When warmer weather comes calling, you need to whip up a batch of these super easy smoked burgers, piled high with your favorite toppings! This recipe makes for some ultra juicy burgers with the perfect smoky flavor that will be the highlight of your summer barbecue parties. Plus, these delicious smoked burgers only require about 10 minutes of hands-on preparation time, and even a beginner cook can master this recipe.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
That wonderfully deep, smoky flavor: If you think grilled burgers are great, just wait until you try a smoked burger – it takes burgers to the next level. We cook our burgers at a low 225 degrees for about 60-90 minutes, which gives the meat and even cheese plenty of time to infuse that smoky flavor for a more complex, richer-tasting beef patty.
Approachable for all skill levels: New to smoking meats? Smoking burgers is a great place to start. We don’t have to fuss with the meat much, and it’s a relatively short cooking time than, say, a smoked brisket, which is surprisingly simple but does require a lengthy smoke. This is truly one easy smoker recipe.
Makes entertaining as simple as can be: Once we form our burger patties, we sit back and let the smoker do the work. This gives us plenty of time to enjoy good company with a delicious drink in hand while the smoker works its magic. No hovering over a hot grilling, endlessly flipping patties for you.
Ground beef: Make sure you use 80/20 ground beef. This stands for 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat content. Some varieties come in 85/15 and 90/10, but we want that higher fat percentage to keep our burgers juicy and flavorful.
I went with ground Wagyu beef, which comes from a mix of cuts, but ground chuck is also a great option. Ground sirloin is a bit too lean as it’s a 90/10 beef.
Spice mixture: For a simple but delicious burger rub, I like to use a mixture of salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and smoked paprika. But feel free to use your own favorite burger seasoning if you prefer.
Burger buns: I especially love brioche buns. This type of bread is made with loads of milk, butter and eggs to create an ultra soft, fluffy bun with a touch of sweetness to counter the smoky burger patty.
Cheese: If possible, I recommend getting thick-sliced cheese. We’re making some big burgers here. Plus, it will take a little longer to melt, which means more smoking time. Tillamook makes a thick-sliced cheese that’s widely available, or you can get it sliced at the deli. I went with cheddar cheese, but feel free to pick up your favorite variety.
Form and Season the Patties
Step 1: The first step is to prepare the smoker with a water pan and heat it to a low temperature of 225 degrees. While the smoker heats, we divide our meat into equally sized portions, roll them into a ball (photo 1), shape into beef patties and then press our thumb in the middle of each patty (photo 2). Making an indentation with our thumb helps the burger hold its shape while cooking.
Step 2: Now we stir together our spice mixture and sprinkle it on each side of the hamburger patties.
Smoke the Burgers
Step 3: And just like that, our hands-on work is done, and we’re ready to put the burgers in the smoker directly on the grill grate (photo 4) and let the meat cook at that lower temperature.
Add the Cheese
Step 4: When the burgers come to about 10 degrees before our final desired temperature, we add the cheese (photo 5) and let it finish smoking until our preferred doneness while the cheese melts (photo 6).
Now load up that burger with your favorite condiments and toppings and bite into the best smoked burger ever! With that deep, amazing flavor, isn’t this the best way to cook burgers?
Note: This recipe was tested on a Pit Boss vertical pellet smoker, but you can apply the same ingredients and directions to any electric smoker or more traditional smoker. The Traeger, Green Egg, and Masterbuilt, for example, all work well.
Final Internal Temperature for Smoked Burgers
Whether you smoke or grill your burgers, you want to ensure they’re properly cooked by inserting a meat thermometer into the middle of the meat patty. Do not judge the burger by appearance, especially when smoking.
Unlike grilling, smoking causes a chemical reaction that turns the meat pink. You may have even noticed a pink tint on the burgers in these photos. That’s totally normal for smoked burgers whether you cook them rare or well done.
