Boosting Flavor and Texture: Adding Beef Fat to Lean Elk Meat

Elk meat is treasured by hunters and foodies alike for its rich, gamey flavor. However, wild elk tends to be very lean compared to farm-raised beef. Without adequate fat, elk meat can result in dry, chewy burgers or steaks. That’s where adding beef fat comes in – it can transform the taste and texture of ground elk into juicy, delicious burgers.

In this article we’ll explore the benefits of mixing beef fat into elk meat, recommended ratios, the best techniques, and the impact on nutrition. Read on to learn how adding just the right amount of beef fat can take your elk burgers and sausages from dry and bland to moist tender and bursting with flavor.

Why Add Fat to Lean Elk Meat?

Farmed cattle are bred and fed to encourage intramuscular fat marbling that keeps the meat juicy. Elk live active lives foraging on grass and range lands rather than fattening up on grains. As a result wild elk is typically 90-95% lean.

Without adequate fat, ground elk can be:

  • Dry and dense when cooked
  • Prone to shrinking excessively
  • Tough, chewy texture
  • Lacking in rich flavor

Adding beef fat mimics the marbling in beef to achieve a better consistency and mouthfeel. It also carries flavor compounds that enhance the wild, savory taste of elk.

How Much Beef Fat to Add to Elk Meat

Experts recommend adding 10-25% fat to elk burger We suggest

  • 10% fat for a lightly enhanced version that retains elk’s leanness.

  • 15% fat for optimal moisture and texture without overwhelming the elk flavor.

  • 20%+ fat for richest taste more like beef burgers.

To calculate how much fat to add, weigh your ground elk meat then multiply the weight by your desired fat percentage. For example, for 15% fat in 5 lbs of elk:

  • 5 lbs elk x 0.15 = 0.75 lbs of fat to add

As a shortcut, you can also add around 1 oz of beef fat per 1 lb of elk meat.

Best Sources of Beef Fat for Elk

Look for beef fat from grain-fed cattle for the richest flavor to complement grass-fed elk. The best sources include:

  • Beef suet – Rendered and strained for purity. Sold as chunks or ground.

  • Fatty ground beef – 80/20 or 70/30 works well. Watch labels for additives.

  • Fat trimmings – Fresh or frozen chunks. Ask your butcher.

  • Tallow – Rendered and clarified beef fat. Sold as a solid block.

Avoid heavily processed fats like hydrogenated oils that can introduce unnatural flavors. Stick to pure beef fat sources.

Technique for Mixing Beef Fat into Elk Meat

With the right technique, it’s easy to evenly blend fat into your elk for balanced flavor and texture. Here are the key steps:

  1. Dice chunks of fat into small cubes for easier mixing.

  2. If using ground beef, break up any large chunks that may clog the grinder.

  3. Layer diced fat cubes in with ground elk meat.

  4. Run mixture through grinder to evenly distribute fat.

  5. Avoid over-mixing or re-grinding which can smear the texture.

  6. Cook a small patty to test fat ratio and adjust mix if needed.

  7. Package finished elk/fat blend for patties, sausages, etc.

Properly mixing the fat into the elk results in juicy burgers and sausages with a beautifully marbled appearance when cooked.

Impact on Nutrition

Adding beef fat introduces both positives and negatives for the nutrition profile compared to pure elk:


  • Higher calorie density provides more energy.
  • More fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K)
  • Richer flavor improves palatability.


  • Increased calories, total fat and saturated fat.
  • Higher cholesterol.
  • Less protein per ounce.

Overall, moderation is key. The flavor and texture benefits outweigh small changes in macros and cholesterol when properly portioned. Those with heart disease or dietary restrictions should exercise caution with added fats.

Making Remarkable Elk Burgers with Beef Fat

Adding just the right amount of high-quality beef fat transforms elk from dry, dense and mild to remarkably juicy, tender and bursting with flavor. For the best results:

  • Use 15-20% beef fat to elk meat.

  • Choose pure suet, tallow or fatty ground beef.

  • Evenly distribute fat cubes before grinding together.

  • Cook burgers and sausages to medium doneness to render fat.

With the right blend of elk and beef fat, you can create memorable meals that capture the essence of wild game elevated by the richness of beef. Experiment to find your perfect combination!

The Takeaway

It’s clear that blending beef fat into lean elk meat offers compelling benefits for texture, moisture and flavor compared to elk alone. With a proper fat ratio, mixing technique and high-quality beef fat sources, you can achieve phenomenal results. While the added fat does increase total calories, it’s a small tradeoff for significantly improving the palatability of wild elk. Overall, the practice of augmenting grass-fed elk with grain-finished beef fat provides an optimal pairing of textures and flavors.

Tip for adding fat to wild game hamburger


What is the ratio of fat to elk?

You will need a ratio of 7-10 percent fat to game burger.

How much fat do you add to elk burger?

Fat is fundamental to creating a juicy product. Twenty percent is the minimum amount that I would add, but 30% is considered standard.

How much beef suet to add to elk burger?

Add Some Fat Most meat processors will add beef suet to your ground elk or deer meat. Suet can often be gotten for free, or at least at low cost, at most grocery stores that cut up their own meat. It is recommended that about 10% to 20% of fat be added by weight.

Does Elk need extra fat?

Ground Elk: Because elk is so lean, it does need the help of some extra fat to bind it together. If you are purchasing elk from the store it will likely already have some beef or beef fat added in, so nothing additional is needed. If you had your own elk meat processed, then add 2 tablespoons of butter or oil per pound.

Can you add elk to burgers?

If you are purchasing elk from the store it will likely already have some beef or beef fat added in, so nothing additional is needed. If you had your own elk meat processed, then add 2 tablespoons of butter or oil per pound. Chopped bacon is also a delicious way to add fat to the burgers.

What is the best fat for ground Elk burgers?

The best fat for ground elk burgers will be a heart-healthy mono- or unsaturated fat like avocado oil or olive oil. You get a healthy, delicious burger without having to sacrifice nutrition or flavor. Elk is so lean that many butchers and cooks add beef fat, butter, or ghee to ground elk.

How do you make an elk Burger?

This elk burger recipe, even though you are adding fat, is actually much less fatty than a store-bought beef patty. Add the A-1 steak sauce, pepper, salt, breadcrumbs, jalapeños, and half of the butter (¼ cup). Mix it up. Add in one egg. After mixing, make 8 equal-sized balls of meat.

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