Dijon turkey burger with Swiss cheese.
Photo: Henri Hollis
Photo: Henri Hollis

5:30 Challenge: For the best turkey burgers, focus on flavor first

Turkey burgers often get a bad rap. Billed as a healthy alternative to classic hamburgers, they can turn out dry and mealy — a compromise dinner that only hints at its origins. But when turkey burger recipes focus on deliciousness, things change.

First, start with the turkey meat. Most ground turkey in a typical grocery store is made from the breast, which, at 1 percent fat, is starkly lean. You can, of course, form this into patties and cook them, but the resulting burgers will almost certainly be dry. Instead, try your best to find ground dark meat turkey, often labeled “85 percent lean.” It will also, unsurprisingly, be darker in appearance. (If you feel you need to compromise, you can also look for 93 percent lean ground turkey, which will add a bit more moisture and still keep the total fat content down.)

No matter what type of turkey you choose, you should still add a bit of insurance to the blend — in the form of zucchini. When finely grated, it almost dissolves into the meat, adding structure and moisture to the burgers without becoming springy like more commonly-used breadcrumbs.

The last ingredient, save for salt, that should make an appearance in every turkey burger is a flavor-booster of some kind. Whether an herb, spice or condiment, this ingredient should complement the mild flavor of the meat without overwhelming it. Because of our 5:30 Challenge parameters, it’s best to choose an ingredient here that you can also use as a topping for the cooked burgers. Ketchup would overwhelm and mayonnaise wouldn’t do much, flavor-wise, but Dijon mustard is a fine choice for this two-part role. It’s a natural fit for both turkey and zucchini, and it also pairs well with deli-sliced Swiss cheese, which really takes these burgers over the top.

Serve the seared burgers on whole wheat buns with a steamed green vegetable, such as broccoli, on the side.


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Read the 2018 AJC Fall Dining Guide: Dining on Buford Highway 

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