I’ve previously produced my article on what I think is the best method of how to cook burgers on a pellet grill/smoker. This article is going to be more specific about cooking burgers on a Traeger pellet grill/smoker and their recommended methods. We’ll discuss why you might not want to follow Traeger’s methods below when it comes to food safety and when it comes to getting smoke flavour into a burger on a pellet grill/smoker. Right, let’s get into this!
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- Cooking Time Grilling: Typically 15 to 18 minutes
- Cooking Time Smoking: Typically 30 to 45 minutes
- Traeger Temp: For smoking around 225 F, for grilling 450-500 F
- 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.
Traeger has employed several different chefs over the years to provide their best advice on how to cook a burger on a Traeger. Below I’ll reference/summarise that advice.
This article is primarily talking about making/cooking your own burger patty. However, I do have a section discussing how to cook frozen burgers on a Traeger.
Traeger Recommended Approach For How To Cook A Burger
Traeger has produced many different recipes and cooking advice for burgers, not only beef burgers but also venison burgers, lamb burgers, tuna burgers and veggie burgers, to name but a few.
My objective with this article is not to just to reference a range of burger recipes. Its more to focus on how to effectively smoke and grill a burger patty on a Traeger.
The main recommended advice Traeger has on how to cook a burger is the video below, produced in 2019 by Matt Pittman of Meat Church.
My first problem with the video above is its titled ‘BBQ smoked burgers’. However, the method used by cooking the burgers at 375 degrees is not the best method to smoke a burger.
We’ll discuss that more below. However, I have a second issue. Matt references that burgers are recommended to be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, but he ‘doesn’t like them cooked that far‘.
Below I’ll explain why it should always be recommended to cook any ground meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
1: Your Ground Beef Needs Fat For A Good Burger
So, first off, when talking about making a burger patty, we need to start by discussing the ground beef you’re using. As it can make a big difference in how the burger holds together and its taste.
In the video above, Matt references that he makes his burger patties with ground chuck beef. However, he doesn’t really go into enough detail on what chuck beef is etc.
When buying ground beef, you can buy general beef grounds (up to 10% fat), ground sirloin (7 to 10%) or chuck ground beef (15 to 20%).
Chuck ground beef is from around the pectoral muscles/chest of the cattle, where there is a higher percentage of fat, and fat in a burger is important for a couple of reasons.
First, you need enough fat so the burger patty actually holds together. I’m sure you have heard ‘fat means flavour‘, and its very true, but you also need fat to stop the burger from drying out as it cooks.
So fat within the ground beef plays a vital role, and if you want a burger patty with 20 to 30% fat, you’ll want some Wagyu ground beef, as a Wagyu burger can taste absolutely amazing.
Wagyu cattle are originally from Japan. However, there are now US ranchers such as Snake River Farms who now rear Wagyu cattle in the US Northwest and sell Wagyu beef online.
While Wagyu burgers are amazing, they are also pretty expensive. Therefore, think of them as a treat for a special occasion, not your standard weekday burger.
2: Preparing The Burger Patty & Seasoning For The Traeger
When it comes to shaping the ground beef into a patty, don’t squeeze it, gently pat it into shape. It is a patty after all, so just pat it into shape.
As I reference in my main article on how to cook a burger on a pellet grill/smoker, you then want to push your thumb down in the center of the burger patty.
Why? Well, if you don’t, as the burger cooks, it will expand into a ball. That then makes it harder to place your toppings/bun on top of the burger patty.
Pressing your thumb into the center of the patty will stop the center of the patty from expanding to much as it cooks, whether you are smoking or grilling your burger.
When it comes to seasoning your burgers, you could just go with a light 50/50 mix of sea salt and black pepper. Personally, with a high-quality ground chuck/Wagyu burger patty, that’s all I would do.
However, if you want to add some additional flavour to your burgers, there are several rubs as part of the Traeger range that you could go for. Above are images of just two examples.
Though its important to remember, you are not cooking a large brisket here where the rub is flowing heavily. For burger patties, you just need a light bit of seasoning.
3. The Best Traeger Pellets For Cooking A Burger
The best pellets for you to use when cooking a burger will depend on two factors.
First, your personal smoke flavour choice (bold or sweet), and second whether you will be smoking or grilling your burgers.
You may want to smoke the burger at a low temperature and then finish the cook with some high-temperature grilling. That makes the choice a bit more complicated.
First off, when it comes to a bold smoke flavour, choices such as a Mesquite or Hickory blend will provide that. Other options include the Traeger Bold Blend or WhistlePig Whiskey Barrel pellets.
For a sweet flavour profile, then you may want to go with the Traeger Cherry blend or Apple blend. But these choices really only apply if you intend to smoke the burgers at a low temperature.
To actually produce a ‘smoked burger’, the burger needs to be in the Traeger for a sufficient amount of time to absorb the smoke. Hence a lower-temperature cook as discussed below.
When it comes to grilling, little smoke is produced, and the cooking time is much shorter.
Therefore, don’t worry about picking a pellet to suit your smoke flavour preference, you likely won’t be able to taste it.
