Grilled Turkey Burgers

I consider very few of Chris Kimball’s recipes complete failures, but this recipe is an utter waste of time. It’s not that the burgers taste bad, rather it’s like eating nothing. The only real flavor came from the sauce (which was good). It was like eating a blank canvas, seasoned with a little soy sauce and malt vinegar. While ground turkey may be a healthier alternative to ground beef, I’d suggest fasting for the day over wasting your time and money in making these burgers. I can give it just 1-star, on the strength of the burger sauce.

It looks good, but has very little flavor. Trust my words more than my photo..


  1. 2-1/2 pounds of turkey thighs yielded 1-1/2 pounds of ground turkey. Each patty weight about 1/4-lb.
  2. The best part of these burgers was the Malt Vinegar-Molasses Burger Sauce. I cut the sauce recipe in half and still had leftover sauce.

Rating: 1-stars.
Cost: $8.50.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 4:15 PM. Finish time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The original sauce recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

1 (2-pound) bone-in turkey thigh
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons chicken broth
6 ounces white mushrooms
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Pinch baking soda
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt and pepper
6 large hamburger buns

  1. Remove the skin, de-bone the turkey and trim away any excess fat. Cut turkey into 1/2″ pieces, and place in a single layer. Put in freezer for 45 minutes.
  2. Pour broth into a small bowl and sprinkle unflavored gelatin. Allow it to soften for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Quarter mushrooms and add to bowl of a food processor. Pulse 7 times until coarsely chopped. Set mushrooms aside. There is no need to wash food processor.
  4. When turkey is ready, put one-third of turkey about 20 times; the turkey should be chopped into 1/8″ pieces. Empty into a large bowl, then continue grinding process in two more batches.
  5. Take 1/2-cup of the ground turkey and put it back into the food processor. Add softened gelatin, soy sauce and baking soda. Process for 2 minutes; scrape the sides of the food processor as necessary.  Then drizzle oil into the food processor as it is running. Continue processing for 10 seconds.
  6. Add mushrooms back to food processor and pulse 4 times to distribute. Empty mixture back into large bowl with the rest of the ground turkey and mix with your hands until it is uniformly mixed.
  7. Spread some vegetable oil on your hands. Divide into 6 evenly sized balls. Use your hands to pat them into 3/4″ patties, and then press a shallow indentation in the center of each patty, which will prevent the center from becoming too thick during cooking. Season with salt and pepper
  8. Ignite a chimney start filled with about 6 quarts of charcoal. When coals are ready after about 20 minutes, pour them out over half the grill. Open bottom and top vents completely. Because the burgers are so lean, it is critical that you clean the cooking grate, and also that you season the grate with vegetable oil.
  9. Use a pastry brush to cover one side of the patties with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the grill (with the oiled side down) directly over the coals. Brush the second side of the burgers with oil.
  10. Cook for 6 or 7 minutes per side until they are well browned. If the internal temperature has not reached 160-degrees, move them to the cool side of the grill until they reach the appropriate temperature.
  11. Allow the burgers to rest for 5 minutes while you toast the buns briefly over the hot-side of the grill.

Malt Vinegar-Molasses Burger Sauce Recipe:

1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons malt vinegar
1/4 teaspoon molasses
1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl until combine.

10 Responses to Grilled Turkey Burgers

  1. Julia says:

    I just heard this recipe mentioned on Fresh Air on NPR. I immediately started my search for the recipe, and found your site. I’m thinking I probably won’t be trying this one, but I am so glad I found this site. Great stuff!

  2. David says:

    Despite Cooking Illustrated’s attempt to keep this recipe only for their $ subscribers, it has leaked out and is everywhere on the Web. I tweaked around with the turkey recipe, loosely following an old Julia Child recipe for “biftek hache’ a Lyonnais.” I substituted Worcestershire sauce for Soy Sauce (or you can go half and half), red onions (or shallots) for the mushrooms. You could also probably try fresh thyme, as in the Julia Child recipe… I very much liked the product of my tweaks.

  3. I made this recipe and really liked it. The burger was moist and had a wonderful flavor. The only change I made was to use chicken thighs rather than turkey thighs. My market didn’t offer turkey thighs and the chicken thighs were on sale. I feel the recipe could have used a little salt but other than that it’s a keeper for me. My wife really enjoyed it and thought there was enough salt. I guess it’s a matter of taste. I would recommend this recipe for those looking for a healthy alternative to a beef burger.

  4. Rob says:


    I stumbled on your site by searching for the malt-vinegar molasses sauce recipe. (Thanks for providing it). Despite having read your warning regarding this recipe, I made it anyway for the first time tonight. I loved it. It was moist, juicy, just salty enough and the science behind the gelatin, mushrooms and baking soda did their respective jobs.

    I had the day off from work and thought I would dedicate about 4 hours of my day to preparing the entire meal as presented on America’s Test Kitchen show.

    I was REALLY concerned when I put the meat-paste patties on the grill. I couldn’t wrap my head around how they were going to transform into flippable burgers. But with enough time, my fears were for naught. I also thought my mushroom-avoiding wife may not like the recipe because of the 6 oz. of fungi mixed in, but she raved about them.

    Looking at the picture above, it appears you didn’t concern yourself with the suggested Potato Hamburger Bun pairing. The buns were fantastic. The only deviation I made to this recipe was to throw a pinch of sea salt across the tops of the buns before baking. Both my wife and I loved them. Finally, the malt vinegar-molasses burger sauce was impressive just as you stated in your post.

    If anyone is interested in the number of Weight Watchers points for the whole sandwich, my wife and I calculated it to be 13 points each for the sauce, bun and turkey burger. When you’re trying to lose weight and are limited to 26 points a day, the 13-point burger is not going to be part of our regular menu nor am I likely to include it on my recipe blog. But this burger is a nice alternative to grilled hamburgers and in my humble opinion not worthy of the panning you gave it. I have to wonder if you might have forgotten to include an ingredient.

  5. Carolyn says:

    I made these, froze the raw patties and cooked them up in a saute pan while camping last summer. TOTAL hit – and I had mushroom-haters in the crowd who asked for seconds. Getting the turkey thighs prepped is a total pain in the butt, however, when I find a friendly butcher who will do the dirty work for me, I’ll be making this a lot more often.

  6. Sonya says:

    Hmmmm, reading your review is making me doubt my conclusions – lol. My husband and I enjoyed these even though the patties themselves had almost no flavor! With the fresh ripe tomato slice, red onion, burger sauce, and homemade potato bun, the overall experience was delicious. If he’d said he didn’t like them at the outset, I probably would’ve agreed. Maybe I’m easily skewed, who knows. Lol.

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