Mention turkey burgers are for dinner and most likely you’ll be met with a look of apprehension. Turkey burgers—and chicken too—have an understandably bad rep for being akin to hockey pucks. But the ones I’m sharing today are as juicy as can be.
As more people seek to reduce their red meat intake and choose more environmentally friendly proteins, ground turkey and chicken are great options. They’re a fantastic source of lean protein, and often come at a lower price point than ground beef or pork.
While it’s relatively easy to add flavor to ground poultry (I like adding minced garlic and going heavy on the seasoning), it’s harder to get the right balance of moisture. Both turkey and chicken have a much lower fat content than beef, which is why they’re so prone to drying out. In theory, using ground dark meat poultry solves this, but I’ve never seen it at any of my local grocery stores and suspect you haven’t either.
There are all sorts of hacks to add moisture to poultry burgers. Some recipes tell you to mix in condiments like mustard, mayonnaise, or barbecue sauce. Others call for grated zucchini or onion. Others still turn to something fatty, like olive oil, cheese, or even mashed avocado.
My go-to method? Adding butter. It’s a pantry staple I always have on hand, and I love that it enhances the rich flavor of the burger without overpowering it. I opt for unsalted butter to have total control over the seasoning. Like with any recipe, it’s all about balance, and it doesn’t take much butter to make poultry burgers succulent. An easy ratio to remember is 2 tablespoons unsalted butter per 1 pound ground turkey or chicken.
Here’s what I do: Add the ground poultry and any add-ins (like egg, panko, or parsley) to a large bowl. Then, take a box grater or Microplane and grate the butter directly into the bowl. Use your hands to combine all the ingredients, and form your patties as usual. It’s easiest to use butter straight from the refrigerator or freezer, as room-temperature butter is too soft to grate.
Could you incorporate the butter in chopped pieces or tuck a slice inside each patty? Not quite. The butter doesn’t permeate the patty in the same way. Grated shards are your best bet. As the burgers cook, the butter melts, adding fat, moisture, and flavor. This ensures that every bite is juicy.
The pan will have quite a bit of fat in it by the time you’re done cooking, so be sparing with how much oil you put in to start. After flipping the patties, you can use a spoon to baste them with the melted butter for even more richness and flavor.
Turkey burgers will never be the same. You’re welcome.