This might be the most unintentionally American post I’ve ever written. This past week my youngest finally got her American citizenship (future voter!) and you know how we celebrated the event? We came home and even without really thinking about it, I made homemade turkey burgers for dinner. Not apple pie. Not pancakes. Turkey burgers. Some things are so ingrained that they happen without even really paying attention.
The average American eat nearly 17lbs (nearly 8 kg) of turkey per year, ranking the United States as the3rd highest in the world when it comes to gobble consumption (Hungary ranking #2 per capita and Israel at #1 with nearly 29lbs per person!). Turkey is tied into American culture; from Thanksgiving to Christmas, as an alternative to pork (turkey bacon, turkey sausages etc) for those who eat Halal or Kosher, to the typical weeknight homemade turkey burger. In fact, I can distinctly remember about ten years ago, in a pre-American-food-trend London, stumbling onto a restaurant that served one as a tribute to “American home cooking”. And you better believe I ordered it.
Despite this nationwide obsession with turkey, and white meat in particular, turkey can easily become dry and tasteless when cooked incorrectly- as if self denial was a requirement whilst in the pursuit of what many still consider to be a “healthy” alternative to beef. The low-fat ethos of the 1990’s couldn’t help but boost the poultry’s popularity. Though the research and therefore healthy eating trends have come a long way since the Snackwells decade, the country (and I) continue to ride that turkey-burger-loving wave as long as it will carry us.
I love turkey burgers, I really do. I love how the flavour of the meat itself can be really subtle, lending itself for liberal amounts of herbs, spices, sauces, veggies, cheeses or whatever you choose to add to the burger, giving the additional ingredients opportunity to shine, while still feeling meaty and satisfying.
BUT! There are some key tricks and tips I’ve picked up through the years, on how to create a turkey burger that doesn’t feel like punishment when you eat it. Here are a few things to think about when making your next one..
- Add fat. Add an egg or a couple yolks to the mince, chopped olives, olive oil when you fry it or grill it, and cheese, mayo, bacon or avocado when you serve it. Adding fat, especially if using turkey breast mince (I like a mix of breast and thigh if you can find it), will help keep the patty juicy as well as satisfying. Last thing you want is to feel hangry and frustrated for still having a burger-sized itch to scratch after having polished off your turkey burger. Fat helps.
- Add moisture. I do this by adding finely chopped veggies that contain a good amount of water to the patty mixture itself. Swiss chard, spinach, courgette, peppers and mushrooms are all great options that not only pack in extra nutrients and vitamins but also add moisture and flavour. This has become particularly useful as a way to utilise a garden glut: courgette or swiss chard in specific as of late. The additional texture helps keep things interesting too.
- Add herbs, spices and sauce. I love adding dried thyme, oregano, garlic salt, and a couple teaspoons of mustard, bbq sauce, hot sauce or chillies into the mince. It means you can then focus your efforts on adding cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon etc. rather than tons of additional sauces after the burgers have been cooked, which leads to a less slippery and messy experience and overall (I think) a more enjoyable burger. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good messy meal (chicken wings, ribs etc) but not when it comes to burgers; as you end up eating all of the components separately when they slide off the bun, rather than together as one delicious sandwich- killing the whole point of adding them. By adding a good portion of your “fixings” into the patty mixture you can save yourself some of the frustration of trying to get them to stay within the confines of your burger bun without sacrificing any flavours you want to incorporate.
So there you have it, my love letter to the turkey burger. If you find yourself reading this with a large helping of skepticism, it’s ok. There have been enough terrible hockey pucks passing as burgers that I don’t blame you. But, the turkey burger revolution is here. And I am apparently its self appointed leader. Viva la revolucion!