Mushrooms Are The Key To Impossibly Juicy Turkey Burgers

There are plenty of great beef burger alternatives, from vegetable and bean patties to meat substitutes, to the much-maligned turkey burger. Fortunately, recipes for the beefless options have come a long way, which allows widely accessible substitutes like ground turkey to rise in the consciousness of home cooks. The biggest enemy of turkey burgers has always been their dryness, so the key to ensuring that they stay juicy and delicious while cooking is to add moisture to the very lean turkey meat — and the tastiest way to do that is with mushrooms.

You may be thinking of giant portobello mushroom steaks that are grilled to sit on top of the patty like a juicy mushroom blanket, but you'd be mistaken. The best way to add mushrooms to turkey burgers is to grind them up so that they can be mixed uniformly with the ground turkey. You have the option to use any meaty mushroom of your choice (think cremini, shiitake, white button, or portobello), but in order to get them chopped finely enough you may want to use a food processor or spice grinder to get them down to a more paste-like consistency, which is really difficult to achieve with just a knife and cutting board.

Why adding mushrooms to turkey patties works

Mushrooms are made up of 80 to 90% water, and processing them in this way breaks down the cell walls and allows them to release more of that liquid that's held inside. Conventional cooking wisdom says that adding water to something would make the overall dish less flavorful, but mushrooms carry other good things like savoriness and glutamates which result in more umami for the otherwise lean-flavored turkey. Adding roughly half the weight of the turkey in mushrooms (6 to 8 ounces per pound) is a good ratio to start with in order to get that extra moisture to help keep the patty moist.

If weak turkey patty flavor is still a concern, there are plenty of ways to reinforce the deliciousness with ample seasoning. Aside from the obvious salt and spices, finely chopped herbs like mint and parsley can be employed for their fresh flavors. For a really easy kick of umami and additional mushroom essence, dried mushroom powder or powdered mushroom soup mix can be simply sprinkled in with the meat. Just be sure to account for the salt that might be present in these powders when planning out the seasonings. Not only can salt salter the flavor but it could also draw some moisture out of the meat.