Turkey burgers have a reputation for being virtuous, but that’s not why I like them. They are milder in taste than beef or lamb, with a softer texture, so they offer a neutral canvas for a range of seasonings and bold condiments. This is a burger where more is better, so pile it on.

Ground turkey is especially lean, and like all poultry, needs to be thoroughly cooked. Keeping turkey burgers from becoming dry can be tricky. Rule No. 1 is to pan-fry them rather than grilling them, good advice that applies to any ground meat patty (beef, lamb or turkey), which retains its moisture and is juicier when seared in a hot pan.

Use a heavy skillet or frying pan — seasoned cast iron works best. And for a turkey burger, start it over high heat to get a great dark crust, then turn the heat down, and cook the turkey slowly, thoroughly, until it’s no longer pink within. Dark meat ground turkey has more flavor and a little more fat than white-meat turkey, and makes a great choice. A mix of both will also work well.

Turkey meat needs seasonings. Soy, Worcestershire sauce or fish sauce add rich, dark notes of umami. While some cooks mix in eggs to bind and moisten the turkey, I find that a good mayonnaise does the same while enriching the meat with much needed fat.

Once you’ve cooked the burgers, it’s time for condiments and don’t hold back! I go for bold tasting cheeses, salty cured meats, sautéed mushrooms and fresh, snappy greens.

Just this past week at the farmers market, I stocked up on arugula, sorrel, mizuna, pea shoots and radish microgreens. Though delicate, these greens are so fresh they’ve lasted all through the week, ready to layer in sandwiches, pile on pizzas, garnish frittatas and add spicy crunch to burgers, as well as chicken, potato and noodle salads.

The best bet for buns? The humble whole-wheat burger bun, lightly toasted, is sturdy enough to stand up to an array of necessary and deliciously messy condiments. Get out the napkins, as this better burger requires two hands.


Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.