Supermarket ground meats are often finely ground, which makes for a denser burger. The finer the grind, the easier it is to pack the meat too tightly when making patties. Ask your butcher for a coarse grind, or grind it yourself in a food grinder or food processor. The key is to not over-process the meat; ground meat should look chopped—not pureed.
Lean meat lacks the fat that gives burgers their natural juiciness and flavor. (Meat with about 15 to 20 percent fat is ideal.) Avoid a dry burger by adding in moist or fatty ingredients to turkey, venison and other extra lean meats. A few options include olive oil (add 1 tablespoon for every pound of meat), coconut milk, Greek yogurt, salsa, barbecue sauce and applesauce.
Mixing It Up
Onion, zucchini, spinach or other veggies add moisture and bring a nice flavor accent to a burger. Make sure the ingredients are finely chopped before mixing them with meat, as large pieces can make the patty unstable.
Always use a light hand when blending added ingredients, mixing just until combined. Keep it light when forming your patties as well. Over-handling the meat can result in a denser and drier burger.
Cooking time varies depending on the meat, thickness of the patty, whether it’s cooked on the grill or in the oven, and the temperature at which it’s cooked. That said, most burgers will cook in 4 to 10 minutes on the grill if you start with a hot grill. (Extra-lean meats are best cooked slowly over medium heat.)
Wait a few minutes or until the first side releases its grip on the grill before flipping the patty. The burger initially sticks to the grill, so if you flip it too early it will fall apart. The tool of choice for flipping patties is a spatula.
Fajita Turkey Burgers
These burgers go together fast. Top it off with fresh guacamole and lettuce or shredded red cabbage for a family-pleasing meal.
1/2 cup cooked black beans, mashed
1/4 cup cooked rice (black, brown, or white)
1/4 cup diced roasted red pepper*
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fajita seasoning
1 pound ground turkey**
Salt and pepper, to taste
* In place of roasted red pepper, sauté diced fresh pepper in 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until tender.
** Add 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil to extra lean turkey.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the black beans, rice, red pepper, garlic, egg, and fajita seasoning. Mix in the ground turkey and olive oil, if needed, using damp hands.
Divide the turkey mixture into four equal portions and shape into patties. Patties will cook in about 4 minutes on each side; if cooking on an indoor grill with lid closed, cook about 4 minutes total or until done. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then top each patty with guacamole and toppings of choice.
Coconut Crab Cake Burgers with Pineapple Salsa
12 ounces crabmeat, lightly squeezed if wet
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice*
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
1 to 2 teaspoons grated or minced fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pineapple salsa (recipe follows)
* Substitute lime juice with pineapple juice reserved from pineapple salsa recipe, if preferred.
In a large bowl, gently mix the crabmeat, yogurt, lime juice, egg, chives, ginger, and white pepper. Add the coconut and panko and gently fold in. Form into six patties.
Heat coconut oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Salt and pepper patties, to taste. Cook the patties until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Arrange on toasted buns and serve with pineapple salsa and other toppings of choice.
This surprisingly tasty salsa goes together super fast using canned pineapple.
1 cup drained crushed pineapple (reserve liquid for later use)
1/3 cup diced cucumber
1/3 cup diced sweet red pepper
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
Oregon-based Kris Wether-bee is an internationally published author, food writer and recipe developer. (kriswetherbee.com)
TOP IT OFF:
Just as icing on a cake transforms it from good to grand, fresh fixings on top of a burger can take it from simple to sensational. Get creative, mix it up and discover your next burger crave. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Mix your own specialty spread. Combine mayonnaise with one of these mixtures: cumin, lime, and chipotle pepper; wasabi, soy sauce and cooked pureed spinach; pineapple and stone ground mustard, or roasted red pepper and garlic.
Top your burger with pesto, guacamole or salsa instead of ketchup. Use shredded red cabbage, fresh spinach or basil leaves in place of lettuce. Try feta cheese, smoked Swiss or fresh mozzarella cheese instead of cheddar.
Think beyond tomatoes and pickles. Try non-traditional toppings, such as marinated artichoke hearts, roasted eggplant, zucchini slaw or fresh sliced mangos. Create a burger worthy of your imagination.