9 Underrated Meats For Burgers, Including A Wild-Game Chef's Signature Patty

person adding pickles to burger
person adding pickles to burger - Pekic/Getty Images

Gone are the days when beef burgers ruled supreme. Now, you're likely to find all kinds of meat used to make delicious and unique patties. Common reasons for burger meats being underrated are their availability and the skill required to prepare them. Many overlooked meats are game meats, taken from wild animals hunted rather than farmed. Unless you're a hunter, you need to know someone who can source the meat, or live in an area where hunting is common. Even in these areas, hunting game meat can be restricted for sustainability reasons, meaning you may not be able to find it year-round. The good news is that, with the internet, there are ways of sourcing unusual meat varieties year-round.

The main issue is that most patties call for a mixture with a high-fat content. However, there are plenty of delicious meats people avoid because they're too lean to grind and grill. They often require additional fat or meat from another animal to keep them juicy and overcooking is also a potential issue because nobody wants a dry burger.

I also spoke with Sigvaldi Jóhannesson, also known as Chef Silli as the founder and chef of Silli Kokkur (or herring chef), to gain his expert insight about his choice for underrated meat. Below, we've covered some of the most underrated meats you can use for your next burger, along with their benefits, pitfalls to avoid, and the best ingredient combinations to highlight their delicious flavor.

Read more: Your Guide To The Different Cuts Of Steak


open venison meat burger
open venison meat burger - BBA Photography/Shutterstock

Although venison can technically refer to the meat of any game animal, these days, it's generally used to refer to deer meat. Those who've had the pleasure of eating venison will be happy to tell you what you're missing out on, but it still tends to be overlooked, especially as a burger ingredient.

One of the main reasons venison slips under the radar is that it's not as widely available as meats like beef, chicken, or pork, so you're less likely to find it in your local store. It's often sourced by hunting rather than large-scale farms, so unless you live somewhere where deer hunting is common, you'd be forgiven for not knowing it was a viable option. Not only is venison a highly versatile meat in terms of flavor, but it also tastes deliciously rich with a distinct gamey element. It also manages to pack in more protein than beef but with just half the calories and a fraction of the saturated fats.

However, venison's leanness is a bit of a double-edged sword. While the lower fat content can make venison a healthier option, it can also make it trickier to turn into burgers without the meat drying out, another factor that turns folks off. There are many cuts of venison to choose from, and for burgers, you'll want the shoulder, also called the chuck. While this cut is best for grinding, you'll likely need to augment your ground meat with a fattier meat like beef or pork.


lamb meat burger
lamb meat burger - Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

It's surprising how uncommon it is to find lamb burgers on restaurant menus given the meat's flavor potential. When made with the right seasonings, the meat's mild, gamey, and slightly sweet profile can be elevated to delicious heights but it can also be a tricky patty to perfect.

When cooked right, lamb burgers are extremely juicy and tender thanks to their higher fat levels, but they can fall apart without adding binding ingredients like egg yolk and breadcrumbs to the ground meat. They also have a narrower range of "doneness" than other meats -- usually between medium-rare and medium -- which leaves less room for error when cooking. For the juiciest burgers, opt for a shoulder cut for grinding if you can't find pre-ground lamb in the store.

Lamb is hugely popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, so you should look to these for inspiration when it comes to seasoning -- cumin and coriander and excellent spices to bring out spicy flavors. It's also worth including fresh rosemary, thyme, and garlic for fragrance, and adding bold ingredients like red onion, feta cheese, and sweet onion chutney to the burger. For a sauce, a well-seasoned, tzatziki-inspired mayonnaise is the way to go to contrast those additions and add a cool balance to the final burger. You can also take further inspiration from the aforementioned cuisines and swap out a regular burger bun for warmed pita bread which can also help if your patties are still a little too crumbly.


goat meat burger patties
goat meat burger patties - PRABHAS ROY/Shutterstock

Although it's rare to find goat in Western cuisines, the succulent, protein-dense meat is popular across the world in regions such as South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. This makes it an extremely versatile choice that lets you adapt plenty of recipes to create superb burgers.

