Recipe and photos by Brandon Matzek

Take a break from beef this summer and fire up one of these tender, juicy turkey burgers instead.

Laced with two secret ingredients, fish sauce and sugar, they’re packed with deep, umami flavor and flecked with green bits of fresh basil. The fish sauce lends a salty, meatiness to the burgers without imparting a fishy flavor. The sugar balances the fish sauce. Stacked with lettuce, tomato, mayo and ketchup, the finished product packs an herbal punch with a satisfying savory finish.

Ideally, these burgers should be made with ground turkey thigh that includes fat. Thigh meat is tastier and fattier, which means a juicier burger. Ground turkey sold in grocery stores is mainly made from white meat, so ask the butcher if thighs are available (try Whole Foods). Let the butcher grind the meat or grind at home using a food processor. Here’s how:

1. Cut turkey into 1-inch chunks. Transfer chunks to a parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure they aren’t touching each other.
2. Transfer baking sheet to the freezer for 20 minutes. This will help the food processor cut the meat more cleanly.

3. Remove from freezer. Add 1/3 of the partially frozen turkey cubes to a food processor and pulse until the desired consistency is reached.
4. Repeat Step 3 two more times with the remaining turkey.
5. Pick through the ground turkey to see if any larger chucks remain; regrind those pieces.
6. Use the turkey immediately or freeze until ready to use.


Basil Turkey Burgers

2 lbs. ground turkey (preferably freshly ground turkey thigh with some fat)
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. sugar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for brushing
Toasted buns, for serving
Toppings: lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mayonnaise

Burger Blend. To a large mixing bowl, add ground turkey, basil, fish sauce, sugar and several turns of freshly ground black pepper. Season with 2 or 3 pinches of salt. Using your hands or a set of forks, gently mix the meat until everything is evenly incorporated. Do not over-mix here as that will result in tough burgers. If unsure how much salt to add, fry a tiny test burger to check the seasoning. Add more salt if needed. Form the turkey meat mixture into 4 patties (1/2 pound each).

Fire It Up. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill over medium-high heat. Brush the burgers lightly with vegetable oil. Also brush the grill grates with vegetable oil to prevent the patties from sticking. Grill the patties directly over the heat for about 4 minutes per side or until cooked through. Let rest for a few minutes before building the burger. I like to cook the burgers to 155°F, and the temp goes up to 160°F as they rest.

Assembly Required. Stack the burger as follows: bottom bun, mayo, burger patty, tomato slice, lettuce, ketchup, top bun. Enjoy immediately!