Spicy turkey? Check. Black-bean veggie? Yup. Pork and shrimp dim sum? Believe it, man! Presenting—with the help of some of America's top burger chefs—some of the most adventurous burgers you could eat (which we recommend you do immediately).
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The Next Burger Boom
We're not certain exactly when the humble burger stopped being defined as just a greasy stack of beef and cheese—or, as Los Angeles superchef Roy Choi calls it, “the head of the snake,” the snake being our historically awful American diet.
But we’re glad as hell it happened and that the better-burger trend is spreading: Colorado’s Larkburger chain turns out sustainably sourced tuna burgers; fresh-meat mecca Umami Burger uses black beans, turkey, and ahi tuna; Choi and partner Daniel Patterson just opened L.A.’s Locol, with its insanely delicious, wildly inventive veggie version; even Carl’s Jr., which gave the world the Tex-Mex Bacon Thickburger, now offers a low-cal turkey option.
So, mid-revolution, we sought out some of America’s best chefs to help us assemble the ultimate at-home burgers, each with fresh ingredients, low-fat protein, and a healthier bun. (Whether you add fries is up to you.)
Tuna is the ultimate healthy no-brainer: It has a dense, beef-like texture and flavor but a fraction of the saturated fat, and is high in B vitamins, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids. When you’re preparing, “mince the tuna using a knife,” says Rich Vellante, executive chef of the Boston-based Legal Sea Foods restaurant group, where the tuna burger has been a menu favorite for decades. “This consistency enables the seasonings—assertive Asian flavors work particularly well with tuna—to bloom throughout the burger, while preserving the integrity of the fish. When buying fresh tuna, ask to sniff it—it should smell like ocean air, not fish or chemicals. We recommend you serve it as they do at Legal, with lettuce, tomato, and red-pepper mayo, or make a quick aioli by spiking Greek yogurt with minced garlic and lemon or lime juice. Ripping out the centers of fluffy bri- oche buns axes calories while creating a juicier burger-to-bun ratio.
INGREDIENTS 1 1/2 lbs fresh tuna (bluefin, yellowfin, bigeye, or albacore) finely chopped 2 tbsp soy sauce 1 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp Sriracha sauce or other chili paste 1 tbsp honey 2 scallions, minced
TOPPINGS Lettuce, tomato, and a creamy sauce
INSTRUCTIONS Mix all ingredients with your hands and form into patties about 1-inch thick. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm them up. On a hot grill, or a lightly oiled grill pan over medium-high heat, cook until hot throughout (a touch of pink in the middle is OK), about 3 minutes per side.
Who doesn’t love Chinese dumplings? Richard Blais, owner of Flip Burger Boutique and winner of Bravo’s Top Chef All- Stars, brought those flavors into this luscious burger, which merges health with huge flavor using low-cal, high-protein shrimp and relatively lean pork. Make slider-size and tuck into Chinese steamed buns (available at Asian groceries), or use pillowy potato-flour rolls for a similarly light texture.
INGREDIENTS 1/2 lb ground pork shoulder 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger 1 large garlic clove, minced 2 scallions, chopped 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder 1 tbsp soy sauce 1 tbsp sambal oelek or other chili paste 2 tsp toasted sesame oil Drizzle of olive oil
TOPPINGS Kecapmanis, chopped scallion and cilantro, shaved cucumber
INSTRUCTIONS Put the pork in a large bowl. Feed the shrimp through a meat grinder, or pulse in a food processor until coarsely ground; remove and mix well with the pork. In the food processor (or by hand), mince the ginger, garlic, and scallions almost to a paste. Mix into the pork mixture with five-spice powder, soy sauce, sambal oelek, and sesame oil. Form small patties, no more than 1/2-inch thick. Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat and coat with olive oil. Cook patties until the middles are opaque and outsides are browned, about 4 minutes per side.
With the eartiness of black beans, the sweetness of sautéed vegetables, and a textural “pop” courtesy of quinoa—a high-protein grain that contains all nine essential amino acids—all on a classic hamburger bun, this vegan burger is a far cry from those frozen hockey pucks called “garden burgers.” Skip the food pro-cessor when prepping. “I’m a big fan of chopping and mixing by hand so you can see the actual, natural ingredients,” says Chloe Coscarelli of New York’s By Chloe, whose veggie burgers have a fanatical following. To make these burgers vegan, skip the egg whites and just drizzle a little olive oil until a clump of the burger mixture holds its shape.
INGREDIENTS Drizzle of olive oil 1 1/2 cups minced red onion 1 cup minced button mushrooms 1/2 cup grated carrot 3 garlic cloves, minced 1/2 tsp salt 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed, patted dry, and mashed roughly with a fork 1 1/4 cups cooked quinoa 1/4 cup cracker crumbs or panko 1/4 cup chopped cashews or walnuts 2 egg whites, lightly beaten 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
TOPPINGS Veggie bacon, cheese, and lettuce
INSTRUCTIONS Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup onion and cook, stirring until brown. Add mushrooms, carrot, garlic, and 1/2 tsp salt and cook until veggies are well browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool. Add remaining ingredients, including 1/2 cup onion, to bowl and mix. Form patties about 1/2-inch thick. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with oil. Cook patties about 5 minutes per side.
Store-bought turkey burgers are notoriously dry, but our version adds grilled onion for flavor and texture, tomato for richness and moisture, a dou ble shot of umami with soy and Worcestershire for savoriness, and is served on a toasty English muffin. But don’t overcook. “Most people cook turkey way past the point of no return,” says Chris Siversen, chef and owner of Burg in Newark, NJ. “If using thigh meat, it stays a little pink naturally, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s undercooked.”
Traditional toppings of your choice (such as coleslaw, pictured)
INGREDIENTS 1 cup minced onion, grilled 1 1/2 lbsfreshlyground turkey (preferably from thighs) 2 tbsp tomato paste or tomato puree 2 tsp soy sauce 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
TOPPINGS Traditional toppings of your choice (such as coleslaw, pictured)
INSTRUCTIONS Mix grilled onion into ground turkey with the other ingredients. Form into patties 3/4-inch thick, indenting the centers. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm them up. Cook until the middles are opaque, about 4 minutes per side.
Lean chicken burgers make a delicious and mellow backdrop for assorted salad like toppings, such as tomato and avocado. But because chicken burgers need to be fully cooked (as opposed to beef, lamb, or seafood burgers), thinner West Coast–style patties are ideal. (When you’re grilling, make sure the outside doesn’t dry out before the middle cooks through.) Serve layered in two patties, In-N-Out Burger–style, with a ton of fresh ingredients on nutrient-rich whole-grain buns (to play up the California health-food vibe).
INGREDIENTS 1 1/2 lbs freshly ground chicken (preferably from thighs) 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard 3 tbsp minced onion 2 tbsp olive oil 1/3 cup bread crumbs Salt and pepper, to taste 2 avocados
TOPPINGS Thinly sliced cucumber, tomato, iceberg lettuce, and alfalfa sprouts
INSTRUCTIONS In a bowl, add chicken, Dijon, onion, oil, and bread crumbs and mix with your hands. Form into patties about 1⁄2-inch thick, slightly indenting the centers. Refrigerate for a tleast 30 minutes to firm them up. Just before cooking, generously salt and pepper both sides of each burger. On a hot grill, or a lightly oiled grill pan over medium-high heat, cook until the middles are opaque, about 3 minutes per side. In a bowl, mash avocados with salt to taste. Smear avocado puree on both bun halves and layer the patties and any vegetable toppings, 2 patties per burger.