Juicy Grilled Turkey Burgers
Published July 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.
Why this recipe works:
To create juicy, well-textured turkey burgers, we ditched store-bought ground turkey in favor of home-ground turkey thighs, which boast more fat and flavor. To ensure that our turkey burger recipe delivered maximum juiciness, we made a paste with a portion of the ground turkey, gelatin, soy… read more
To create juicy, well-textured turkey burgers, we ditched store-bought ground turkey in favor of home-ground turkey thighs, which boast more fat and flavor. To ensure that our turkey burger recipe delivered maximum juiciness, we made a paste with a portion of the ground turkey, gelatin, soy sauce, and baking soda, which trapped juice within the burgers. Finally, we added coarsely chopped raw white mushrooms to keep the meat from binding together too firmly.
Juicy Grilled Turkey BurgersMost turkey burgers are dry, bland, or loaded up with flavor-blunting fillers. We made more than 200 burgers to figure out a better way.
If you are able to purchase boneless, skinless turkey thighs, substitute 1 1/2 pounds for the bone-in thigh. To ensure the best texture, don’t let the burgers stand for more than an hour before cooking. Serve the burgers with Malt Vinegar–Molasses Burger Sauce or your favorite toppings.
- 1 (2-pound) bone-in turkey thigh, skinned, boned, trimmed, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
- 6 ounces white mushrooms, trimmed
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Pinch baking soda
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 6 large hamburger buns
1. Place turkey pieces on large plate in single layer. Freeze meat until very firm and hardened around edges, 35 to 45 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over chicken broth in small bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Pulse mushrooms in food processor until coarsely chopped, about 7 pulses, stopping and redistributing mushrooms around bowl as needed to ensure even grinding. Set mushrooms aside; do not wash food processor.
2. Pulse one-third of turkey in food processor until coarsely chopped into 1/8-inch pieces, 18 to 22 pulses, stopping and redistributing turkey around bowl as needed to ensure even grinding. Transfer meat to large bowl and repeat two more times with remaining turkey.
3. Return 1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) ground turkey to bowl of food processor along with softened gelatin, soy sauce, and baking soda. Process until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. With processor running, slowly drizzle in oil, about 10 seconds; leave paste in food processor. Return mushrooms to food processor with paste and pulse to combine, 3 to 5 pulses, stopping and redistributing mixture as needed to ensure even mixing. Transfer mushroom mixture to bowl with ground turkey and use hands to evenly combine.
4. With lightly greased hands, divide meat mixture into 6 balls. Flatten into 3/4-inch-thick patties about 4 inches in diameter; press shallow indentation into center of each burger to ensure even cooking. (Shaped patties can be frozen for up to 1 month. Frozen patties can be cooked straight from freezer.)
5A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
5B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).
6. Clean and oil cooking grate. Brush 1 side of patties with oil and season with salt and pepper. Using spatula, flip patties, brush with oil, and season second side. Place burgers over hot part of grill and cook until burgers are well browned on both sides and register 160 degrees, 4 to 7 minutes per side. (If cooking frozen burgers: After burgers are browned on both sides, transfer to cool side of grill, cover, and continue to cook until burgers register 160 degrees.)
7. Transfer burgers to plate and let rest for 5 minutes. While burgers rest, grill buns over hot side of grill. Transfer burgers to buns, add desired toppings, and serve.
How We Built a Better Burger
Swapping out lean, bland commercial ground turkey for freshly ground turkey thighs (we use a food processor) was only our first step toward a juicier, more meaty-tasting burger.
1. Grind Dark Meat: Turkey Thighs contain more fat and flavor than lean white meat.
2. Mix in Mushrooms: They add moisture and flavor, and lighten the texture of the meat.
3. Add Baking Soda: Just a pinch tenderizes the meat by raising its pH.
4. Add Gelatin: Gelatin acts like a sponge, holding up to 10 times its own weight in water.