Keep this guide handy to ensure you cook your burgers to the perfect internal temperature, depending on how you like them.
|Rare||125 degrees F|
|Medium rare||135 degrees F|
|Medium||145 degrees F|
|Medium well||155 degrees F|
|Well done||160 degrees F|
Please note that the USDA recommends cooking ground beef to 160 degrees, but I find this is a personal decision. Keep in mind that the longer the burger cooks, the more smoke infusion you’ll get.
Honestly, I love a rare to medium-rare burger when grilling. Once it hits medium, I’m usually not interested because I find them a bit too dry, but it’s a different game when smoking.
That low cooking temperature keeps these burgers super juicy at all internal temperatures. So even if you love a rare burger like me, trust me – a medium burger when smoking is just as wonderful.
How to Reverse Sear
When you smoke burgers, we're cooking them at a low temperature, so they don't form a crust on the exterior like a grilled burger. I don't mind this and love the tender texture, but if you still want that charred exterior, reverse searing is your friend.
- Once the burgers reach about 10 degrees F below your desired final temperature, remove them from the smoker.
- Add canola oil to a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
- When the oil is hot, add the burger patties to the skillet. Cook until the side is nice and brown, about 60-90 seconds.
- Flip and sear on the other side. If you'd like cheese, you can add it now.
- Alternatively, you can use a sear plate on a separate hot gas grill.
Favorite Topping and Condiment Ideas
Of course, we have our classic toppings that include lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise, but feel free to get creative.
Aioli: Use a fancy aioli instead of mayo for a gourmet spin, such as this roasted garlic aioli.
Salsa: Since we already have the smoker fired up, this smoked tomato salsa is perfect.
Other fun toppings include a fried egg, caramelized onions, mushrooms, slaw, hot sauce or horseradish sauce.
Besides our delicious toppings and condiments, what's a good backyard party without plenty of side dishes and snacks? To start, we need some crowd-pleasing appetizers. Since we already have the smoker fired up, these are perfect.
- Smoked jalapeño poppers: We stuff jalapeño halves with cream cheese, cheddar and wrap them in delicious bacon.
- Smoked cream cheese: After smoking, the cream cheese turns into a wonderful cheese spread that everyone will devour instantly.
And now for those side dishes.
- Smoked macaroni and cheese: I'll say it — best mac and cheese ever! You'll never go back to any old recipe again.
- Smoked baked beans: You'll never go back to canned beans again. That's a promise.
- Hawaiian potato salad: This one is for carb lovers as it's loaded with both potatoes and macaroni.
- Pesto tortellini salad: You'll just love how cheesy tortellini is loaded with salami, mozzarella balls and sun-dried tomatoes, and it couldn't be easier to make.
For best results, we want to smoke the burgers to our desired internal temperature rather than judge it by cooking time or the outward appearance. As mentioned above, that chemical reaction will skew any attempt to cook by sight. That said, expect the burgers to take about 60-90 minutes.
A lot of variables come with smoking – the efficiency of your smoker and the outer temperature, for instance – so it’s not quite like baking where you can rely on a tight time range. My recommendation is to always plan for a leisurely evening when smoking. Put out plenty of snacks, like this whipped ricotta dip or mango-habanero salsa, and enjoy some good company in the meantime.
While we could smoke burgers at a higher temperature, they would could much faster, which means we wouldn't get as much smoky goodness. For best results, we want to use a slow temperature for maximum flavor.
You certainly can flip burgers, but it’s not necessary when smoking. See? Once the cooking process starts, your work is mostly done.
Since we’re dealing with a shorter smoking period, I recommend using a stronger-flavored wood. Hickory works well for a more subtle flavor, but I prefer mesquite for the perfect smoke infusion. You get those smoky notes without it tasting overwhelming on a small cut of meat because of that shorter time. While you technically can use a fruit wood, such as apple, I prefer that for a lighter type of meat.
You want to thaw the patties first, and then you're welcome to smoke them. To thaw, place the patties in an airtight container in the refrigerator the night before serving, and they'll be ready for your trusty smoker.
If you need to speed up the process, you can place the patties in a leak-proof bag and submerge them in cold water, not hot water, which allows for bacteria growth. You'll want to change the water every 30 minutes.
