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Grilled Turkey Burgers (Juicy and Delicious)

Turkey burger loaded with pineapple, teriyaki sauce and cheese

Tired of dry turkey burgers? I’ve got the solution for that, read on…

I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy, clearly. The type of guy who prefers a triple bacon cheeseburger to most things in life. 

Matthew Eads with triple bacon cheeseburger

So when I was first asked to make a turkey burger for some guests who don’t eat beef my first thought was, ugh. Honestly, the thought of making a burger with ground turkey was about as exciting to me as a root canal. 

I’ve had turkey burgers in the past but not often, and for good reason: they generally taste like an old shoe. I always found them to be dry and right next door to tasteless. 

That considered, I set out to make not only an edible version, but a juicy grilled turkey burger. What you’ll find here is something that even a triple-cheeseburger-loving guy like me is proud to serve. As humbly as possible, I’ll say this burger is damn delicious.  

This grilled turkey burger is made with a Hawaiian flavor profile, using both pineapple and a teriyaki glaze. But these burgers can go in so many directions once you know how to keep them moist and juicy. See below for several variations of this juicy and delicious turkey burger recipe. 

How Long to Grill Turkey Burgers

This is the first problem with turkey burgers being dry—they are often overcooked. People have such a fear of food poisoning from poultry. I understand and was once in the same boat. 

It’s not that I like living on the edge or anything. I just have a better understanding of food safety than I used to. At one time, cooking these burgers to 180 °F was commonplace. 

closeup of turkey burger on a grill

That’s probably why I had such bad experiences with them in the past. The first key to a moist and juicy turkey burger is cooking them to about 160 °F before removing them from the grill. This typically only takes about eight to twelve minutes total.

A short rest and they will be in the 165 °F range, perfectly safe for eating and great for moisture retention.

measuring temperature of burger while grlling

How To Grill These Burgers Right

Grilling turkey burgers is one of the few times I grill using only direct heat. Not nuclear level heat, but a solid medium-high heat. No reverse sear or indirect heat used here. Keep in mind that these burgers cook quickly.

hot coals under a grill

If you plan to add cheese, I recommend doing that with about two minutes of cooking time remaining, and with the lid on the grill. The lid will help melt the cheese nicely, and it won’t drip down into your grill. 

How To Make the Burgers Moist

Turkey is an inherently lean meat, and for many that’s the attraction to poultry. Others may just not eat red meat. Whatever your reason, turkey—absent some help—is dry because it’s so lean.

In combination with not overcooking, my second tip for a grilled juicy turkey burger is to add some extra moisture to the mix. In this case, I’m using a teriyaki marinade. I like the Moore’s brand, but use your favorite. 

bottle of Moore's teriyaki sauce next to bowl of ingredients

If I’m doing a more traditional burger and not a Hawaiian spin, I add mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce to the mixture. Mayo is a great way to add some fat to the mixture and keep things moist, while the Worcestershire sauce adds a nice umami flavor.

If you use mayo and dub sauce, aim for ¼ cup of mayo and 1½ tablespoons of dub for every pound of ground turkey. If mayonnaise grosses you out, you can also soak some bread crumbs in buttermilk, which also does the trick and is my secret to moist smoked meatloaf.

green gloved hands mixing the ingredients

The final tip is the thickness of the patty itself. Don’t make the patty more than one inch thick. Much thicker than that and the meat needs to stay on the grill too long to cook through, and the outside will dry out.

Tips For Juicy and Flavorful Grilled Turkey Burgers

The Grill: Too often I hear people say to oil the grill grates when grilling turkey burgers. That’s horrible advice for a number of reasons. These burgers will stick to the grill without some oil, but oil the burger itself, not the grill grate.

The Temp: Be sure to use a reliable quick-read meat thermometer and remove the burgers from the grill at about 160 °F. They cook quickly so be aware of this and remove them before they overcook. Carryover cooking will allow the burgers to reach 165 °F.

quick read thermometer showing meat temperature at 160 degrees.

