The answer to turkey burger perfection

SMALL PATTIES: Mini-turkey Burgers. Tom McCorkle/For The Washington Post

The turkey burger vexes. It can be flavorful yet dry. One too many mix-ins and the thing goes crumbly. Cook it to the proper internal temperature and it seems overdone. Undercook it the way you might do with a juicy burger, and ... well, no good can come from that.

So this recipe might solve those issues. By making the burgers small, they'll cook evenly and quickly, developing a nice crust along the way. In eliminating chunky bits and adding the tang and moisture of yogurt and mustard, we'll build flavor and avoid the crumblies. The last-minute glaze brings a little sweet heat to the party, making condiments optional.

By the way, you can give your chef's knife a rest: The recipe calls for mixing and shaping but not chopping.

Serve over salad greens or with warm whole-wheat pita breads cut into quarters, plus your favorite condiments.

Mini-turkey Burgers

Servings: 4

Adapted from "Hamburger: A Global History," by Andrew F. Smith (Reaktion Books, 2008)


1/3 cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic (garlic powder)

1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard (may substitute Dijon mustard)

1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce (may substitute Worcestershire sauce)

1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat

2 teaspoons canola oil

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 to 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (sweet or hot pimenton)

Salad greens, for serving (optional)

2 whole-wheat pita breads, warmed, for serving (optional)


Combine the yogurt, 3/4 teaspoon of the salt, the pepper, garlic powder, mustard, fish sauce and ground turkey in a mixing bowl. Gently mix with your clean hands. Shape into 8 balls of equal size, which will be soft.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add all the ground turkey balls so they are not touching each other, flattening them slightly into patties. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottoms, then turn them over and cook for about 3 minutes on the second sides, until nicely browned.

Reduce the heat to low; partially cover the pan and continue to cook the burgers for an additional 2 minutes or so, until they are cooked through (at the center, registering 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer), and firm to the touch.

Meanwhile, whisk together the honey, smoked paprika (to taste) and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.

Uncover the burgers and brush the tops of each one with the spiced honey. Cook for 30 seconds or so - just long enough for the honey glaze to set and melt a little into the pan.

Serve as you wish, either atop salad greens or tucked into the warm, quartered pita breads.

Nutrition per serving: 240 calories; 12 g total fat; 3 g saturated fat; 80 mg cholesterol; 540 mg sodium; 10 g carbohydrates; 0 g dietary fiber; 10 g sugars; 24 g protein

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