When grilling, the better and cheaper option is to just go with standard oak pellets for two reasons.
First, oak pellets are generally the cheapest. However, they actually produce more heat than options such as Apple/Cherry pellets.
If you are just grilling your burgers and you want to get the highest temperatures possible on your Traeger, then you may also want to consider some 100% charcoal pellets.
To learn more about all of the pellet options currently on the market, please check out my article on the best-value smoking/grilling pellets.
Pellet Usage When Smoking/Grilling A Burger
Generally, Traeger’s 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 between 15 to 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.
However, twin-wall insulated models such as the Ironwood, Gen 1 Timberline and Gen 2 Timberline may use fewer pellets than the non-insulated Pro Series.
4. Smoking A Burger On A Traeger
Ok, let’s say you have decided you want some smoke flavour into your burger patty, makes sense. You have invested probably quite a lot of money into a ‘pellet smoker’ after all.
Well, as stated above, for the burger to absorb smoke produced from the pellets, it will need to be on the Traeger for a sufficient amount of time, hence a slower/lower temperature cook.
Second, its when a pellet grill is operating at these lower temperatures that more smoke is produced. Why, well, a small fire is a less efficient fire. Hence more smoke is produced.
Also, if your Traeger has a Smoke Setting which is found on legacy/older Traeger’s or you have a more modern Traeger with ‘Super Smoke’, use it, at least for this initial stage of cooking a burger.
When I came across the video above from Traeger on how to produce a smoked burger, I was very surprised, as it contains advice on the opposite method you should follow to smoke a burger.
The burger will patty will absorb more smoke as it starts to cook as opposed to when its partially cooked.
Therefore, if you want more smoke flavour in your burger, start the cook with the Smoke Setting/Super Smoke, not after its already part way through the cook, as shown in the video above.
5. Grilling A Burger On A Traeger
Now, you may wish to purely grill your burger or finish off your smoked burger by grilling it.
With grilling, maybe you’re just short on time, or maybe you are looking for some grill marks/charing or some of those great flavours that the Maillard reaction provides.
Either way, all Traegers, while they are very capable and competent pellet smokers, they are not the most capable pellet grills.
The reason is, Traeger’s lack direct-flame access. They also typically have thin wire racks. Therefore, the grate temperature doesn’t build. Finally, the maximum temperature setting is only 450-500 degrees.
However, there are two solutions to improve the grilling performance of any Traeger pellet grill/smoker.
GrillGrates are hard-anodized aluminium panels that can sit on top of the existing grate of your Traeger. They hold onto heat and hence can produce a higher temperature grilling surface.
Royal Oak 100% Charcoal Pellets produce more heat per lb than any other pellets you can currently buy. Hence, they can produce a higher heat output on any pellet grill/smoker.
With a combination of the two, you can significantly improve the grilling/searing performance of your Traeger if that’s how you wish to cook your burgers.
6. But When Is A Burger ‘Done’ Cooking?
Unlike Matt Pittman, I’m not going to be vague about this. Before your burger patty has finished cooking, you need it to have an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Now, I like a medium-rare steak, but you won’t catch me eating a medium-rare burger. Ground/minced meat carries a potentially high risk of E. coli bacteria and potential poisoning.
Therefore, following CDC/FDA advice, the only safe burger is with a burger patty which has been cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Instead of just guessing when your burgers are done cooking or to avoid overcooking them, you’ll want an instant-read thermometer such as the Thermapen above.
When it comes to cooking a burger to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, I’m aware some people are concerned about drying out the burger patty.
However, I would argue that if your ground beef doesn’t have enough fat in it, sure, it may taste dry when cooked to 160 degrees.
Hence, using ground beef which contains sufficient fat, or by mixing in some chopped bacon etc, you can have a juicy burger properly cooked to 160 degrees and safe to eat.
How To Cook Frozen Burgers On A Traeger
Ok, while I’d encourage you to prepare your own burger patties as discussed above, I get it. Sometimes you just need to quickly cook up some frozen burgers.
Would I encourage you to go through the time and effort of trying to smoke a frozen burger patty? Nope, trying to smoke a frozen burger patty is probably just going to be a waste of your time.
A frozen beef burger patty is thin and dense. Hence trying to get smoke flavour into them would be very difficult before they had finished cooking and their internal temperature was 160 degrees.
Therefore, personally, with a frozen burger, I would recommend just grilling them. After all, you are cooking a frozen burger to save time, so just cook them via the quickest method, hence grilling.
Final Thoughts On How To Cook Burgers On A Traeger…
As a quick round-up, you want to use ground beef with sufficient fat content. Ideally, at least 20% fat or ground Wagyu with 20 to 30% fat if you want to treat yourself.
Gently form the patties by patting them into shape, don’t overly work them and make them too dense. Then you want to push your thumb into the centre of each patty and season them.
When it comes to cooking the burgers, you can either smoke them (around 225 F, maybe lower) or you can grill them (450 F plus). You may want to smoke and then grill them.
Either way, you will want to cook the burgers until their internal temperature is 160 degrees. That’s when they are safe to eat. Enjoy!
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.