Tender, Juicy Turkey Burgers

By Ann Fulton

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Tender, juicy, flavor-packed turkey burgers are possible with lean breast meat thanks to a few simple additions. A go-to weeknight meal and worthy of a weekend barbecue!

Tender, juicy, flavor-packed turkey burgers are possible with lean breast meat thanks to a few simple additions. A go-to weeknight meal and worthy of a weekend barbecue! 

 

 

Tender and flavorful, these burgers defy the dry, flavorless hockey pucks some people associate with turkey burgers, especially those made with lean breast meat.

The best part is that these juicy, truly satisfying burgers are easy to pull off, on the grill or stovetop.

A short list of ingredients and a few simple tips are all you need.

Tender, juicy, flavor-packed turkey burgers are possible with lean breast meat thanks to a few simple additions. A go-to weeknight meal and worthy of a weekend barbecue!

The first directive is nothing new: season the meat well. In addition to salt and pepper, however, this recipe includes a small amount of soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari if needed).

Soy sauce works like salt in some ways, but it’s the “umami” quality, or savoriness, which further enhances the meaty flavor. You may substitute Worcestershire if desired, as it will achieve a similar result.

Next, two tablespoons of ketchup supply moisture and more of that special “je ne sais quoi” as my mother-in-law would say. (The direct translation of that catchy French term is “I don’t know what.” But again, I’m referring to the concentrated savory flavor.)

The final piece of the turkey burger puzzle is grated onion. Grating the onion provides evenly dispersed flavor and moisture without the chunks that may be off-putting to some. Grating also eliminates the need to sauté the onion first, an added step that is often utilized to soften those chunks.

Grated onion is the secret ingredient that gives these lean turkey burgers so much flavor and moisture.

When grating the onion, I find it helpful to start with a larger onion, even though I don’t use it all in the burgers. This way, I’m unlikely to scrape my fingers on the grater. (Just the thought makes me wince.) Then I reserve the remaining onion for another use–or slice and grill along with the burgers.

If your onion produces a lot of juice, leave it behind. The shards of onion are key to moisture and flavor. Too much juice, however, will make the burgers looser than they need to be.

Onion juice aside, these burgers will have more moisture than beef burgers prior to cooking. To firm them up a bit, I like to refrigerate the shaped burgers for 30-60 minutes, uncovered, before cooking. You may find that even 10-15 minutes in the freezer helps. If time is really tight, you may absolutely proceed; simply handle the patties with care. 

Another helpful tip is to line the baking sheet on which you place the uncooked burgers with parchment or wax paper. This way, the softer patties won’t stick to the baking sheet and you can transfer them to the grill or skillet quite easily.

Tender, juicy, flavor-packed turkey burgers are possible with lean breast meat thanks to a few simple additions. A go-to weeknight meal and worthy of a weekend barbecue!

Note on texture: These burgers will be softer and more delicate than typical beef burgers, and that’s a good thing; this quality is what leads to tender, juicy, flavorful turkey burgers (even with lean breast meat!) once cooked to temperature. That said, you don’t want TOO much liquid in these burgers, which is why I recommend draining off all the juice that may be in the package of meat and using the shredded onion but not the inevitable juice that pools around the shredded bits.

Tender, juicy, flavor-packed turkey burgers are possible with lean breast meat thanks to a few simple additions. A go-to weeknight meal and worthy of a weekend barbecue!

As written, the recipe yields four burgers, although a double batch is easy to make. When gently reheated, any leftovers taste great. 

Tender, juicy, flavor-packed turkey burgers are possible with lean breast meat thanks to a few simple additions. A go-to weeknight meal and worthy of a weekend barbecue!

What are the most popular burger toppings in our house? Sriracha mayo (pictured above), pickles, mashed avocado, crisp lettuce, and pickled jalapeños. For their crisp crunch, thinly sliced cucumbers often figure their way in, especially when I don’t have lettuce on hand.

Several months ago, Christian called from college with the express desire of learning how to make sriracha mayo. He claims it adds flavor to “everything.” I tend to agree! 

Similarly, Donovan recently called the flavorful sauce “on point.” I’ve included the how-to in the recipe notes, and you may not believe how incredibly easy sriracha mayo truly is. It’s essentially the magical sauce that sushi restaurants use in their spicy tuna and salmon rolls and to make the artistic drizzle over top some of the rolls.

Beyond sriracha mayo, basically anything pickled makes me very happy. My top three burger toppings in that department include sweet 7-day pickles, spicy pickled jalapeños, and pickled red onions (pictured above). 

