Try something new for your grilling pleasure this summer. Bison burgers are a nutritious and delicious alternative to beef. Truth be known, even this vegetarian has been caught indulging in a bison burger now and then.
Bison meat is one of the leanest, most nutritious meats available, and you can use it for burgers, roasts, steaks and stew. Because most bison are raised on open ranches and fed grass, the meat contains far fewer — if any — artificial antibiotics, hormones and steroids than beef and other more common meats. Bison burgers are lean, juicy and packed with omega-3 fatty acids. This is because bison spend their life grazing on grass high in omega-3s and little time in a feed lot.
The meat from bison is highly nutrient-dense because of the proportion of protein, fat, mineral and fatty acids to its caloric value, according to North Dakota State University information.
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Bison meat available for sale is usually harvested from animals that are about 2 1/2 to 4 years in age. This is when the meat is the best tasting and most tender. Some people describe the taste as somewhat sweet. Bison has a deeper red color than beef. This is because bison does not marble (contain internal streaks of fat) like beef. Since bison lacks marbling, the meat has a tendency to cook more rapidly than beef, so be careful to watch it while grilling. A medium-rare buffalo steak will appear more like a rare beef steak. Because burgers are so lean, it is sometimes advantageous to mix a bit of bread crumbs or oats into the burger to bind it together.
Grilled Bison Burgers
1 pound ground bison
½ cup of bread crumbs or uncooked oats
3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
3 dashes hot sauce (Tabasco)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 dash of black pepper
4 slices of cheese (cook’s choice)
4 hamburger buns
Preheat an outdoor grill on high heat and lightly oil the grate.
Mix bison, bread crumbs or oats, egg, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, garlic and pepper together by hand in a bowl; form into 4 patties. Place patties on baking sheet, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate until chilled, about 15 minutes.
Spray the patties with cooking spray, and grill until hot and slightly pink in the center, about 5 minutes per side. To ensure your burger is cooked to a safe temperature (160 degrees F), insert a thermometer into the center.
Serve plain or in a bun.
SeAnne Safaii, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., is an assistant professor at the University of Idaho Dietetics Program and past president of the Idaho Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.