I remember when turkey burgers were first introduced as a healthy alternative to beef burgers (ok, I’m dating myself, I know). I also remember that they were typically dry, flavorless hockey pucks. Well, no more! Ground turkey is no longer the ugly step-sibling to beef. It’s lean and flavorful and readily available at your local grocery. Most markets carry both ground turkey breast and ground thigh meat, the former being more lean and the latter being slightly more moist and flavorful. Whichever you choose, you’ll want to gobble up these tasty Mediterranean-style turkey burgers.
We’ve given the traditional turkey burger a Mediterranean make-over by adding the same ingredients one might put in a Greek salad — kalamata olives, red peppers, onion, pepperoncini, and feta. I pack it so full of veggies and herbs, it’s almost a garden burger. This bounty of ingredients results in abundant flavor and added moisture.
Also, in continuing my efforts to create the juiciest turkey burgers, I’ve attempted to cook them every which way possible, but I consistently find that the pan-frying method produces the very best results. I love the flavor imparted by the outdoor grill but find it very difficult to keep the patties in one piece. And once they start to break apart, they lose the juices that inherently keep them moist. One trick to keeping the burgers from falling apart during the cooking process, however, is to give them a quick freeze beforehand to firm them up and help them keep their shape while cooking. After forming your patties, you can pop them into the freezer for 20, 30, even up to 40 minutes, allowing them to set without freezing.
I’ve found that pan-frying in a cast iron or non-stick skillet sears the flavors in and allows the burgers to cook through completely without drying out because the lid creates a moist atmosphere. Alternately, you can use an indoor grill (i.e. George Foreman or Cuisinart griddle pan), which creates a nice sear on the outside, but unfortunately doesn’t allow you to cover them with a lid in the final step, which I think is crucial.
These burgers are so satisfying and delicious on their own that no bun is necessary, making them a healthy, low-fat meal. Serve them with roasted veggies or a salad and a side of spicy brown mustard, pesto or herb-forward chimichurri (see my recipe at “Got Herbs?” ).
Mediterranean Turkey Burgers
The traditional turkey burger gets a Mediterranean make-over by adding the same ingredients one might put in a Greek salad -- kalamata olives, red peppers, onion, pepperoncini, and feta. It's so full of veggies, it's almost a garden burger!
- 1 lb. lean ground turkey
- 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
- 1 thin slice sweet yellow onion (preferably Vidalia), diced
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
- 2 pepperoncini, thinly sliced
- 1-2 oz. fresh feta, crumbled
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
- Handful fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano (or 1/4 tsp. fresh)
- Pinch of crushed chile flakes, to taste
- 1 egg, whisked and divided into two halves
- 1/4 c. seasoned bread crumbs
- Kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
- Olive oil
Place the ground turkey meat in a large bowl and add all of the veg, herbs and seasonings. Add the breadcrumbs and half of the whisked egg (reserving the other half, in case needed). Using your hands, gently blend the ingredients together until all are fully mixed throughout and the breadcrumbs are dispersed completely. The mixture should be sticky and bind together well, but should not be wet. If it’s too wet or the mixture is not holding together when formed into a patty, add more breadcrumbs, a small amount at a time. If the mixture is too dry or bready, add more of the whisked egg, a little at a time.
Form the mixture into 3 medium patties or two very large ones. (I like to have an extra for lunch the next day.) Place the patties on a plate, cover with wax paper or cling wrap and place in the freezer for 25-30 minutes. Par-freezing helps the burgers firm up and keep their shape while cooking.
Heat a cast iron or non-stick skillet on medium-high heat until it is very hot (do not use a ridged grill pan). Add a tablespoon of the olive oil and heat until glistening. Lower the heat to medium and add the turkey burgers, cooking until they are browned on one side and easily release from the pan with a spatula. Flip burgers and do the same on the other side. When both sides are browned, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Continue until the burgers are fully cooked though, about 10-15 minutes, flipping once if necessary to prevent them from getting too browned on the outside. Serve with spicy brown mustard, pesto or chimichurri.
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