How to Grill the Perfect Turkey Burger

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These are the best turkey burgers, simple, easy, juicy, and flavorful. You really can get all of that in a turkey burger!

Grilled turkey burger with toppings and bun on white plate.

I get so mad/sad when turkey burgers are dismissed as dry or boring or bland. That simply doesn’t have to be the case. I love a good turkey burger as much as any other kind of burger, and now that I’ve figured out how to make them moist and flavorful, there’s nothing “second best” about them.

These grilled turkey burgers are moist, flavorful, and come together very, very quickly. I highly recommend using 85/15 percent ground turkey for these, which contains a higher level of fat than very lean turkey. They are still quite healthy, but they will be much more delicious and juicy and hold together in their patty shape much better. Serve these with any of your favorite cookout sides, such as Spicy Cole Slaw, Easy Classic Potato Salad, or Mayo-Free Potato Salad.

Also, think about topping them with Pickled Onions, Grilled Onions, or Pimento Cheese. Scroll down for more topping ideas!

Woman holding grilled turkey burger loaded with toppings at cookout.

Perfect Turkey Burgers: These are the best turkey burgers, simple, easy, juicy, and flavorful. You really can get all of that in a turkey burger!

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Ingredients

  • Ground Turkey – Definitely don’t buy ultra-lean turkey for turkey burgers…or really anything else, unless you are on a specific diet.
  • Onion – Adds a little bit of bite.
  • Mayonnaise – Adds moisture and helps bind the patties together.
  • Worcestershire sauce – Adds great umami flavor.
  • Cheese – Optional, but I do love a good turkey cheeseburger.
  • Hamburger buns – Whatever kind you like, toasted or not.
  • Burger toppings – Of course, you can go with ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, lettuce, and tomato, but see below for more creative ideas!
Picnic table with turkey burger loaded with toppings on white plate.

Buying Turkey for Burgers

The best bet is to find a good butcher who grinds his or her meat on-site fresh daily. If you have a butcher nearby, definitely make a point of buying your meat there, and asking for the ground dark turkey meat. Online you can also find quite a few really good meat purveyors who will ship frozen, freshly ground turkey to your home.

Or, buy your turkey at a good supermarket or grocery store where they grind their meat in-house. Shop at a store with a high turnover, so you know your meat is fresh. There might be a butcher counter in the market; get to know the butcher! Or look for packaged ground turkey with the furthest away expiration date. 

It’s best to stay away from pre-formed or packed ground turkey patties. They can be inconsistent in freshness, flavor, and texture, and the meat is probably older.

Tips for Making Turkey Burger Patties for Grilling

Using a gentle touch, mold the meat into patties no more than ¾-inch thick. Try not to overwork, compress, or squish the meat, which can make your burgers end up dry or tough. Make your patties as perfectly round or irregular as you like, but try to get a consistent thickness to the patty.

Once you’ve made the patties, form a depression in the center of each one. This will prevent the burgers from puffing up in the middle when you grill them. Adding this indent accounts for the puffing up during grilling, and you’ll end up with a nice, evenly flat burger. 

Make the depression with your thumb, press it at least halfway into the burger, and make sure it’s about an inch in diameter. As the burger cooks, the depression will even out, leaving you with a perfectly shaped, flat-ish burger. And your toppings will stay put!

Prepared and seasoned ground turkey patties at barbecue.

How Long to Grill a Turkey Burger

Unlike beef or other red meat burgers, turkey burgers (like all poultry) have to be fully cooked before consuming. The flexibility you have with beef burgers in terms of rare, medium-rare, etc., doesn’t pertain to turkey burgers. 

A ¾-inch burger should cook to a safe temperature over direct high heat in about 8 to 10 minutes total, or 4 to 5 minutes per side. There should not be notable pinkness inside.

The USDA recommends cooking ground turkey until it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees for safety reasons. Use a meat thermometer to ensure your burgers reach that temp.

How to Grill Turkey Burgers

  1. Combine the burger mixture: Place the turkey in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce. Very gently blend the turkey with the other ingredients until well combined.
  2. Make the patties: Divide the meat into 4 equal portions and form each portion into a patty about 3/4-inch thick. Use your thumb to make a deep depression in the center of the patty. Season the burgers.
Forming turkey burger patty and seasoning with pepper.
  1. Prepare the grill: Heat the grill to high. Lightly brush both sides of each patty with oil. 
  2. Grill the burgers: Cook for 5 minutes on each side until just cooked through (an internal temperature of 165 degrees). 
Two turkey burger patties cooking on hot grill.
  1. Make cheeseburgers, if desired: Add the cheese, if using, during the last minute of cooking.
  2. Grill the buns, if desired: Place the split buns, on the grill for just about 10 seconds.
Woman placing cheese on turkey burger next to hamburger buns on grill.
  1. Build the turkey burger: Place the burgers on the bottom halves of the buns, top as desired, and place the top of the buns on the burgers. 
Building a grilled turkey burger loaded with toppings.

How to Top a Turkey Burger

You can stick with the traditional: ketchup, mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, and sliced onions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these choices, alone or in combination! But if you want to play around and amp things up, try a sauce or spread, such as:

Best Cheese for Turkey Cheeseburgers

The sky is the limit here! There are so many ways to turn that burger into a cheeseburger (which is basically what happens to every burger I make for my family). I know some people like their burgers with no cheese — or perhaps have issues with lactose — but a burger without cheese is like a day without sunshine in our house.

Moving grilled turkey burger with melted cheese off grill with spatula.