Goat is generally a pretty tough meat to start with, which is why it's so popular in slow-cooked stews and curries, but grinding it for burgers quickly overcomes this issue. Flavor-wise, goat is somewhat similar to lamb but it's extra lean, so it lacks lamb's signature "fatty" taste. While this can be more appealing -- depending on your preferences -- the leanness does make goat patties easier to overcook, with a higher risk of them drying out on the grill. Like with venison, the key is to introduce other, fattier, meats to your patty mixture, or you can marinate your ground goat meat before cooking.

While many of the same ingredients and seasonings that work with lamb are also excellent with goat burgers, to make the most of goat meat you should choose bold spices from cuisines that favor the meat, taking particular inspiration from curries. You can't go wrong with Caribbean jerk seasonings, and hearty additions like black beans with a zingy, homemade coleslaw. Indian food is another cuisine to look at, utilizing curry powder, cumin, garam masala, and chili flakes for heat and flavor before balancing the heat with chutney and relish, and a yogurt-based sauce like raita.


goose meat burger
goose meat burger - Chef Silli

Once upon a time, roast goose was seen as the go-to Christmas bird before turkey took its crown. Although some still stick to tradition, goose has fallen out of favor, but there's a culinary mastermind who's been showing us what we're missing.

I spoke with Sigvaldi Jóhannesson, also known as Chef Silli, to gain his expert insight about this. Chef Silli took home the "Best Burger" accolade at the European Street Food Awards in 2022 with his goose burger. Jóhannesson told me that he doesn't know why the meat isn't a more popular pick for burgers, pondering whether it's because people don't know how to prepare it. He chose different parts of the goose for his patty based on specific properties. Half of his mixture uses goose legs, the most flavorful part of the animal, but around 10% is made with breast meat for its unique texture. The remainder consists of 30% beef and 10% fat, boosting the juiciness.

The result is a gamey burger with a beef-like consistency that Jóhannesson cooks without any fancy additions to the mix. He grills the patties on one side until they're 80% done and not rare in the middle, flips them to sear the tops, and seasons with flaked salt. Jóhannesson adds his own smoked blue cheese sauce, a savory-sweet blueberry and red onion jam, peppery arugula, and occasionally confit goose legs. To top it all off, the burger is served in a custom-made potato bread bun.


elk meat burger
elk meat burger - Mark Skalny/Shutterstock

Although some might lump it under the "venison" category, elk meat has some key differences from smaller deer varieties, as we've covered before. Both are high in protein and nutrients, but elk meat is slightly fattier despite being lower in cholesterol.

This extra fat content does make it slightly more suitable than venison for burgers, but it's still lean enough that you'll likely need to add a fattier meat to your patty mixture. Alternatively, you can try including butter to prevent your burgers from drying out while cooking. Although different cuts of elk can have varying textures, it's surprisingly tender considering its leanness. Taste-wise, elk is sweeter and cleaner than other meats, and not dissimilar to bison, but the overall profile is determined by how the animal was raised. Meat from farm-raised elk tends to have a less robust flavor due to their diet and lifestyle, whereas meat from elk hunted in the wild has a much more distinct gamey, earthy character. Both varieties can be tricky to find, which is likely why elk is often overlooked as an option for burgers, but it's well worth trying if you can find some.

Regardless of where your meat has been sourced, elk remains a versatile burger choice and goes well with any of the ingredients you'd usually pair with rich red meat. To intensify the meat's natural flavors, opt for strong, sharp ingredients, such as mature cheddar or goat cheese, raw red onion slices, and fresh arugula.


ostrich meat burger
ostrich meat burger - nazarovsergey/Shutterstock

Many folks have never even seen an ostrich in real life, let alone tried its meat, but it's an extremely underrated option that's delicious. For starters, ostrich is considered a red meat, which is uncommon for a bird.

If you were presented with a raw ostrich steak, for example, you'd be forgiven for assuming it was a cut of beef based on the texture and coloring. However, ostrich meat has a unique taste which, although not dissimilar to beef in some aspects, shares characteristics with duck meat. It's slightly nutty and has a mildness common with poultry, but it surprisingly contains less fat, cholesterol, and calories than chicken or turkey. At the same time, ostrich meat contains more protein than even beef. If you're wondering why meat that's so appealing from both a taste and nutrition perspective doesn't get used often, well, it again comes down to availability. Although ostriches can be found worldwide, they're native to Africa, so you're far more likely to find the meat for sale there than anywhere else. As a result, ostrich meat doesn't tend to come cheap, and you'll likely have to find a specialty source.

