How to Make Turkey Burgers That Are Actually Juicy

Guess what: Turkey burgers don't have to be dry. Here's the secret to making juicy turkey burgers, with a step-by-step recipe.

In my book, you just can’t beat a juicy burger with a crisp pickle and a cold beer in the backyard: It’s a cookout classic. But beef burgers can be so indulgent, it’s smart to look for healthier alternatives you can enjoy just as much.

Enter turkey burgers. These often get a bad rap for being dry and tasteless, but they don’t have to be. Here’s how to cook ’em right.

While you’re at it, put some grilled sides on the menu.

Secrets to Juicy, Tender Turkey Burgers

1. Add Moist Ingredients

OK, this one is sort of self-evident, but worth the reminder. Adding moist ingredients to the meat mixture will enhance texture and add flavor. Here are a few to try:

  • An egg (also helpful for binding the patties)
  • Chopped raw onion and/or celery
  • A spoonful of milk, or a dollop of mayo or butter
  • Mashed avocado

2. Don’t Overwork the Meat

As you mix the ground turkey with flavorings and binders and shape the meat into patties, you may be tempted to thoroughly work or knead the meat. Don’t! The more you handle the meat, the tougher it will be. Use a light touch to mix and form the burgers. (This is a common mistake for beef burgers, too.)

3. Add a Divot

Burgers swell up as they cook, which can make the middle thicker and the edges thinner, leading to dry or crumbly edges. The solution? Poke a small divot into the middle of the patty before cooking to encourage an even result.

4. Don’t Overcook

This may be the most crucial key to preserving moisture. Closely monitor the temperature of the meat, and remove from the grill as soon as it hits your target temperature—for turkey, that’s 165º. This is where a meat thermometer comes in mighty handy.

5. Watch Where You’re Cooking

Searing over the highest heat on the grill will result in plenty of browning, but it can easily lead to overcooking. Cook the patties over medium heat for greater control and an even result.

These small adjustments can change your grilling life—for the better!

6. Condiments Are Your Friends

Obviously, dropping a burger patty onto a toasted bun is going to be a better experience if you add a variety of textures. Butter, mayo, ketchup, mustard and hot sauce add moisture, as do crunchy iceberg lettuce, sliced onions, relish, pickles and tomatoes.

This is the most popular burger topping in the U.S. Think you can guess?

How to Make Super Juicy Turkey Burgers

We love this recipe for turkey burgers from Florida reader Sherry Hulsman. They’re ready in just half and hour!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup soft whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/4 pounds lean ground turkey (like Jennie-O)
  • 6 hamburger buns, split

Step 1: Combine the binder and favorings.

In a small bowl, mix the egg, bread crumbs, celery, onion, parsley, Worcestershire sauce and spices.

Test Kitchen tip: Pre-mixing these ingredients makes them easier to mix into the turkey meat. The less you handle the meat, the more tender it will be.

Step 2: Form turkey patties.

Pinch off ground turkey over the bowl, and then lightly mix the mixture together. Form the meat into patties by plucking off a piece, rolling into a meatball, and pressing between your palms or onto a sheet of waxed paper. (It’s easier if you get your hands wet first.) You should have enough for six patties. Press a small dimple into the middle of each patty to encourage even cooking.

Test Kitchen tip: Don’t make the patties too fat or too thin. About 1/3″ is ideal.

Step 3: Grill.

Grease the grill grates. Cook the patties over medium heat, about five to six minutes per side. Begin to take the temperature with an instant-read thermometer after about 9 minutes. When it hits 165º, remove the patties from the heat. Serve quickly; patties can dry out as they cool.

Test Kitchen tip: Don’t press down on the meat with your spatula, like they do when cooking burgers in the movies. This will squeeze out tons of juice! Here are other grilling mistakes people make all the time.

Skinny Side Dishes for Your Cookout
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Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes articles and novels from her home in Milwaukee. She's an avid cook, reader, flâneur, and noir fanatic. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, will be published in June 2019 by William Morrow.