if you purely want to grill the burger at a high heat, your best option will be to go with 100 % Oak pellets or a high percentage Oak blend. For an even higher heat output, use Charcoal pellets.
Now, if you’re going to be smoking your burger before you try to grill it at a high heat, if at all on a high heat, then you could consider one of the wide range of pellet flavours.
With a beef burger and red meats in general, they are well suited to the bold smoke flavours from Mesquite or Hickory, maybe even a niche Whisky blend of pellets.
Alternatively, if you prefer a lighter more sweet smoke flavour, then a general fruit blend of pellets or a specific Apple, Cherry or Plum wood blend may be preferable.
If you want to know more, click the image of the pellet bags above to go to my in-depth article on all the brands of grilling/smoking pellets currently available and the best value options.
Pellet Usage When Smoking/Grilling A Burger
Generally, most pellet grills/smokers at lower smoking temperatures will consume between 1 to 2 lbs of pellets per hour. When grilling, pellet usage can jump up to 3 to 4 lbs per hour.
When smoking burgers, the total cook time will go up to maybe 45 minutes. If purely grilling at a higher temperature, the cooking time will be closer to around 18 minutes, typically.
Therefore, when cooking burgers on a pellet grill, due to the relatively short cooking time, even when smoking, pellet usage will be fairly minimal.
4. Smoking A Burger On A Pellet Grill/Smoker
We’ll get to grilling below, but first, let’s talk about trying to get some smoke flavour into the burger patty.
If you try to cook the burger at a high temperature only, you will get very minimal, if any smoke flavour into the burger.
There are two reasons. First, cooking purely at a high heat (400 F plus), the burger is cooking so quickly (typically around 18 minutes) that it simply wouldn’t have enough time to absorb much smoke.
Second, when a pellet grill is running flat out to produce as much heat as possible, its a clean/efficient burn. Well, you don’t get much smoke at all with a clean, efficient burn.
Therefore, if you want to get some smoke flavour into your burger, you’ll need to cook the burger at a lower temperature, at least for the majority of the cook.
Typically, that would mean a temperature setting of around 225 degrees Fahrenheit, but if your pellet grill/smoker has a smoke setting, use it.
The smoke setting will deliberately smoulder the pellets to create additional smoke. As Anderson shows with his Camp Chef pellet grill, he’s able to adjust the smoke setting independent of the temperature.
This is not the case on all pellet grills/smokers, but the point is, if you have a smoke setting, use it.
5. Grilling A Burger On A Pellet Grill/Smoker
Ok, now let’s discuss cooking a burger on a high-heat, grilling, in other words.
Where smoking the burger is cooking via indirect heat utilizing the convection cooking capabilities of a pellet grill/smoker, grilling can be done via direct heat.
I say ‘can be done direct heat‘, but the fact is some ‘pellet grills’ are only indirect heat cookers. Whereas other pellet grills can actually cook via direct flame, hence true direct heat cooking.
Whichever is the case, for grilling, you’ll be running the pellet grill at its highest temperature setting, commonly that will be 450 to 500 degrees, but some models do go higher.
Those pellet grills that do offer direct flame grilling will provide surface temperatures of 650 degrees plus over the flames. At these high temperatures, the burger is obviously going to cook much faster than when smoking the burger at lower temps.
Besides purely the speed of cooking the burger faster, its at these higher temperatures where you will get the classic grill marks on the burger from the charring effect and Maillard reaction.
While grilling a burger at high heat can produce delicious results, there are some potential downsides/risks.
You could very easily end up burning the outside of the burger before the centre of the burger is at a temperature that’s safe to eat.
However, as long as you are careful, even when smoking a burger, it can be nice to finish off the burger patty with some higher temperatures to get the Maillard reaction going on the outer surface.
6. But When Is A Burger ‘Done’ Cooking?
Ok, I’m going to keep this simple, you’ll want to have an instant-read thermometer to hand, and you’ll be looking for an internal temperature within the burger patty of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now, technically, based on the doneness scale, 160 F is classified as ‘well done’. Personally, I don’t like my stakes well done. I prefer medium-rare, which is around 135 F.
I’m aware that many people choose to cook their burgers on the same basis as a stake, with some even opting to cook a burger to just 125 F, hence rare.
But that’s not for me, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else either for a specific reason.
A burger made from ground meat is not a steak, and with ground meat, you have to be very, very careful to avoid E-Coil bacteria poisoning.
Therefore, I’m going to recommend FDA & CDC guidance on this one, which is you want to cook your burgers until their internal temperature is 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Advice on cooking a burger until it feels a certain way is just far to vague and risky. Get yourself an instant-read thermometer, its the only safe means to know when your burger is ‘done’.
As long as you are using a burger mince that has a sufficiently high fat content, your burger patty will not be dry when its cooked to 160 F. It will still be juicy and delicious.
7. Finishing Off The Burger And Buns Etc
We know from the above a safe final internal temperature for the burger when its finished cooking is 160 F. Therefore, by monitoring the internal temperature of the burger during the cook, you have some choices.
For instance, when the temperature of the burger patty is around 140 to 150 degrees, slapping a slice of cheese on top of the burger will melt it nicely by the time the burger is ‘done’ at 160 F.
If you have been smoking your burger at a lower temperature setting, around the same 140 to 150 degrees (or maybe a bit lower) is when you may want to finish the burger by grilling it at a higher temperature.
As the burger patty gets towards the end of the cook, you may also want to quickly toast off your buns to give that great texture change while eating the burger.
I’ll leave the burger toppings to you for personal preference. My objective is to make sure you have the knowledge on how to best cook a burger patty on a pellet grill/smoker.
So What About Frozen Burgers On A Pellet Grill/Smoker?
Ok, sometimes you just need to grill up some quick burgers on your pellet grill/smoker, and you have some frozen burgers you want to cook.
As a frozen burger is going to be much thinner than a typical handmade burger, its typically going to cook faster, which speed may be the thing you’re looking for.
Well, due to that fast cook, don’t worry about smoking a frozen burger, as following on from my comments above, there won’t be enough cooking time to absorb sufficient smoke.
As a result, using anything other than Oak/Charcoal pellets could be seen as a waste. Really, the best option would be to use the cheapest blended pellets you had.
Remember, you’re still looking for the same internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to determine when the burgers are cooked and safe to eat.
Final Thoughts On How To Cook Burgers On A Pellet Grill/Smoker…
When it comes to cooking burgers on a pellet grill/smoker, you can either choose to go with purely smoking at a lower temperature, smoking with a final bit of grilling or purely high-temperature grilling.
If you’re cooking frozen burgers, personally, I would just go for high-temperature grilling. However, if you’ve gone to the effort of making your own burger patties, then I would smoke them at a lower temp.
Rember though, don’t just use any ground beef. Pay attention to the fat content of the beef. It plays a crucial role in making a good burger.
Finally, personally, I recommend cooking to a temperature (160 F) and not a time or how the burger feels. While some may take the risk with a rare/medium rare burger etc, I don’t think its work the risk.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found the above information and videos above useful on how to cook a burger on a pellet grill/smoker.
Please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to learn more. However, I’ve also produced an FAQ section below, which you may also find useful.