At our annual deer camp in the Adirondacks, we haven’t had the best luck with filling our tags (that’s, um, putting it lightly), but we sure do eat well. Breakfast burritos and pancakes for breakfast. Peanut butter, bacon, and honey wraps for an in-the-woods lunch. And a rotating dinner menu of feasts that usually showcase game meat—mule deer spiedies, venison Bolognese, cassoulet, and, when it’s my night to cook, venison smash burgers.
I have the inimitable Guy Fieri to thank for this recipe. Years ago, for an episode of “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” he paid a visit to White Manna Hamburgers, a Jersey institution, and the short-order cooks there gave a clinic in the art of the smash burger. As soon as I saw those perfect burgers come off the flat-top, I knew that’s how I’d cook my venison burgers from then on. Here’s how it’s done.
2 pounds ground venison (80 percent venison, 20 beef fat), portioned into ¼-pound patties.
White onion, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Get the griddle ripping hot, then add some oil to the cooking surface.
Place the patties on the griddle, season generously with salt and pepper, then smash them thin with a spatula. Add a small pile of the onions on top of each patty, then give them another smash so the onions stick to the patties. Cook for about 2 to 2 ½ minutes.
Flip the burgers, so they continue to cook onion-side down. Top each patty with a slice of cheese, then add the buns. The bottom bun goes on top of the cheese, cut-side down, and the top bun rests on the on the bottom bun (see photo above), also cut-side down. This steams the buns while the burgers finish cooking. Let the burgers cook for about 1 to 1 ½ minutes.
Lift each burger from the griddle with the spatula, then remove the top bun and place it, cut-side up, under the spatula, temporarily sandwiching the spatula and patty between both buns. Gently squeeze the top and bottom buns with one hand and slide the spatula out with the other. Pass the burger off to hunting buddy, and repeat with the rest. Each hunter gets two burgers.