If your childhood was anything like mine, the phrase "chicken burgers" conjures up visions of frozen, tasteless patties, cooked until completely dry and made palatable by loads of condiments. That may not be the association for everyone, but there's no denying that chicken burgers don't enjoy the same place on the grill that other types of burgers do.
That's a shame for a lot of reasons. Of course, chicken is lower in saturated fat, which will keep your doctor happy, but chicken also has a completely different flavour that opens it up to a lot of possibilities when it comes to the grill. Here are a few tips to make sure your chicken burger memories are far more positive than mine.
Keep it Chunky
The ground chicken you buy in the store is ground quite fine. If you have the luxury of a meat grinder, aim for a medium to coarse grind, and be sure to mix dark and white meat together to amplify flavour and keep it moist on the grill. A fine grind is okay if that's all you can get, but if you have the choice, the final product will be much more moist with a larger grind.
Fat’s Where It’s At
Yes, chicken has less fat, but on the grill, fat is flavour, so you can afford to mix a bit more in. A slice or two of chopped thick-cut bacon mixed with your chicken will maximize flavour and moistness, without adding too many calories. Also, be sure to add an egg yolk as a binding agent.
Don't Skimp on the Fresh Herbs
Chicken burgers are a great medium to highlight summer flavours like fresh rosemary or tarragon. Other bright flavours like citrus also come through beautifully, so be sure to experiment with some non-traditional additions.
Green Your Burger
Your mom knew it, and so do you. If you want to grow up big and strong, you have to eat your greens. But, if you're anything like me, sometimes to eat like a grown-up, you need to hide things from your inner child. Add a handful of baby spinach leaves to your burger mixture, and you'll get the nutrients and flavour without feeling like a giraffe.
Like any other burger, chicken burgers taste amazing stuffed. When forming your patties, fill with a bit of blue cheese, some mushrooms pan-fried with butter and garlic, some roasted red peppers or anything else that tickles your fancy. Since you don't have to add much, it's a great way to boost the flavour of your burger without adding a tonne of calories.
Leave the Mustard in the Fridge
This isn’t your traditional burger, so why dress it like a traditional burger? For condiments, mix it up with Asian flavours like peanut sauce or a bit of Teriyaki, or add a bit of Southwest flavour with some salsa and avocado. Sure, you can do the relish thing, but what fun is that?
So there it is. Chicken burgers can be just as delicious and versatile as their burger brethren - you just need to change your perspective a little. Whatever you decide to dress it up with, I'll leave you with this basic recipe for the burger mixture:
1lb ground chicken
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
Directions: Mix it up with your hands and form into patties. To cook, grill on high for one minute on each side to sear, and then reduce heat to medium-low and flip every 2 minutes until cooked through.