Smoked burgers with all of the toppings.
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How to Make Juicy Smoked Burgers

If you smoke it, they will come. Smoked Burgers should be the official smell of the summer. There’s something magical about the way the smoke lightly permeates the rich beef. It’s that added ingredient you never knew you were missing.

Burgers enveloped in a mysterious hug of smoke will make you the new king of the hill and backyard hero. This will break down the process of burgers on a pellet grill, gas grill, and charcoal grill.

Any kind of burger will do well in my house. Don’t miss some of the other burger recipes such as Black Garlic Mushroom Burger, Beef and Chorizo Burger, or even the bun-less Breakfast Burger with Hashbrowns.

Why This Recipe Works

Whether it’s happened to you, or you’ve witnessed the pyrotechnics of someone else grilling burgers, we’ve all seen them get torched. These easy-to-follow steps will give you juicy burgers packed with flavor every single time. Here are some of the reasons you’re going to convert to smoked burgers:

Smoking burgers keep them juicy while adding another layer of flavor.

This method works on any type of grill or smoker.

Customize the flavor profiles with both your choice of wood and toppings.

Less likely to burn as they are cooked indirectly.

This method works for a few burgers, or if you decide to smoke burgers for a crowd.

Smoked burgers with pickled jalapenos

Whether you’re looking for how long to smoke burgers or learning how to cook hamburgers in a smoker, let’s bite into the meat of it all. The process to make smoked burgers starts the same regardless of what you are going to smoke your burgers on. This step can be done the night before.

Step 1: Prepping the Ground Beef

  • Form your ground chuck into four equal-sized patties, careful not to over-press the meat. Use your thumb to lightly press down in the center of each burger patty to create a divot. This will prevent the smoked burgers from swelling in the center during the cooking process.
  • Chill the beef first. Place each individual patty onto a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Allow them to refrigerate for at least an hour up to overnight. Letting them set up will help them keep their shape while also giving them a red smoke ring on the outside that will impress your family and friends.
  • Form the patties about 1/2-inch wider than the bun. They will shrink on the grill, so make sure you use a bun to measure the size if you need.
Beef patties are flattened out to form in the fridge.

Step 2: Seasoning Options

Is there anything better than a juicy cheeseburger dripping down your arm as you go in for that cheesy bite? It doesn’t take many ingredients for these smoked hamburgers to have you rolling up your sleeves and going in for the burger hunch. You could go with a typical salt & pepper blend and have success, but if you’re looking for a deeper flavor profile, here’s a suggestion:

Espresso Steak Rub

This rub provides a balance of earthy, bitter, warm, and savory flavors that compliments the ground beef without overpowering it. In addition, it also works well with the flavors of barbecue sauce.

  • 2 tablespoons espresso coffee grounds
  • 3 tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Season the beef patties right before they go in the smoker.

Step 3: Setting up the Grill

Cooking with Different Grills or Smokers

One of the best things about this recipe is that you don’t have to sweat over having the right equipment. Any grill or smoker will work for making smoked burgers, as long as you have the wood chips for it. They are SO affordable and allow you to mix and match.

Using the Pellet Smoker

  • Make sure your hopper is filled with pellets.
  • Preheat your grill or smoker to 250-275°F. Make sure your grates are clean.
  • Place your burgers onto the grates and close the lid.

Using a Charcoal Grill

  • Prepare your charcoal grill for 2-zone cooking, aiming for about 250-275°F. This means you are going to bank your charcoal to one side of the grill creating a hot zone and cool zone.
  • Add a handful of wood chips over the top of your charcoal, making sure to evenly distribute them. This will prevent any flare-ups.
  • Place your burgers on the cooler side, making sure to monitor the ones closest to the coals.

Using a Gas Grill

  • Create a foil pack. Tear off a piece of foil large enough to accommodate about 1 cup of wood chips that are spread out. Fold all the sides over to create an envelope. Use a fork or knife to carefully pierce 2-3 holes in the top of the foil pack so the smoke can escape. Be careful not to pierce all the way through both sides of the foil, and also don’t create too many holes.
  • Preheat your grill to 250-275°F. Place the foil pack on top of a burner turned to high heat. Allow the wood chips to smolder as it comes to temperature. 
  • Place the prepared burger patties on the cool side of the grill and close the lid.

Adding Flavors with Wood Chips

If you’re using a charcoal grill or a gas grill, wood chips come in handy for an affordable way to add smoke.

Use a stronger wood flavor, such as mesquite, pecan, hickory, or oak. These smoked hamburgers don’t take too long, and beef can really soak it in. My personal favorite is a combination of hickory and mesquite, giving it that nice smokey bacon profile. This is the time to infuse it with flavor!

Check out the video tutorial below for a highlight of the benefits and uses:

YouTube video
Beef burgers are smoking on the grill.