Although ostrich doesn't have as robust a taste as other meats you could choose for a burger, its lack of intensity just opens up more flavor options in regard to seasoning and burger ingredients. In fact, it benefits from similar pairings to lamb, like onion chutney, a strong cheese, and a mint yogurt or mustard sauce.

Wild Boar

wild boar burger
wild boar burger - Max Folle/Shutterstock

For any pork-lovers with an adventurous palate, wild boar is a superb meat to try. That said, it's frequently overlooked due to its scarcity, as although they can be found across the United States, their population sizes vary from state to state.

Although it shares many of pork's characteristics, wild boar's sweet and umami aspects are far more pronounced thanks to its naturally foraged diet, giving it a much more intense overall flavor profile. Like many of the other game meats on this list, wild boar boasts more protein than its domesticated porcine cousin, while simultaneously being leaner and lower in cholesterol and calories. Wild boar tends to still contain enough fat to not require another meat in the mixture if you're using it for burgers; however, you'll likely want to include binding ingredients such as egg yolk and breadcrumbs to prevent your patties from falling apart on the grill.

Mild spices like smoked paprika or cajun seasoning are a great way to accentuate the rich flavors of wild boar without overpowering them, and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce will add moisture while deepening the savory elements of the ground meat. It's still a versatile meat selection that works well with common burger ingredients like cheddar, pickles, and lettuce, but for the best results, look to classic pork pairings for inspiration. Sweet and tangy condiments like applesauce or pear chutney are excellent additions, as are milder chilis like jalapeños or smoked chipotle peppers.


kangaroo burger cut in half
kangaroo burger cut in half - haireena/Shutterstock

While you might balk at the idea of eating what could be considered an exotic animal, kangaroo meat isn't nearly as taboo as you may think – just ask an Australian. In fact, in their native country, kangaroos are so ubiquitous that ecologists are trying to get people to eat the marsupials more regularly.

Ecological sustainability reasons aside, kangaroo meat is a superb choice thanks to its low-fat content, an abundance of protein, and the fact it's packed with a variety of minerals. Although using kangaroo for burgers can take some culinary precision -- it's best-served medium-rare but can be easy to overcook -- that shouldn't stop you from trying, if you can get your hands on some. From a taste perspective, kangaroo is similar to venison with a mild gamey quality, but it's not as intense as beef or other red meats. For the best cooking results, it's best to add binding ingredients to the ground meat mixture, and you may want to consider marinating the burger patties before cooking to prevent them from drying out.

Kangaroo is just as versatile as venison, meaning you can pair it with all of your favorite ingredients. However, if you want to truly embrace Australian tradition, try whipping up a classic Aussie burger. The abundance of ingredients – cheddar cheese, pineapple, beetroot, crispy bacon, and a fried egg – make for a behemoth of a burger that offers a smorgasbord of flavors that work well together, despite being a slightly unusual sounding combination.


alligator meat burger
alligator meat burger - Daiane Dal Libero/Shutterstock

Despite alligators being considered apex predators, humans have proved that there's no limit to how far we're prepared to climb the food chain. Alligator – and by extension, crocodile -- is a fascinating meat choice that's surprisingly delicious.

In fact, you might be surprised to learn that thanks to the alligator's ancient evolutionary tree, their meat tastes pretty similar to chicken. However, alligator meat is far juicier, and it's a disservice to say it tastes identical to its befeathered domestic descendant. The texture has a flakiness to it that's akin to extremely meaty fish, with the most common cuts coming from the tail of the deadly reptile. That said, if you want an easier time making burgers, the leg meat tends to be fattier and richer than cuts from the body and tail. Alligator meat can be hard to come by unless you live close to their natural habitats in the Southeastern United States -- contributing to its low profile in kitchens -- and even in these regions, farming and hunting are both tightly regulated for species sustainability. The good news is that it's pretty easy to order fresh alligator meat online nowadays.

Alligator meat is relatively common in Cajun cuisine, where recipes often highlight a deft combination of meaty and fishy flavors, so it's a great place to start if you're looking for inspiration for a gator burger. Cajun and Creole spices are the best place to start, and you can increase the heat with mild or hot chilis.

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