I’ve been hinting at offering you promising ways of incorporating bison into your regime. Here is the first of several.
A burger. What could be easier, right? Probably the most important thing to know about cooking bison in any way, shape, or form is not to overcook it. Which is very easy. Its healthful properties of being very lean and high in protein also make it very easy to overcook. And I know you know how any overcooked meat tastes. Many, many people who take classes with me confess to overcooking meats of any kind for fear of undercooking it.
Among the many marvelous qualities of bison is that it falls outside the meats that tend to be contaminated with e-coli largely because it is not, nor will it ever be a feedlot animal. Nor is it trucked enormous distances to a single, not to put too fine a point on it, national processor. Rather, bison are raised are by ranchers who respect the animal’s innate intelligence in many respects. As my friends at Shane Creek Ranch say, “Bison will never be a commodity product.” Accordingly, outstanding as the meat from their animals is, when friends of mine (via the blog, or twitter, or local visits) and family ask if it is available on-line or long-distance, Dot and Rick unfailingly respond that they would prefer that people discover and support a local bison producer in their own region. They have no wish to create a giant, worldwide, hobnailed carbon footprint. Bison are increasingly raised throughout the U.S., so please do seek out local producers and be loyal to them.
So the good news is that, regardless of the source of your bison, you are safe in cooking it to no more than medium-rare because you clearly don’t need to cook it further for bacteriologic reasons. Bison, and ground bison in particular, is so naturally low in fat, and low in possible possible contamination by pathogenic bacteria that just enough cooking is just right. Which brings us to tonight’s bison burger.
I purchase ground bison in two forms: bulk 1-pound packs and in 2-packs of 6-ounce each preformed patties. Why both? Well, the patties are perfect for burgers, and the 1-pound bulk pack is ideal for chili, for bolognese sauce, for tacos, for meatballs. Are you getting my drift?
So say you are craving a burger of an evening when all those you have are frozen. What to do? As you’ll read at the link, the safest manner of thawing frozen anything is to immerse it in cold water. Sounds counterintuitive? I’m dropping a cryovacced bison burger into a bowl of cold water this very moment, 6:00 p.m. MST. Optimist that I am, at the very same time I am also going to light a charcoal fire. The fire should be ready about the same time that the patty has thawed perfectly. I”m also going to roast some potatoes to go with it.
Makes enough for dinner, and depending on how many you are feeding, hopefully enough leftover for breakfast
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Wash about 1 1/2 pounds of little Yukon gold potatoes, or fingerlings. Cut them into 1/2″ slices and put them in a baking dish. Smash and peel 6 cloves of garlic. Add them to the baking dish. Drizzle about 4 ounces of olive oil over everything, and add some sea or kosher salt and some grinds of pepper. Stir it all up, and place in the oven. Bake until potatoes are golden and tender and garlic is fragrantly roasted.
TO COOK A BISON BURGER
When your potatoes are done, remove them from the oven and cover with foil and a couple of kitchen towels. Reduce oven heat to lowest setting, probably 150 degrees.
If you use a propane grill, preheat to medium-high. Your charcoal fire should be burned down to good hot coals. Unwrap your patty(ies) and season them with sea salt and ground pepper. Place on the grill. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn over. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to a baking sheet and transfer to the oven.
Allowing the burgers to finish in a low oven removes the stress of grilling over a hot fire. If you follow this method with any meat – steaks, chops, chicken – you will never again have dry, over-cooked meat. Finish in the oven to your desired doneness, but bear in mind that bison should never be cooked beyond medium at the very outside. Its flavor and tenderness will be much more evident at medium-rare. Burgers should be finished in the oven within 10-12 minutes.
When done, remove baking sheet from oven, drape burgers with plastic and a couple of kitchen towels while you crank the heat to Broil to toast the buns. Alternatively, toast them over the grill while the burgers rest. Allowing them to rest for 4 or 5 minutes removes the final stress from cooking, and lets water, which gets squeezed to the outside of the cell walls – and the hotter the fire and longer they spend over it, the more water is squeezed out, hence the transfer to the oven and the rest period – reinflate the cells as they relax having been removed from heat. Practice this will all meats, and you’ll be a cooking star because anything you grill or roast will be consistently tender and juicy. Everyone will be happy, and we all want the people we feed to be happy, right?
By the way, the bison has a natural sweet-ishness due to its high iron content which pairs fantastically with Mango Ketchup!