The name for this recipe blog was inspired by my kids. These burgers spawned a regular insistence that I open my own restaurant, name it “Mom’s Burgers,” and make nothing but these turkey-feta burgers to feed the masses. It’s only fitting that they should be my first recipe here, I suppose.
It all started with a horrendous craving for a juicy cheeseburger and a frantic search on the internet on how to make one with ground turkey. Ground turkey is, well, fairly tasteless, dry, somewhat unstable on a grill, and did I mention dry and tasteless? So I needed moisture and flavor. My search led me to allrecipes.com, a couple other cooking sites, and then here, which is very close to what I did originally. I adjusted a bit with the garlic amounts (for sulfite levels), added some onion because, sautéed onion, added extra feta and spinach for bulk and my flavor preferences, and adjusted the grilling time for my grill and grilling ability. I have tried so many variations of this recipe (as I tend to do), and I encourage you to do the same, but this is by far my favorite. Enjoy!
Makes about 12 patties
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 8 oz. block of feta cheese
- 8 oz. fresh baby spinach
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 small onion
- olive oil
- 1 Tbsp dried parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
On med-high, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of your pan. Chop onion into smallish-ly (no chef here: about 1/4 – 1/2 inch pieces) and add it to the oil. Chop, smash, or use your handy dandy garlic press, and add the garlic to the oil. The idea with the garlic is to make very small pieces so, 1) the flavor is well integrated with the oil, and 2) no one gets a huge chunk-o-garlic in their patty. Stir onion and garlic around a bit to infuse the oil with flavor, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the baby spinach. Let it cook down until just barely wilted, rotating the bottom oil-onion-garlicy goodness to the top constantly. Once all the spinach is coated and just-wilty, put it in a bowl, juice and all, in the fridge or freezer to cool just enough to handle without burning your skin off.
Time to get your hands dirty!
I recommend setting up where you are going to put your patties before you start in on the meat. OR, enlist an assistant to do that for you when needed. Either way, you are going to need some sort of flat cookie sheet type thing and a couple layers of wax or parchment paper to keep the patties separate. It should be something you can easily fit in your freezer as well.
Put ground turkey in a large bowl. Crumble the feta block and add it to the turkey. Remove spinach mixture from the fridge. Roughly cut the spinach mixture, without crushing it too badly, and add the spinach and about 1 Tbsp of the juice to the bowl. Add parsley, salt, and pepper (and whatever other spices your heart desires) and mix well. This is the getting dirty part. You could try to use a spoon or ladle, but I’ve found the only way to really get all the ingredients incorporated is to put my hands in it.
Once it’s all pretty well incorporated, it’s time to make the patties. Pinch off a golf ball-and-a-half sized piece of the mixture and form a ball by rolling it in your hands. Flatten the ball to about a 1 inch thickness and place it on your cookie sheet lined with parchment. Using your thumbs, gently press the center of the patty (about the size of a quarter) outward to make it about half as thin as the rest. This will help keep your patties as patties instead of meatballs. Continue with the rest of the meat, making sure to put another piece of parchment between layers if needed. When all the meat mixture has been patty-fied, wash up and put the cookie sheet in your freezer. This extra step helps with the stability of the burgers on your grill, which you should now pre-heat.
There are a couple options with grilling turkey meat. Simply, it likes to stick and fall apart on a grill. Try as I might, I always lose at least one to the grill-Gods. It’s just the way it goes. But to help, you can:
- Line your grill with foil. No sticking here, however you do get a good puddle of (super-yummy) juice that comes out of the burger. The patties don’t really sear (so no pretty grill marks), and can end up soggy and falling apart. Cutting slits in the foil to let the juice escape does help a bit with the soggy part, but still, no pretty grill marks.
- Clean your grill well, get it nice and hot, and coat the grates with olive oil just before placing the patties on. This has never worked out completely full-proof for me, but it feels more like I’m making actual cook-out style cheeseburgers, and I get the pretty grill marks and, more importantly, the wonderful charred outer crust. mmmm!
Either way you do it, timing is everything with turkey burgers. Move them too early, and they will crumble right before your eyes. Move them too late, and you have a dry, cardboard like thing that no amount of garlic and feta can save. So, choose your method, reduce your grill heat to low, and throw them bad boys on there (very carefully place them bad boys on there). Close the grill, and don’t touch for 8 minutes. Don’t open it. Don’t just peek under one. Don’t press down on them. Nothing for 8 minutes. And just when you think you can’t possibly wait any longer because this is the longest 8 minutes of your life and when will you be able to flip those puppies….! it will be 10 minutes and you will freak out, but it’ll ok. I promise. Flip them (repositioning just a tad to a fresh hot part of the grates if you are like me and slightly obsessive about those grill marks), close it back up, and wait another 10 minutes. This last 10 minutes isn’t quite so critical and can be iffy depending on the actual thickness of you patties, your grill heat, the weather, your patience, etc, etc, etc. The patties should be mostly cooked from the first side, so go ahead and open and peek and test, but don’t squeeze (Don’t every squeeze a burger of any kind on a grill! You lose oh-so-precious moisture and juice and yum that way.) the burgers until you feel they are done. Then pull them off and serve them up!
In my house we serve these up on some all-natural whole wheat buns, with a slew of toppings to choose from: sliced avocado, lettuce, tomato, a variety of cheeses, this buffalo-ranch sauce I picked up at whole foods, pepper relish, italian dressing…whatever happens to be in the fridge and sound yummy. Get creative!
Alternatives I’ve tried and also love
- crumbled blue cheese (although I prefer blue with beef burgers), or no cheese
- grated zucchini in place of spinach: 1 medium zucchini grated and added raw to the meat mixture. Zucchini naturally has a lot of moisture, and kind of blends into dishes when grated so your kids (or vegetable-hating husband) might see it, but won’t taste it.
- herbs and spices: oregano, thyme, cumin (for a smokier flavor), chili powder or pepper flakes (for a little kick)
- chopped jalapeños, or other peppers: I’ve added these raw and let them cook with the burgers and also tried sautéing them a bit first with the onion and garlic. I like both. Add as little or as much as your fire-loving taste buds can handle.