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Traeger Smoked Burgers

The perfect blend of sweet and salty, these smoked burgers with candied bacon, cheddar cheese, and fried eggs are one of my favorite things to make on the Traeger grill. Everything smokes at the same temperature for about an hour and a half, making it an easy recipe to knock out with minimal prep or planning. Let’s take a look at how to make them and all the customizations you can make to your Traeger burgers.

holding a smoked burger with a busted egg yolk running down one side

Best Ground Beef for Smoked Burgers

The gold standard when it comes to ground beef for homemade burgers is ground chuck or 80% lean ground beef. This has the best ratio of lean meat to fat, providing moisture and flavor. You’ll hear some people talk about blends of beef being superior for burgers but unless you’re grinding your own beef, just go with a quality 80/20 or 85/15 at the leanest.

Burger Seasoning vs Salt and Pepper

Plenty of burger enthusiasts say salt and black pepper are all your burger needs, and I agree when it comes to making smash burgers or thin patties. But these smoked burgers call for behemoth 6 oz patties. Salt and pepper do a great job, especially in combination with the smoke, but you might find the center a little bland.

So I think a quick burger seasoning goes a long way. The recipe calls for a blend of brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, and chili powder. Feel free to use a pre-mixed burger seasoning or some form of beef dry rub if you have a favorite.

ground chuck on a quarter sheet pan beside a bowl of burger seasoning

Just be sure not to over mix your ground beef. I like to sprinkle the seasoning over both sides and kind of stack and fold the ground beef on itself to mix. You get a surprisingly even distribution. Then it’s as simple as dividing the meat into fourths and forming patties.

If you have pastry rings or some type of straight sided silicone mold, you can use that to form the signature straight sides of a smoked hamburger. If you don’t have anything with a straight side, you can just use your hands to press the sides reasonably flat as you spread the patties out.

four burger patties formed on a quarter sheet pan before going in the smoker

You’re looking for a burger patty that’s slightly larger than the bun you’re using. Though I’ll mention if you’re using some type of jumbo or mini buns, and your patty size fits that, your cook time may vary due to the difference in thickness.

Smoking Burgers on the Traeger

I like to go reasonably low and slow for thicker smoker burgers like these. You get a nice crust on the outside, the distinctive smoke ring, and the centers stay nice and juicy.

To make these smoked burgers, I used Traeger Signature pellets on a Pro 575 grill. Cook times in other models and pellet smokers may slightly vary. You can use the Traeger probe or a wireless thermometer like the Meater thermometer (pictured below) to monitor your burgers internal temperature to know when to pull them.

smoked burgers on the Traeger with candied bacon and smoked bacon

Safe Burger Temperature

Why can you safely cook a steak medium rare but not a burger? It’s because bacteria lives on the surface of meat. So when you grind meat, that surface bacteria is blended in with everything else. That’s why the USDA recommends cooking all ground meat to an internal temperature of 160ºF and ground poultry to 165ºF.

That’s not an issue when you’re making something like ground pork tacos or a cheeseburger skillet, but burgers are a different story. For tender and juicy burgers, there are two workarounds:

  1. Freshly grind your own hamburger meat, limiting the exposure to the bacteria of a butcher or grocery store.
  2. Pasteurize the ground meat.

These smoked burgers use the second method. Pasteurization may remind you of milk and possibly egg whites, but it’s essentially bringing something up to a temperature and holding that temperature long enough to kill any bacteria. For ground meat, 12 minutes at 140ºF does the trick.

If you’re tempted to go even lower with the internal temperature, I wouldn’t recommend it. Safely pasteurizing ground beef at 130ºF takes 2 hours, in comparison. If you want to go lower for a more rare burger, you’ll want to grind your own meat.

Sources: Safe to Eat Burgers (Thermoworks) and Sous Vide Burgers (Serious Eats)

melted cheddar cheese on top of the burgers

Feel free to swap the cheddar for another cheese like burger-friendly American or Gouda. Though with a smoked burger, I think the sweeter condiments like BBQ sauce, sweet jams and burger spreads, and candied bacon go perfectly. And cheddar is the way to go with those toppings, in my opinion.

