Wed Apr 6, 2011
Those filling their Twitter and Facebook with meat probably have already noticed that this Meatmaster has broadened his horizons past grilling and into the world of condiments with the new column Sauced over at Serious Eats. So far I've been loving ditching the bottle and learning how to make an array of sauces from scratch, and was reminded of one of my favorite condiments of all times—Sriracha mayo.
My friend Blair introduced it to me when he served bison burgers that had a generous coating of mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha on the bread. Since then, I've always had a bottle of it made, in the fridge, providing insurance that there will never be a Sriracha mayo emergency in my house. Thinking of best uses for this stuff, I thought a turkey burger would be an excellent vehicle to let a lot of the great flavor of the mayo to come through by using a lighter tasting meat, but first, I had to make a turkey burger that didn't suck.
My biggest beef with turkey burgers is people eat them to be healthy, but if you want it to taste good, it's not going to be much better for you than a hamburger. The reason a hamburger works is the fat content of ground chuck, usually around 20%. That fattiness creates the juiciness and enhances that beefy flavor that can make an excellent burger quickly identifiable. So if you want a juicy turkey burger with some nice flavor, you need to forgo the lean, "healthy," turkey and start with a ground that has at least 15% fat.
Now you won't catch me adding extras to my hamburger—I'm a firm believer that fat, beef, salt and pepper is all that should go into a burger—but with a turkey burger, I felt a freedom to take liberty with the meat mixture. I see both chicken and turkey as a kind of a blank slate, meats that not only take on other flavors well, but really need it a lot of the time. Since this burger was being constructed for the express purpose of being a vehicle for Sriracha mayo, I thought a mixture of Asian ingredients was only fitting.
I mixed the ground turkey with cilantro, garlic, scallions, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and some Panko bread crumbs as a binder. I mixed it all together, formed a few patties and it was off to the grill.
The grill makes yet another case for fat, even more so with turkey than beef. While a beef burger can be cooked anywhere from rare to well (why, oh why?!?!?), turkey has to be cooked all the way through because the potential of it harboring nasty bacteria. With a low fat content, this will most certainly spell out tough, dry burgers, while a higher fat content will keep the meat moist as it soars to 165 degrees over the high heat of the grill. It's not a bad idea to bring out an instant read thermometer here, because while you do want it to be fully cooked, avoiding overcooking just as important to turkey burger greatness.
With the burgers done, I toasted up some potato rolls and then came the moment this burger was meant for, the spreading of the mayo. With so need to go easy here, I smothered both sides of that bread with a nice amount of the Sriracha mayo—I wanted as much of the spicy, garlic, creamy goodness as possible.
If I could hook that mayo straight to my veins, I would, but alas, it was the burger that brought it into my stomach that day, and this was one seriously good turkey burger. The meat had an ubiquitous, all-purpose Asian flavor that was deep, delicious, but not so heavy that it drowned out the turkey or the mayo. The meat stayed juicy—although not to the same degree as beef—and any turkey burger blues I had previously felt immediately dissipated. To me, this was a tale of two triumphs; showing turkey burgers can be worthy fodder for a true meat love, and living another day with Sriracha mayo in my life.
Asian Turkey Burger with Sriracha Mayo
For the mayo
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha (or make your own!)
For the burgers
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey, 85% lean
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tomato, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1. To make the Sriracha mayo, mix together the mayonnaise and Sriracha in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Using your hands, mix together all of the ingredients for the burgers in a large bowl until just fully incorporated. Scoop out about 1/3 lb of the mixture and form into a patty. Repeat with the remaining meat mixture until all used.
3. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill the burgers until well browned on both sides and an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into the middle of the burger, about 5 to 7 minutes per side.
4. While the burgers are grilling, place the buns cut side down on the grill and cook until lightly browned. Remove from the grill and spread some Sriracha mayo on each side of the buns. Place the finished burgers on the buns, top with Bibb lettuce and tomato slices, and serve.