If you grew up in the ’50s, ’60s or ’70s and asked your mom what was for dinner, the odds were good that the answer would somehow involve hamburger. Remember when we used to just call it hamburger? Now of course we refer to it as ground beef. Or ground chuck. Or ground sirloin.

Times have changed and we simply don’t cook the way our mothers did. Salisbury steak, bacon-coated meatloaf and corn chip-crusted taco pie have been replaced with grilled salmon, quinoa salad and kale stir-fries. Often, even when we’re trying to bring back the good old days, we swap out ground beef for ground turkey.

While our intentions are admirable, lean ground turkey, made with white meat only, has significantly less fat than lean ground beef (which is kind of the point). Since fat carries flavor and creates moisture, the result can be disappointing, especially if you’re making burgers which rely so heavily on the patty for both of these important elements. Fret not; there are multitudes of ways to make turkey burgers without feeling like you’re eating a hockey puck.

Here are a few tips:

• Add fat. Yes, this does sound counterproductive, but if you’re adding back healthy fat, you’re still accomplishing your goal. Try adding a tablespoon or two of olive oil per pound of turkey. You’ll be surprised at the difference it can make.

• Add flavor. If you make a patty of ground turkey and simply season it with a little salt and pepper, you’re missing an opportunity to make it taste, well, good. By sprinkling in some spices, such as cumin or coriander, or some herbs like mint, parsley or cilantro, you can amplify the flavor.

• Don’t overcook. It is possible to cook your turkey burger all the way through without making it dry. You just need to watch it. The recommended temperature for ground turkey is 165 degrees. Make sure you have your instant read thermometer handy and pull those patties off the grill or out of the frying pan just as soon as they’ve come up to temperature. Trust me, the difference in taste and texture between 165 and 175 degrees is significant.

The beauty of making your burgers with lean ground turkey, besides the health benefits, is that it frees you from your family’s traditional burger expectations. Take advantage of that freedom and try new combinations, such as this Middle Eastern inspired version. The sausage-shaped patties are seasoned with mint, cilantro and cumin and spiked with toasted pine nuts. Then they’re tucked into a whole-wheat pita with baby lettuce, crispy cucumbers and slathered with a creamy cucumber-mint yogurt sauce.

No, it’s nothing like a big beefy burger and it’s not trying to be. Packed with flavor and interesting textures, it’s something your family might like better.


Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at meredith@meredithdeeds.com. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.