Turkey Burger Recipe

Servings: 4 | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 12 minutes

Ingredients
1 lb. lean ground turkey
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup teriyaki marinade
1 small yellow or red onion, diced
⅛ cup parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (or 2 tsp garlic powder)
1 egg, beaten
1 can sliced pineapple
Swiss cheese (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste

How to Make Juicy and Flavorful Grilled Turkey Burgers

Step 1: Start by combining all the ingredients, minus the salt and pepper, in a large mixing bowl. It’s important to get them mixed together well. The best way to do that is to just get in there with your hands and mix it up.  

Step 2: Once it’s mixed, divide it into four equal parts. You don’t have to weigh them for exact portions, just go by sight and get them as equal as possible. I like to roll them into balls for the best estimate. This method also makes forming the burger patties really easy.

Step 3: Form your patties and place them on parchment paper. Then sprinkle them with salt and pepper.

Step 4: Place the patties in the freezer to allow them to set up. This makes for an easier transfer to the hot grill when the grill is preheated (about 20 minutes).

Step 5: Light your grill and set up for medium-high direct heat. 

Step 6: Once your grill is preheated, remove the turkey burgers from the freezer. Give them a light coating of olive oil. You can also use a non-stick cooking spray. Place the burgers on the grill directly over the hot coals.

Step 7: Grill them for four minutes per side, with a 90-degree turn at the halfway point. Then flip the burgers and add the pineapple slices directly over the coals. 

Step 8: Cook both the burgers and pineapple for 2 minutes. Then flip the pineapple, turn the burgers 90 degrees, and add the optional cheese. Place the lid on the grill and allow them to grill for another 2 minutes to melt the cheese.

Step 9: Check the burgers’ internal temperature with a reliable quick-read thermometer. They should be around 160 °F. Remove the burgers and pineapple from the grill and place them on the buns. 

TIP: Place a bed of spinach or arugula on the bottom bun, then put the burger on top of that to prevent the juices from making the bottom bun soggy. 

Turkey burger loaded with pineapple, teriyaki sauce and cheese

Grilled Turkey Burgers (Juicy and Delicious)

5 from 8 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 32 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup teriyaki marinade
  • 1 small yellow or red onion diced
  • cup parsley finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or 2 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 can sliced pineapple
  • Swiss cheese optional
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Start by combining all the ingredients, minus the salt and pepper, in a large mixing bowl. It’s important to get them mixed together well. The best way to do that is to just get in there with your hands and mix it up.  
  • Once it’s mixed, divide it into four equal parts. You don’t have to weigh them for exact portions, just go by sight and get them as equal as possible. I like to roll them into balls for the best estimate. This method also makes forming the burger patties really easy.
  • Form your patties and place them on parchment paper. Then sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
  • Place the patties in the freezer to allow them to set up. This makes for an easier transfer to the hot grill when the grill is preheated (about 20 minutes).
  • Light your grill and set up for medium-high direct heat. 
  • Once your grill is preheated, remove the turkey burgers from the freezer. Give them a light coating of olive oil. You can also use a non-stick cooking spray. Place the burgers on the grill directly over the hot coals.
  • Grill them for four minutes per side, with a 90-degree turn at the halfway point. Then flip the burgers and add the pineapple slices directly over the coals.
  • Cook both the burgers and pineapple for 2 minutes. Then flip the pineapple, turn the burgers 90 degrees, and add the optional cheese. Place the lid on the grill and allow them to grill for another 2 minutes to melt the cheese.
  • Check the burgers’ internal temperature with a reliable quick-read thermometer. They should be around 160 °F. Remove the burgers and pineapple from the grill and place them on the buns.

Notes

What you’ll find here is a grilled turkey burger that even a triple-cheeseburger-loving guy like me is proud to serve. As humbly as possible, I’ll say this burger is damn delicious.  
This grilled turkey burger is made with a Hawaiian flavor profile, using both pineapple and a teriyaki glaze. But these burgers can go in so many directions once you know how to keep them moist and juicy. 

Tried This Recipe?

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