Important Tips for Maximum Flavor

  • Use beef with at least 15% fat. The low and slow process of having your burgers in a smoker can cause the beef to dry out if it’s too lean. I typically recommend either 80/20 or 85/15, whichever you prefer.
  • Don’t season your burgers ahead of time. Salt can draw out the moisture in a way that will cause the textures and flavors to be off with burgers. Season the hamburger patties right before you place them into the smoker or grill instead.
  • Monitor the temperature of your smoked hamburgers. An instant-read thermometer is a great way to ensure you reach your desired temperature. If you are looking for a slightly pink color, you’ll want to smoke the burgers until about 135°F before searing (if you choose to), or just cook them until about 150-155°F temperature and allow the burgers to rest.
  • Searing your burgers is not necessary. Not only is it an extra step (and potentially much more work depending on your grill) but you run the risk of overcooking. However, if you would like more of a crust on your burgers, begin searing them when you are about 20 degrees from your desired temperature.
  • Rest is best, even with burgers. Allow the smoked hamburgers to rest for 5-10 minutes, loosely tented with foil. This is a great time to toast your hamburger buns.
Smoked burgers are topped with gouda cheese to melt.

Step 4: Ideal Toppings

When it comes to building the ultimate smoked hamburger, you always want to think about how flavors and textures play together, as well as temperatures. Because these burgers have a hint of sweetness from barbecue sauce, something acidic is a nice counterpoint.

There should never be too much of any one thing because you want to taste each burger topping while also having them all work together. These are just some suggestions for this smoked burger, but let the burger be your canvas and make it your own.

  • Gouda cheese: mildly and creamy, it has an ideal melt factor while not overpowering the smoke flavor. Muenster, Havarti, and the classic American cheese are other options.
  • White onions: The sharp freshness of the onions cuts through the richness of the beef and cheese. They also offer an irresistible crunch.
  • Smoked Pickled jalapenos: The heat and acid balance the sweetness of the barbecue sauce while adding a kick to every bite. The white onion and pickled jalapenos are a traditional pairing with Texas BBQ which compliments the barbecue sauce.
  • Sweet and Spicy Pickles: Don’t want it too spicy? These are your go-to. Always have these on hand, especially for juicy smoked burgers.
  • Smoked Dijon mustard: This spicy condiment is worth the effort, which isn’t much work.
  • Good quality mayonnaise: Spread it, slather it, smear it. Nobody likes dry buns. Mayo is the ideal condiment for this burger. It doesn’t overpower anything while offering up just enough tang to liven everything up.
Smoked Burgers with all of the simple toppings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I smoke burgers?

Smoking burgers allows you to infuse your burgers with the additional flavor of smoke while keeping them juicy. Cooking them at a lower temperature keeps them juicy and helps prevent flare-ups.

Do I need to sear my smoked burgers?

No. This process uses a lower temperature to cook the burgers more gently. However, you can sear them if you want the additional texture; you just risk overcooking them.

Do I need to soak my wood chips for smoked burgers?

No! There is no need to soak your wood chips for use on a charcoal grill or gas grill. Not only does it drop the temperature for charcoal grilling, but it also affects the flavor.

What type of wood should I use for smoked burgers?

Have fun playing around and discover what you like. Any type of oak, mesquite, or hickory are all great options.

Sides to Serve with Smoked Hamburgers

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Smoked burgers with all of the toppings.

Juicy Smoked Burgers

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Smoked Burgers should be the official smell of the summer. There’s something magical about the way the smoke lightly permeates the rich beef.

  • Total Time: 95
  • Yield: Serves about 4


  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef, 80/20 preferred
  • 2 tablespoons Espresso Steak Rub
  • 4 slices of gouda
  • BBQ sauce, for glazing
  • 2 tablespoons mayo
  • ½ cup sliced white onion
  • 4 hamburger buns

Espresso Steak Rub

  • 2 tablespoons espresso coffee grounds
  • 3 tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Form the beef into 4 individual burger patties, pressing down to slightly indent the middle. This prevents swelling in the center during the cooking phase. Place them on parchment paper, on a baking sheet that can be placed in the fridge for at least an hour, up to overnight.
  2. Preheat the grill or smoker for 250-275°F, indirect cooking.
  3. Smoker: Clean the grill grates, and add the burgers.
  4. Charcoal Grill: Add wood chips of desired flavor. Make sure the grill is set up for 2-zone cooking, with a cooler side. Place the burgers on the cooler side and monitor the ones closer to the fire.
  5. Gas Grill: Add your foil back of wood chips to the grill with a burner turned to high heat. Allow it to pre-heat and smolder the wood chips until they begin to smoke, and the grill has a temperature of about 250-275°F. Place your burgers in the grill on the cool side and close the lid.
  6. Check the temperature of your burgers. When they are about 20 degrees from target temperature, baste with BBQ sauce and add your slices of cheese. Continue to smoke to melt the cheese. Remove the burgers when they are about 10 degrees from your target temperature and allow them to rest with loosely tented foil.
  7. Assemble your burgers with preferred toppings. I recommend toasting the buns after you remove the burgers from the grill and adding slices of white onion, pickled jalapenos, and a high-quality mayo.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 60
  • Cook Time: 35
  • Category: Beef & Lamb
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: Burgers
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