I have never said, “I can’t wait to snarf a turkey burger.”
OPTB (Other People’s Turkey Burgers) are dry and tasteless, and I’ve choked them down with the tight smile I usually reserve for clothes shopping with my tween daughter. But ground turkey is leaner than ground round. And if that’s not the sort of endorsement that makes you throw your hat in the air with a whoop, this will: I’ve come up with three healthy cooking tricks to make your turkey patties juicy, flavorful and worthy of the “burger” name.
First, it’s important to understand the ground turkey paradox. White turkey meat is healthfully low in fat. But it’s also bland, making an all-white meat turkey burger as tedious as writers who use the word “paradox” in a cooking column. Ground dark turkey has roughly twice the fat content of the white meat, but it’s practically dripping with savory goodness. The compromise in many recipes is to use equal parts white and dark meat, which is the carnivore’s equivalent of ordering a Diet Coke with fries. Instead, to increase flavor without introducing additional fat, I add half a cup of baked sweet potato to a pound of white turkey meat (trick No. 1). Sweet potatoes are virtuous. They’re packed with beta-carotene, B vitamins and potassium. They add bulk, like breadcrumbs, and also provide an abundance of moisture, unlike breadcrumbs. And sweet potatoes act as a binder, so your burger sticks together without the assistance of cholesterol-filled eggs.
Once you’ve flavored your turkey burgers with sweet potato, red onion and seasonings, don’t dehydrate them on the grill or in the oven. Trick No. 2: Cook turkey burgers on the stovetop in a nonstick skillet. Regular skillets require cooking oil, which adds around 100 calories with every glug. Teflon-coated skillets, however, give burgers beautifully crisp edges without added oil or butter. And no, you don’t need to blast it with cooking spray first. In fact, cooking spray can leave a yucky buildup in nonstick pans, so peruse your cookware care instructions before picking up the spray can.
As anyone who dives into the cranberries at Thanksgiving dinner knows, turkey and fruit pair together like a new recipe and excitement. Trick No. 3 for yummy turkey burgers is to top them with a fresh fruit salsa instead of processed ketchup or barbecue sauce. Chop up some mango, pineapple, red apple or yes, even cranberries. Add a dollop of honey or agave nectar. Fresh mint from the garden brightens the fruit, as does basil or cilantro. A little bit of red onion keeps your salsa from tasting too sweet. Serve the salsa on the burgers, on the side or both.
Lastly, I hugged my turkey burgers in lettuce wraps, which are both crunchy and gluten-free. If you love gluten like you want to marry it, make slider-sized patties and serve them on Hawaiian bread rolls with my blessing (and a twinge of jealousy). These turkey burgers are more than a pale variety of moo patties. They’re a fresh, filling meal that’s overflowing with unexpected sweet and savory flavors. And that is something you can toss your hat over.