Burgers made from anything other than beef get very little respect. While turkey burgers and veggie burgers tend to be healthier than beef burgers, due to their lack of fat, they’re often dry and short on flavor. So is there really such a thing as a good turkey burger?
The answer to that question is entirely subjective, unfortunately. If your only frame of reference for a “burger” is a 20-percent-fat patty of ground beef, seared on a flat top to a juicy and greasy medium rare, then you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment if you’re looking to get that same level of pleasure out of a patty of ground turkey, which contains far less fat than ground beef and needs to be cooked to well done. However, if you think of a turkey burger (or a veggie burger, for that matter) as a completely different food item than a beef burger, and realize that their only similarity is that they look similar, you can indeed get a certain level of enjoyment out of one that’s cooked properly.
If you take a patty of ground turkey, put salt on it, and cook it to well done, you’re not going to end up with a good turkey burger, and dressing it up with cheese and toppings will be like putting lipstick on a pig. A good turkey burger takes some coaxing; the most important thing that beef has but turkey lacks is umami, so you’ve got to boost the umami factor. Serious Eats spilled a lot of ink on the subject back in 2009, when The Food Lab published a recipe for a turkey burger that contained three umami bombs: soy sauce, anchovy, and marmite. It also added puréed roasted eggplant to boost the moisture level.
So while you’re not likely going to ever encounter a turkey burger that’s on par with a great beef burger, it is possible to find a turkey burger that tastes legitimately good. It just takes some ingenuity. Read about eight restaurant turkey burgers that are actually really good here, and find six of The Daily Meal’s favorite turkey burger recipes below.