Learn How to Make the Perfect Turkey Burger in Five Simple Steps
Our method will ensure you end up with juicy, flavorful patties every single time.
Flavorful, juicy, and easy to make, ground turkey patties really can rival any other burger you put on the grill. Sure, they sometimes get a bad rap as dry and crumbly, but with a little finessing a turkey burger can be the patty of your dreams to sandwich between buns with all your favorite condiments. Don't believe us? Just follow our formula, and we guarantee that you'll make a perfect turkey burger every single time. You'll find that our tips address both texture and flavor, so you can make patties that hold their shape, have plenty of turkey flavor, are moist, and taste irresistible.
Choose Your Meat
Our ideal turkey burger is made with dark meat or a combination of dark and white. The higher fat content of dark meat, which is still leaner than beef, translates to super flavorful, juicy patties. Ground white turkey meat is easier to find at the grocery store, but many supermarket meat counters (or local butchers) can help you source ground dark. And if you're ordering straight from the butcher, ask them if they can grind the meat for you using a coarser grind. You'll find that most grocery store ground turkey is so finely ground that it's almost a purée, and this is harder to work with and has a too smooth mouthfeel. Our Turkey Cheddar Burgers are made with ground dark turkey meat and rival a traditional cheeseburger.
Use a Binder
Use breadcrumbs to bind the patties together and help them retain their shape. Fresh breadcrumbs (made from fresh bread pulsed in the food processor or torn into small bits) are best here, as they retain some moisture which helps to keep them from drying out the burger. If you opt for dried breadcrumbs (made from stale bread), try soaking them in a touch of milk or add a little egg or mayonnaise first. Another binder that makes an irresistible patty is cheese-that means adding it into the meat mixture, not just on top. Our Favorite Turkey Burger calls for grating nutty, melty Gruyère into the patty along with fresh breadcrumbs. Cheddar, feta, Swiss, or whatever firm to semi-soft cheese you prefer are great swaps for the pricier Gruyère.
Boost the Flavor
More mild tasting than beef, turkey is a blank canvas that won't overpower other ingredients, allowing you to really customize the patty to your desired flavor profile. Start by adding an umami-rich ingredient such as Worcestershire, miso, garlic powder, or soy sauce, which brings out the best of the turkey flavor and adds an irresistible note in these Hawaiian Turkey Burgers (adding a slice of pineapple as a topping doesn't hurt either!). Background flavors such as grated onion or sliced scallion also boost flavor and add moisture. Next, select flavorful ingredients that add perspective. Tangy condiments like Dijon, ketchup, hot sauce, spices like chili powder, ground cumin, or dried oregano, or herbal notes from fresh chopped herbs. One of Martha's favorites, this Turkey Meatloaf Burger gets a tasty spin from red pepper relish mixed into the patty.
For the most tender patties, don't overwork the turkey meat. First stir together the binder and flavorful ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Then fold in the turkey meat until just combined.
Form Your Patties
The perfect patties fit perfectly inside the bun and hold their shape; these three tricks help ensure just that. First, use cold turkey meat, which is firmer than room temperature. If the patty mixture seems too loose or too delicate (and you have added enough breadcrumbs), try refrigerating the patties for at least 30 minutes to firm them up before reforming and cooking them. Second, form the patties about ½-inch wider than the bun, the meat will shrink a little as it cooks. Lastly, we recommend finishing the patty with the indent method, which prevents the burger from puffing up and shrinking as well when it cooks. Use your thumb to create about a one-inch wide divot in the center of the each patty.
Cooking a Turkey Burger
Turkey burgers need to be cooked all the way through, but you don't want to overdo it and ruin your efforts to keep the patty moist and flavorful. Have a meat thermometer on hand and measure temperature in the thickest part of the center of the patty, or you can sacrifice one patty and cut it open to ensure it is cooked through. Our favorite way to cook turkey burgers is to grill or pan sear over medium-high heat to get a nice sear on both sides. We then remove the patties to a cooler part of the grill or place them in the oven at a lower temperature and let them finish cooking slowly-both of these methods ensure your patties don't overcook.