Mouthwatering Brisket Burger
By: Jack Mancuso
There is nothing so good as a fresh, mouth-watering burger with your favorite fixings. You might think of a hamburger as simply ground beef, like what you get at a supermarket. I think you’re missing out on a lot of flavors that you could get by using different cuts of beef, like brisket, instead. So, give it a go! When making a mouthwatering brisket burger, you are looking for a 70%-30% ratio of fat, which is pretty easily achieved with the brisket’s high-fat content. With this ratio, you can cook your burger to medium-rare. If you prefer a bite that’s medium-well, you need more fat (40%). Conversely, a rare burger needs less fat (20%), so pull out that trusty Cuso Cuts cutting board for trimming!
What is Beef Brisket?
Brisket comes from the cow’s breasts. It’s one of the least tender beef cuts, so you might wonder how it performs in a burger. Thankfully, because you’re going to smoke these bad boys, there’s little worry.
For one thing, you are grinding the brisket, then you’re adding smoking into the equation, which takes a little longer and gives the brisket time to break down connective muscle tissue (which, otherwise, could make eating the meat something akin to chewing a rubber ball).
How to Grind Brisket
Don’t sweat it. I know of ways you can grind a brisket without fancy equipment.
- Cube the brisket using a Chef’s knife and place it in the freezer for a half-hour.
- Put small batches of it in your food processor, pulsing it to a fine chop.
- Chill each batch immediately for food safety.
If you do not have a food processor, you can hand chop the meat on a good cutting board, using a cleaver, until it is as fine as you wish. Note: Still freeze the brisket.
Shaping your Mouthwatering Brisket Burger
Take your ground brisket directly from the refrigerator. You want a clean work surface covered with parchment or wax paper to keep the meat from sticking.
Divide your ground brisket.
Tip from My Kitchen: eye the size of your burger rounds based on how much fat you cut off the meat. The higher the fat content, the more your brisket burger shrinks. So, make the patties in even-sized portions, slightly bigger than your rolls.
If you have a large, round cookie, biscuit, or dough cutter, this is a perfect implement for making a tidy patty. Using this or your hands, taking care to gently shape it into a loosely formed burger, then compact it slightly.
Make a thumbprint indentation in the center of your patty. This helps hold the shape. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Again, you’re “keeping it together!”
What’s the Beef? How much Meat per Person?
If you are making a 6-ounce burger, one per person, follow this chart when you go to the store. You can easily double the figure if you want to serve two burgers (who only serves one? Savage!).
If you want to make a bigger burger, just double the amount. Now, you don’t have to go overboard. Think taste over size. One restaurant makes a hamburger that’s over 1,700 pounds (Bring the entire neighborhood!).
- Feeding 4 people, 1.5 pounds
- Feeding 6 people, 2.25 pounds
- Feeding 8 people, 3 pounds
- Feeding 10 people, 3.75 pounds
I would never butt in with your uncle’s or sister’s favorite burger trade secrets. That’s a recipe for disaster.
But there’s an important trick to a great mouthwatering brisket burger. Too many additives lead to crumbles. The burger becomes difficult to manage in a smoker. As a result, I recommend powdered spices as your best bet, like Cuso’s barbecue rubs. Then slather that puppy with all the toppings you want.
Let’s get Smokin’
Set up your smoker so it maintains a 225 degrees F heat. Any wood choice is fine, but mesquite seems very popular, as does hickory.
When the brisket burgers reach 130 degrees F, remove them from the smoker. At this point, you can give the burgers a nice sear on a hot skillet (toss in a little butter for extra decadence).
When the meat reaches 140 degrees F internally, STOP. You want the meat to rest (hey, it’s been a long day). During resting, the burger continues to cook somewhat, leaving you with a perfectly rare hamburger.
Avoid cooking brisket burgers longer than this. They lose a lot of juiciness that you’re looking for when you take a big-ole-bite.
Tips & Tricks
There is a general theme of “keepin’ it chill” in this article, and that means your brisket burger meat. When your patties are cold, they stay together and hold their shape.
Other tricks I’ve found for making the best brisket burger include:
- Don’t play with the patty too long. It’s kind of like bread. Don’t over-work it.
- Avoid liquid flavorings. Sauce and marinade make your patties too loose. Look to dry alternatives.
TIP: You can buy powdered Worcestershire, vinegar, and other traditionally liquid spices online.
- Be patient with searing. Try to flip it only once. Too much flipping causes the burger to fall apart.
The best variations come in the form of your choice of bun and toppings.
My Top Brisket Burger Buns include:
- English Muffin
- Two slices of bread
Mouth Watering Brisketsket Hamburger Toppings (whew, this could get wordy)
- Sauteed peppers, onions, or mushrooms
- Heat: Banana peppers, chilies, jalapenos
- Tomato, Lettuce, Onion (raw, sliced)
- Bacon (hey, make a weave!)
- Barbecue sauce (that’s an article unto itself)
- Condiments: Mustard, mayo, hot sauce, ketchup
- Pesto, guacamole, hummus
- Cheese: Brisket loves cheddar and Monterey Jack
- Pineapple or Mango (yes, really!)
- Pickles, slaw, kimchi, Banh Mi
- Shrimp, lobster, or crab bits (brisket surf and turf)
- Smoked sausage, thinly sliced
You can also have a lot of fun with “theme” brisket burgers. Try, for example, a Caprese Burger, topped with feta, balsamic, fresh tomato, basil, and spinach.
The beauty of hamburgers is you can really play in your kitchen and come up with amazing results.
Pit Master’s Memo: Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long can you store burger meat in the fridge?
If kept in airtight food storage bags, it will keep for two days.
2. Can you freeze brisket burger meat?
Absolutely. Even better, you can freeze preformed patties for future use. Just lay the patties on a baking sheet covered with waxed paper.
Afterward, freeze them solid. Stack them single layer with either waxed or parchment paper between them. Again, use an airtight, freezer-safe bag with as much air pushed out of it for storage.
Shelf life: 4 months.
3. What’s the best way to defrost my burgers?
Move the meat into the refrigerator overnight.
If you’re in a hurry, leave the patties in their storage bag and submerge them in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until they’re ready for the smoker.
I strongly advise against using a microwave for defrosting your brisket burger meat. You will get spots that cook before they reach the smoker, resulting in uneven cooking and rubbery bites.
4. When should I season my burger meat?
Spices like salt draw moisture out of your ground meat. So, season your burger as close to when you are going to cook it as possible. You can do it while your smoker is heating up!
From the Bar
Beer: Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout or Goose Island Nut Brown Ale
Wine: Merlot, Cab Franc, or Cabernet Sauvignon
Liquor: Smoky Bourbon or Whiskey: BenRiach Curiositas 10 Year, Booker’s, Southern Tier
Non-Alcoholic: Cranberry juice or pomegranate juice fizz