Brow Beat

The Genius Secret to Juicy Turkey Burgers (Chicken and Pork Burgers, Too)

Lean but not mean.

A turkey burger on a plate with lettuce.
Ty Mecham

Who among us hasn’t been burned by a dry turkey burger before? (Or chicken, or pork, or even beef, that time whoever was in charge of shopping went down a dark path and bought the 98% lean mix.) I had an especially dismal one just recently at the burger joint across the street from my apartment. Fool me, I don’t know, a hundred times?

But I never gave up hope. And I finally found a sure thing for juicy, unreasonably good lean-meated burgers in Niloufer Ichaporia King’s 2007 James Beard Award–winning cookbook My Bombay Kitchen, a memoir and archive of the recipes and techniques from her heritage in the Parsi community in India.

Peppers and chives on a cutting board.
Ty Mecham

Lean meat, as a rule, needs help—whether that’s leaning on richer ingredients or dry-brining or just a really good marinade. Or, as King does here, inspired by traditional Parsi kebabs, by jamming that meat full of moisture (and flavor) with a mess of herbs, alliums, ginger, and chiles.

There is a greater proportion of vegetable matter here than I’d ever have thought wise to mix into a burger, for fear of lingering chunks of raw ginger, onion, and chile. But every last bit has just enough time to soften and release its bright, herby, spicy vapors and juices into the burgers as they sizzle, fixing both of the problems meat lacking in fat tends to have: severe deficits in flavor and moisture.

Raw meat patties.
Ty Mecham

In related perks, this means that you don’t have to stress as much about seasoning the meat mix just right, or stopping the second the burger reaches doneness. You have more than enough buffer.

For the rest of dinner, King recommends a simple baked potato and a salad with avocado. Alice Medrich, longtime Food52 columnist and another genius in our midst, who sent me this recipe, likes to involve raita or King’s spicy carrot salad, also from My Bombay Kitchen. Or you could of course put it on a bun, and it will erase the memory of every sad turkey burger you’ve met.

Niloufer Ichaporia King’s Turkey (or Chicken or Pork) Parsi Burgers

Serves 4.

• 1 pound ground turkey, chicken, or lean pork
• 1 small red or yellow onion, or 4 green onions, finely chopped
• 6 slices peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped
• 2 to 4 small green chiles like jalapeño, finely chopped (seeds and white ribs removed if you don’t want it too spicy)
• 1/2 cup (or more) chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves and stems
• 1/4 cup chopped mint leaves (optional)
• 1 large egg
• salt

See the full recipe on Food52.

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