Related: How to Cook an Egg with a Runny Yolk

What About the Traeger Candied Bacon?

A bacon cheeseburger is classic. A candied bacon smoked cheeseburger is less classic, but I like to dream of a brighter future where it is.

I wanted to make a spin on Traeger candied bacon that you could throw on the grill alongside your smoked burgers. The original recipe calls for an hour at 300ºF, but I found that the 80-90 minutes your burgers will be on the grill at 225ºF is just right for a lower temperature.

You’ll see a note in the recipe card about how the lower temperature won’t make super crispy bacon. I think the candied exterior and slightly softer bacon makes for great eating with the thicker burgers, but you can always crank the temperature up at the end to make crispier candied bacon. Just keep an eye on it to avoid burning. There’s also a note for making regular smoked bacon in case you don’t like the idea of sweet smoked bacon burger.

four smoked burgers on a rack beside the Traeger grill

What to Serve with Smoked Burgers

I love Traeger side dishes as much as the next person, but they’re not always a good fit. The burgers and bacon will take up a lot of grill real estate and cook at 225ºF, which isn’t ideal for most side dishes on the Traeger.

Which brings me to my indoor cooking specialty, the air fryer. If you have one, or the indoor cook in your house has one, I would request one (or a few) of the following:

Most of these will be on the healthier side, if you’re into that sort of thing. More ideas for what to serve with burgers.

I can’t wait to hear what you think about these Traeger smoked burgers. Let me know how they turn out in a recipe review or comment. You can leave any recipe questions you might have in the comments as well.

Traeger Smoked Burgers

Traeger Smoked Burgers

Yield: 4 Burgers
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Thick and juicy 6 oz smoked burgers with cheddar cheese and candied bacon on a brioche bun.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds Ground Beef (80/20)
  • 1 tablespoon (12g) Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 4 slices Cheddar Cheese
  • 4 Hamburger Buns (I used brioche buns)

For Serving

  • Candied or Smoked Bacon (recipe below)
  • 4 Fried Eggs

Instructions

  1. Preheat smoker to 225ºF with the lid closed while you prepare the burgers.
  2. Mix the burger seasoning together and sprinkle over both sides of the ground beef.
  3. Use your hands to mix the beef together and form 4 burger patties, about 6 ounces each. You want the patties to be slightly larger than your buns as they'll slightly shrink in the smoker.
  4. Add the burgers to the smoker and cook for 70-80 minutes or until the burgers reach an internal temperature of 140ºF. Once there, continue cooking for 12 minutes.*
  5. Add the cheddar slices on top of the burgers and smoke for an additional 3-5 minutes to melt.
  6. Serve with toasted buns, smoked or candied bacon (recipe below), fried eggs, or your choice of burger toppings.

Notes

*Holding the smoked burgers at an internal temperature of 140ºF for at least 12 minutes achieves pasteurization, making ground beef safe to eat without cooking all the way to 165ºF. This keeps the burgers moist and tender.

For Reverse Seared Burgers

If you'd like an extra crispy crust on your burgers, you can pull the burgers after the 12-minute hold at 140ºF and sear both sides for 45-60 seconds in a lightly oiled cast iron or stainless steel skillet over high heat. Add the cheese once you flip the burgers once.

Note: These burgers should develop a nice crust in the smoker, and I didn't think searing at the end added much.

For the Smoked and Candied Bacon

Add 4 slices of center cut bacon (important for faster cooking) to wire rack over a foil lined sheet pan. Brush the bacon on both sides with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over the syrup. Smoke alongside the burgers, checking periodically.

I smoked 4 additional slices directly on the grill grates (no brown sugar and syrup), but you could do 8 slices and double the brown sugar and maple syrup. The bacon won't get super crispy at a low temperature like 225ºF, but I think that's fine for this style of burger. For crispier bacon, increase the temperature to 275ºF to 300ºF in the final minutes of cooking.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 Burger
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 905Total Fat: 55gCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 53g

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