Hamburger patties grilled over charcoal taste great, but smoked hamburgers take that taste to another level.
The smoke flavor is what sets a smoked burger apart from a conventionally-grilled burger patty.
Don’t get me wrong, grilled hamburgers are delicious. However, if you like your meat with some smoke on it, smoked hamburgers can’t be beaten.
Smoking a hamburger is easy. Anyone with a basic charcoal grill and some wood chips or chunks can smoke hamburgers.
Here’s the recipe below. Read on after the recipe for everything you need to know about smoking hamburgers, including:
- How Long to Smoke Hamburgers
- Tips for Smoking Hamburgers on Different Grill Types
- The Ideal Fat Percent for Smoked Hamburgers
- The Best Wood to Smoke Hamburgers
- 2 pounds Ground chuck or Ground Beef
- 4 Burger Buns
- Assorted toppings Add whatever you want, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, onion rings, caramelized onion, bacon, etc.
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Prepare your grill for smoking by creating a hot side and cool side of the grill. If using charcoal, dump a chimney full of lit charcoal over some wood chunks. If using a gas grill, turn the burners on only one side and place a foil packet with wood chips (see how to make a wood chip smoking pouch below recipe) on the grill grates.
- Take your two pounds of ground beef and form it into 4 patties. Season just the outside with salt and pepper.
- Get your grill ready for the burgers by placing a thermometer probe with a grate clip on the cooler side of the grill to track the ambient temperature. You're looking to smoke your burgers between 225 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place burger patties on the cool side of the grill by your thermometer probe. Insert a probe into a burger to track its internal temperature. They should take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on your grill temperature.
- When the burgers reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees F, move them to the hot side of the grill and sear them for 1 to 2 minutes a side.
- Remove the burgers from the grill and place them on a toasted bun with grilled onion, cheese, and other toppings you desire.
How Long to Smoke Hamburgers?
Although smoking hamburgers is relatively easy, there is a fine line between the amount of time spent smoking and when they start to become dry hockey pucks.
How long should you smoke a hamburger?
A 6 to 8-ounce hamburger will take around an hour to smoke at 225°F before it starts to turn dry.
Without using a thermometer to track your temperatures you really are just guessing when your burger is done.
The internal temperature of the burger will be around 140°F after an hour of smoking. You can then finish your burgers directly over high heat if you want to give them a nice crust.
The burgers in all of the photos in this post were cooked to this temperature and higher after their final searing.
If you think 140°F is too high then feel free to pull your burgers off the heat earlier.
Do you need to smoke your hamburgers at 225°F? No.
I find that you can get great results anywhere from 225 to 300°F. The higher the cooking temperature the less smoking time for your burgers.
As far as the size of your burgers is concerned, you can make them smaller than 6 to 8-ounces but I find that they have a tendency to become dry.
Eight ounces seems to be the sweet spot. Anything smaller than the 6-ounce to the 8-ounce range will turn dry and anything larger is akin to eating a meatloaf between two buns.
Too much meat?
Cut it in half and share, I’m sure there’ll be plenty of suitors.
The Internal Temperature of a Smoked Hamburger
Can you smoke your hamburgers to a higher (or lower) internal temperature of 140°F? Yes, just like regular hamburgers on the grill, the doneness preference is up to you.
However, I find that an internal temperature in the 140 to 148°F range to be the perfect zone of preferred doneness with the added benefit of food safety.
After searing the burgers over high heat at the end, their internal temperature is usually in the 145 to 147°F range and safe to eat after resting a couple of minutes.
What do I mean by this?
The USDA recommends a minimum safe serving temperature for a hamburger at 160°F. Any pathogens in your ground beef are instantly eradicated at that temperature.
This destruction of pathogens is achieved by not only increased temperatures but also increased time above certain temperatures.
Notice the FDA Meat Pasteurization Time and Temperature chart above.
If you cook your hamburger to one of the internal temperatures listed in the chart and then hold it at or above that temperature for the specified amount of time you will kill the same amount of pathogens as if you cooked it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
This destruction of harmful pathogens in meat using certain time and temperature combinations is known as meat pasteurization.
And here is what the inside of a burger smoked for an hour and then seared to a final serving temperature of 147°F looks like…….
Tips for Smoking Hamburgers on Different Grill Types
You can smoke hamburgers on a gas grill or a traditional Weber kettle-style grill.
The key to smoking on these popular grill types is to make sure your burgers are far enough from the heat so that they smoke at between 225 to 300°F.
And to use a multi-probe bbq thermometer like the ThermoPro TP25 to track your temperature.
The most common method is to set up your grill for two-zone grilling. This is basically setting up your gas grill or charcoal grill to have most of the heat on one side, and little-to-no heat on the other side.
On a gas grill, you will turn the burners on one side to high heat. This will get this side hot enough to smoke your wood chips in their foil packet.
Get your temperature probes ready and place the one tracking your grill’s ambient temperature on the cool side of the grill where your burgers will go.
To create smoke for your burgers you will need to make an aluminum foil packet the size of a letter with some dry wood chips.
Cut two, two-inch slashes in the top of the packet and place it on the grill grates and not underneath on top of the burner reflector.
Place the burgers on the side of the grill with no heat and insert a thermometer probe into one to track the internal temperature.
Then, turn the heat down on the hot side by turning them down to medium-low or lower to maintain the optimum temperature.
Close the grill and try and maintain an ambient grill temperature between 225 and 300°F.
Pull the burgers off the grill when they reach 140°F and crank up the heat on your grill to high. Grill your burgers for one to two minutes a side to finish.
On a charcoal grill, you will fill a chimney starter full of charcoal and dump it on just one side over some wood chunks or chips when the charcoal is mostly white.
Your setup will be the same as the gas grill and just follow the same steps above.
The Ideal Fat Percent for Smoked Hamburgers
Because your hamburgers will be cooking a little longer than normal, an 80% lean, 20% fat ground beef mixture is preferable.
You can use an 85% lean, 15% fat mix, but you’ll need to be careful not to smoke your hamburgers too long so that they dry out.
It’s always a good idea to monitor your smoked burgers’ internal temperature with a bbq thermometer probe so that you don’t overcook them.
The Best Wood to Smoke Hamburgers
What is the best wood to smoke hamburgers? And for that matter, what is the best charcoal?
There isn’t one best wood for smoking burgers, it is dependent on your own taste preferences.
Mesquite or Oak always pair well with beef but feel free to use whatever you desire.
You can smoke hamburgers over any of the typical woods used for bbq.
Apple, Peach, Pecan, Cherry, Mesquite, Oak, Hickory, Cedar, and any other viable cooking wood you prefer will suffice for smoking burgers.
As for the best charcoal, whenever I’m smoking I prefer to use lump charcoal (wood charcoal in its natural form) or natural hardwood briquettes.
Can you use Kingsford and some wood chips? Certainly, I just prefer the taste of natural hardwood charcoal.
Smoked hamburgers really don’t require much more effort than your usual grilled hamburger other than a little extra time and some wood.
You can smoke hamburgers in about an hour and the little extra time is worth it in my opinion.
Gently smoking them over indirect heat, then searing them over high heat briefly at the end results in a juicy burger with a nice smoky flavor.
You have a lot of leeway in terms of temperature with an ambient temperature range of between 225 and 300°F producing fantastic results.
I like this technique for cooking hamburgers because it really is a hands-off approach until you finish the burgers at the end.
If you’re cooking a lot of hamburgers for a large group, this is the ideal way to go about it.
Try it out, I think you’ll be surprised by the results.