And yes, I’d absolutely put them all on the same burger, likely with a spread of sriracha mayo on one side of the bun and mashed avocado on the other. It’s a mouthful, for sure, but it sure is good!

These photos include a new recipe for refrigerator taco pickles peeking out above the lettuce, and I’m excited to share it in the weeks ahead. Additionally, the roasted potato salad in the background, below, is one of my summertime standbys and will also be coming your way soon!

Tender, juicy, flavor-packed turkey burgers are possible with lean breast meat thanks to a few simple additions. A go-to weeknight meal and worthy of a weekend barbecue!

A few favorite salads to serve alongside:

One more condiment option: For those who enjoy the addition made famous by an iconic fast food chain, I have a copycat Special Sauce recipe that you may enjoy as well. 

Tender, Juicy Turkey Burgers
Yield: 4 burgers
A few simple additions turn lean ground turkey into tender, juicy burgers that are perfect for easy weeknight meals and worthy of weekend cookouts with family and friends.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup grated onion*
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) soy sauce or GF tamari**
  • 2 tablespoons (34g) ketchup
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder**
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey (breast meat)
  • 4 hamburger buns, toasted if desired
  • Options for serving: sliced tomato, onions (regular or pickled onions), lettuce, mashed avocado, thinly sliced cucumbers, crisp bacon, pickles, ketchup, mustard, sriracha mayo (recipe in notes)
Instructions

1. In a large bowl, stir together the grated onion, soy sauce, ketchup, and seasonings. Add the turkey. (If there is any liquid in the turkey package, drain it all off.) Using a fork or your clean hand, fully incorporate the grated onion mixture into the meat without overmixing. Shape into four patties (the mixture will be quite moist) and press the patties into ½-inch thick rounds. Helpful hint: once formed, lay the burgers on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment or waxed paper. The burgers are softer than traditional beef burgers, and this will make it easy to turn them off the tray when ready to cook.
2. At this point, if you have time, it is helpful to refrigerate the patties for 30-60 minutes, uncovered. This gives them time to firm up somewhat and eliminates excess moisture on the surface for a better sear.
3. When grilling: preheat the grill to medium-high and grill the burgers for approximately 5 minutes on each side (with the lid closed) or until the burgers are just cooked through. Internal temperature should register 165 ℉ when taken with a quick-read thermometer. (Tip: for the juiciest, most tender burgers, I aim for an internal temp of 160℉, as the carryover cooking will take the burgers to 165℉.)
4. When cooking on the stovetop: Brush a nonstick skillet or cast iron pan with oil (or spray it) and heat over medium-high heat. When hot, cook the patties for five minutes on each side or until cooked to temperature as described one step up.
5. Serve on buns with condiments of choice.

Notes

*To grate the onion: In order the quickly shred tiny bits, I use a handheld shredder or the shredder side of a box grater as opposed to the tiny grate holes. I find it easiest to start with a medium to large onion; that way my knuckles don’t come anywhere close to the grates. I reserve the remaining onion for later use, or slice and grill along with the burgers. Use just the onion—not the juice—to avoid too much liquid in the meat mixture. No grater? Mince the onion as finely as you can.

**Substitution options
In place of the soy sauce, I have substituted 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce with delicious results. In this case, I use 1 teaspoon of salt to match the seasoning level afforded by the soy sauce.
I have made the recipe without the garlic powder, and the burgers are still delicious. That said, the addition provides an extra layer of flavor.

How to make sriracha mayo? Start by mixing ¼ cup (52g) mayonnaise with 2 teaspoons sriracha. Add more sriracha to taste or an extra dollop of mayo if you’d like the sauce to be milder. I use 1 tablespoon sriracha for noticeable but not overly spicy heat. The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled and will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. We love it on burgers, sandwiches, sushi bowls, and more.

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A few last notes: The chilling step is not as critical when cooking in a skillet and can ultimately be skipped when grilling. Just be aware that these patties are looser and more fragile than some burgers. Getting a good sear on the first side will make the burgers easier to flip. You could add ¼ cup or so of breadcrumbs to the meat mixture, but I have not found this necessary and do enjoy the tender quality afforded by not using too many binders.

Special thanks to Donovan and his wife Julie, as I lightly adapted the recipe above from their family favorite turkey burger recipe, which they graciously shared with me. It has become a favorite in our family as well. Their recipe was originally inspired from Martha Rose Shulman’s NYT recipe.

 

 

 

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Comments

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Cynthia, In order to replace the flavor and the moisture that the onions provide without adding too much liquid, I’d try 3-4 tablespoons of mayonnaise. I’ve tried that in a different ground turkey recipe with good results.

      Reply