Adjust for smaller appetites or to get more out of your meat: This recipe calls for 8-ounce thick patties to make big steakhouse burgers, but you could go with 5 to 6 ounces per patty for smaller servings. It will also stretch your meat if you’re serving a large crowd.
Save the seasoning step right before cooking: If we add the salt too long before cooking, it will start to draw out the moisture of the meat.
Be gentle with the meat: Overworking the meat can lead to tough meat. Some people like to use a meat press to make the shaping process a bit easier, which naturally avoids overworking the meat. That said, I always shape with my hands – just remember that it’s OK if the patty is not a perfect circle, and that should help you from getting too handsy with your meat.
Never smash burgers: Smashing burgers is a great way to squeeze out all that juice and result in a dry burger. Trust the process. The smoker will cook the meat just fine. Besides, we want these patties to take a bit longer to get all those smoky notes.
Insert the meat thermometer through the side: This makes for a more accurate reading because it’s much easier to get it in the right spot.
Beer and burgers belong together, and I especially love a double IPA for this match. A double IPA offers a maltier backbone to hold up to that rich beef, but that hoppy and bubbly finish cuts through our meat as well as the cheese.
You may not think of wine and barbecue as a natural pairing, but it works perfectly when you put this smoked hamburger recipe with an Australian syrah. This wine is a fuller body to handle that big meat and cheese, but it also has a fruitiness to provide some balance.
Naturally, you also need some refreshing summer cocktails. You’ll love everything on this list of fruity margaritas, and you can go with a top-shelf reposado margarita for a more classic take – that oaked reposado is perfect with smoky beef.
Let’s make your summer parties extra delicious with a platter of smoked burgers. Everyone will love that perfectly smoky flavor infused into the most succulent meat. Get ready for the best smoked burgers ever.
More Summer Dinner Ideas
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- Wood chips or pellets I prefer mesquite but hickory works well too
- Meat thermometer
- 2 pounds ground beef 80 percent fat, 20 percent lean
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 4 cheese slices
- 4 burger buns
- Desired toppings such as lettuce, tomato, red onion, bacon, avocado, condiments, etc.
- Prepare the smoker with a water pan and set it to 225 degrees with mesquite or hickory wood pellets or chips. Divide the ground beef into four evenly sized balls of meat (8 ounces each) and form into patties. The patties should be about ½-inch thick and just slightly larger than your serving buns. Press your thumb in the middle of the patties to make an indention.
- Stir together the salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and smoked paprika. Sprinkle the burgers on both sides with the spice mix.
- Place the patties on the smoker and close the lid. Smoke until the meat reaches about 10 degrees under the final desired internal temperature. (For this stage, that's about 115 degrees for rare, 125 degrees for medium rare, 135 degrees for medium, 145 degrees for medium-well and 150 degrees for well.)
- Add a slice of your favorite cheese. Continue smoking until the burgers reach your desired internal temperature. (For this final stage, that's about 125 degrees for rare, 135 degrees for medium rare, 145 degrees for medium, 155 degrees for medium-well and 160 degrees for well.) Judge by internal temperature, not appearance, because the smoking process causes a chemical reaction that turns the meat pink even for well done. Remove the burgers from the smoker and let rest for five minutes. Add them to the burger buns with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!
- Even if you love a medium-rare or rare burger on the grill, you may prefer medium for smoked burgers because they're still super juicy and get more time for the smoke infusion.
- This recipe calls for 8-ounce thick patties to make big steakhouse burgers, but you could go with 5 to 6 ounces per patty for smaller servings. It will also stretch your meat if you’re serving a large crowd.
- Insert the meat thermometer through the side. This makes for a more accurate reading because it’s much easier to get it in the right spot.
- Save the seasoning step right before cooking. If we add the salt too long before cooking, it will start to draw out the moisture of the meat.
- Don't overwork the meat. Handle it just enough to form into patties. Some people prefer to use a burger press to shape, but your hands will work just fine.
- Don't press down on the burger patties while cooking.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.