You can use sliced, shredded, or crumbled cheese. Be careful if using shredded or crumbled cheese that you put the cheese squarely on the burger, and it doesn’t roll off into the fire. You may want to remove the burgers from the grill to top them with cheese, then put them carefully back over the fire for the last minute.

  • Cheddar
  • American
  • Monterey Jack
  • Mozzarella
  • Provolone
  • Swiss cheese
  • Gruyere
  • Blue Cheese
  • Feta
  • Queso Fresco

FAQs

How do you defrost ground turkey?

The best method is to thaw it overnight in the fridge. Do not defrost or thaw ground turkey (or any meat) on the counter or at room temperature, which could cause bacteria to form. You can also defrost ground turkey in a very well-sealed bag in a bowl of very cold water, or using the defrosting option in the microwave. If you defrost the meat in the microwave, make and cook the burgers right away.

What are the best buns for burgers?

Sesame or plain is up to you but look for a soft bun with some presence. Potato buns are good, and brioche buns are a treat. Lightly toast the buns over medium heat right as you are taking the burgers from the grill. This should only take about 10 to 15 seconds, as you just want to get some gentle grill marks on the bread for flavor, but keep them nice and soft. And definitely get some gluten-free buns if you think those might be needed.

Why are turkey burgers healthier?

Ground turkey generally contains less saturated fat than ground beef.

What keeps turkey burgers from falling apart?

The little bit of mayo and Worcestershire sauce blended into the turkey mixture adds flavor and acts as a binder. Making sure the onion is very finely minced will also help keep the patties from falling apart.

What percentage of ground turkey is best for burgers?

I always use turkey that is 85/15%, or if I can’t find that, then 93/7%. This offers much more of a rich flavor and juiciness than you might expect from ground turkey. Skip the 99/1% turkey, which won’t result in a great burger.

Turkey Burger Grilling Tips

  • Keep the meat in the fridge until you are ready to shape the patties, and keep the patties in the fridge until you are ready to grill them. This prevents bacteria from forming. 
  • Be careful not to squish or squeeze the turkey, which can result in less tender burgers.
  • Make sure to add the mayonnaise for maximum flavor and moistness.
  • Do not press down on the burgers as they cook! You will simply be pressing all of those flavorful juices out of the burger, into the fire. You want those juices where they belong, right there in the meat. (Pressing down on the burger can also cause flare-ups, which are annoying and possibly dangerous.)
  • Don’t flip the burgers constantly. Leaving them sit for a few minutes will give them those nice grill marks and prevent them from falling about when you turn them. 
  • Never put cooked burgers on the plate you used to bring the uncooked patties to the grill. This can cause contamination, so use a fresh plate, platter, or board for your cooked patties.
  • Set your gas grill to high for grilling burgers, and for a charcoal grill, make sure your coals are bright orange and ashy. You want high heat here.
  • Make sure to cook them through to the safe temperature of 165 degrees.

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Woman holding turkey burger with bite taken out at outdoor table.

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5 from 1 vote

How to Grill the Perfect Turkey Burger

These are the best turkey burgers, simple, easy, juicy, and flavorful. You really can get all of that in a turkey burger!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 People

Equipment

Ingredients 

  • 1 ½ pounds ground turkey
  • ¼ cup finely minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Vegetable oil (for brushing)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 4 slices cheese (such as cheddar, Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, Swiss or American; optional)
  • 4 hamburger buns (split and toasted)
  • Burger toppings (mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, sliced pickles or relish, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions; optional)

Instructions 

  • Place the turkey in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce. Very gently blend the turkey with the other ingredients until well combined. Be careful not to squish or squeeze the turkey, which can result in less tender burgers. Divide the meat into 4 equal portions.
  • Form each portion into a patty, working as lightly as possible with the meat, not squishing it. Use your thumb to make a deep depression in the center of the patty, about 1 inch in diameter, and halfway through the thickness of the patty. Season both sides of the burgers with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a gas grill to high, or heat the coals in a charcoal grill until they are glowing a bright orange with ash all over the outside of the coals. Lightly brush both sides of each patty with the oil. Grill the burgers for 5 minutes on each side until just cooked through (an internal temperature of 165 degrees). Add the cheese, if using, during the last minute of cooking. Close the top of the grill while the cheese melts.
  • Place the split buns, cut sides down on the hot grill for just about 10 seconds, then remove them. Place the burgers on the bottom halves of the buns, top as desired, and place the top of the buns on the burgers.

Notes

  • Keep the meat in the fridge until you are ready to shape the patties, and keep the patties in the fridge until you are ready to grill them. This prevents bacteria from forming. 
  • Be careful not to squish or squeeze the turkey, which can result in less tender burgers.
  • Make sure to add the mayonnaise for maximum flavor and moistness.
  • Do not press down on the burgers as they cook! You will simply be pressing all of those flavorful juices out of the burger, into the fire. You want those juices where they belong, right there in the meat. (Pressing down on the burger can also cause flare-ups, which are annoying and possibly dangerous.)
  • Don’t flip the burgers constantly. Leaving them sit for a few minutes will give them those nice grill marks and prevent them from falling about when you turn them. 
  • Never put cooked burgers on the plate you used to bring the uncooked patties to the grill. This can cause contamination, so use a fresh plate, platter, or board for your cooked patties.
  • Set your gas grill to high for grilling burgers, and for a charcoal grill, make sure your coals are bright orange and ashy. You want high heat here.
  • Make sure to cook them through to the safe temperature of 165 degrees.

Nutrition

Calories: 479kcal, Carbohydrates: 24g, Protein: 51g, Fat: 20g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 0.04g, Cholesterol: 124mg, Sodium: 711mg, Potassium: 616mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 331IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 271mg, Iron: 3mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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