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How to Make an Awesome, Perfect Chicken Burger

Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over 20 years. She has cooked on multiple television stations, including the Food Network.

The Best Chicken Burgers

Moist, tender and packed with flavor, chicken burgers are a stand out family favorite!

Moist, tender and packed with flavor, chicken burgers are a stand out family favorite!

These Burgers Are Juicy and Delicious!

I have a serious thing for burgers—of all kinds. Beef, of course, is at the top of the list, but if it sits still long enough, I'll make a patty out of it and slap it on the grill.

Not too long ago, one of our local grocery stores finally decided to carry ground chicken—and they had acres of it on sale for less than .50 a pound. That's low enough for me to justify playing with a bunch of it!

I came up with several variations on the chicken burger, and along the way, I came up with ways to avoid most of the pitfalls of trying to cook ground chicken on the grill —or any other extra lean meat.

Chicken Burger Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground chicken (dark meat if you can find it, if not white is fine, but will be less moist)
  • 1 packet ranch dressing mix (not dip)
  • 1 egg white
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 cup onion
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 Tbl fresh parsley
  • Oil for the grill

Assembling the Chicken Burgers

To assemble:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 16 slices thick cut bacon (skip this or use half slices to lower the calorie and fat content)
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Thinly sliced red onion
  • 8 burger buns (you can use the 123 bread dough for this if you like—it's yummy)
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese (goat cheese is the perfect, tangy complement to these burgers)

Chicken Burger Directions

  1. Put all ingredients except chicken in the bowl of a food process and process until pretty smooth. You'll have a very loose paste.
  2. Add paste to ground chicken, and mix well, but as little as possible. Handling the meat more than necessary will make it tough.
  3. Divide meat into 8 equal portions, and shape into patties. Chill until ready to use.
  4. Cook bacon until crisp, set aside and keep warm.
  5. Preheat grill to medium high. Make sure the temp is nice and hot, and that the grill is well oiled. This is what keeps the burgers from sticking - and helps insure that you'll have beautiful grill marks.
  6. Grill the burgers on the first side—without turning them!—covered for 7 minutes. Flip them once. Turning them more often will increase the likelihood of sticking.
  7. Grill the second side for 6 minutes. Remove to a platter to rest. Top with the goat cheese while they rest.
  8. While the burgers rest, grill the buns for just a minute until toasty. Spread the warm buns with sour cream, and add the burgers. Top with lettuce, red onion and a couple of slices bacon each.

Get the good napkins out.

Chicken Burgers Ready for the Pan

Make the patties right before transferring to the pan or grill - they start off super soft, but firm up once they begin cooking.

Make the patties right before transferring to the pan or grill - they start off super soft, but firm up once they begin cooking.

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Read More From Delishably

Fresh Ground Chicken

Fresh ground chicken has become a staple at most grocery stores, offering a lower fat, less expensive option to ground beef.

Fresh ground chicken has become a staple at most grocery stores, offering a lower fat, less expensive option to ground beef.

Chicken Burgers - Keep them Moist!

Another major problem with chicken burgers is drying. Because there's very little fat in a chicken burger it can quickly become a hockey puck. One of the best ways to prevent the burger from drying out is to use a higher heat. Make sure the grill is well-oiled, and it matters a lot that you take the time to preheat the grill. Once you add the burgers, leave them alone. Seriously. Don't squish them with the spatula, no matter how much you like the sound it makes when they sizzle. That sizzle means your juice has now gone right out of your burgers and burned up. So hands off.

Also don't turn them more than once. Once. I mean that. Place the burgers on the preheated, oiled grill and then hands off. Letting the chicken caramelize will allow the proteins to release from the grill—and you can flip your burgers in a single piece with no divine intervention necessary. If you try to turn them and they want to stick to the grill, it means they just aren't ready to turn. Wait a bit, and try again. Once the proteins caramelize, they'll turn loose of the grill on their own.

Tips and Tricks for a Perfect Chicken Burger

There are several problems you can run into when making burgers, especially when using chicken. Ground chicken doesn't contain much fat, although using ground dark meat chicken is a little better than using ground white meat. This means that the meat just doesn't want to stick together—it doesn't want to form a patty that will hold. Therefore the patties tend to be fragile and fall apart on a grill. Using a skillet helps a bit, but you lose the fabulous flavor from the grill. So first we have to give the patties some cohesion.

A lot of folks use some sort of bread as a binder—I've seen recipes for soaked pieces of bread or for crumbled crackers. This can work, but I honestly don't like the texture the breading brings. I also think that bread can interfere with the flavor. So I prefer another method. I found that a different binder works better. I like using a well-whipped egg white - it does wonders. I like using the egg white instead of binders such as breadcrumbs because the chicken has a delicate flavor that is easily overwhelmed. it also leads to a juicier burger—win-win! Just whip the egg white well, and add it to the chicken along with the rest of the seasonings.

Also, feel free to simply cook them on the stove top. It's a little easier since the patties start off so soft. Once they begin to cook, on the stove or on the grill, they firm up significantly, so pick the method you like.

How to Get Great Flavor Out of Your Burgers

A third major problem is lack of flavor. Very lean meats lack the prime delivery method of flavor—you guessed it—fat. Without fat in the meat to carry flavor, you won't have much. You'll need to replace the flavor with something that won't overwhelm the flavor of the meat itself. You want to enhance the chicken flavor, give it a direction—but don't send it off to hide. I picked bold, complimentary flavors for this burger, and the combination is pretty spectacular. The ranch flavor is the base - and despite the fact that I've tried to get away from all pre-packaged stuff, there's nothing quite like the package ranch seasoning. It's one of my few concessions—I keep it make whipping out a flavorful dish that much easier.

This recipe meets all the criteria I set out - moist, flavorful and delicious. Great flavor—but you can still taste the chicken. And finally, it's just easy and quick. It got the highest accolades at my house—all four kids loved it and asked for more. Yay!

Variations for Chicken Burgers

You can, of course, use anything you like on your burger. We like the combination of sour cream, bacon, and red onion with the ranch flavoring. It's just classic—nice and tangy. Feel free to top yours however you like.

Bacon, of course, is gorgeous, but if you're concerned about certain nutritional aspects, use turkey bacon, or skip it entirely. Sour cream is great, but mayo is also lovely if you aren't as worried about the fat. Try making a quick slaw—that's also perfect for a burger. And swap out any type of onion you like—mixing green onion into the sour cream is super nice. In a nutshell, it's your food. Make it the way you like it it. Enjoy!

How to Make Chicken Burgers - Quick Tutorial

What's Your Favorite Burger?

Great Chicken Burgers

© 2010 Jan Charles

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