The Reason Your Turkey Burgers Might Be Falling Apart On The Grill

Turkey burgers make an appetizing, less fatty alternative to homemade all-American cheeseburgers during grilling season. But the lean meat from the bird can often dry out on the grill and become crumbly and fall apart. This is partly due to the high heat of the grill, and also because of the timing; unlike beef, turkey burgers need to be fully cooked through until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be safe to consume (per the USDA).

One solution to avoid the patty from breaking apart is to add more moisture, such as combining extra condiments like as mayonnaise, mustard, or ketchup with the ground turkey, or vegetable add-ins such as grated onion, before you form the rounds. However, if the meaty mixture becomes overly moist or wet, this can also cause the burgers to lose their firm structure and to break up as they cook.

Luckily, there are several ways to prevent the problem of turkey burgers from falling to pieces when you try to move, flip, or serve them, whether it's because the blend is too dry or too wet. These tips mainly involve adding in some extra fat to improve a dry texture, or using a binder such as breadcrumbs to help the mixture hold together better during cooking. 

Use a binder or add fat so the ground turkey holds together

One of the reasons turkey burgers can become unpleasantly dry is due to how lean the meat is. The ideal blend of beef for burgers tends to be 80% lean and 20% fat; ground turkey, by comparison, only tends to have around 7% to 10% fat, and can be even lower. This dry texture can mean the patties become crumbly, and begin to disintegrate during cooking.

To keep the texture more juicy, as well as more flavorful, add some fat into the mixture. You can do this by using dark meat turkey from the leg rather than very lean breast meat if you're forming them at home; or ask your butcher if you want to create your own blend. This is a good way to prevent turkey meatballs from turning into a dry mess, too. Alternatively, try adding a couple of tablespoons of turkey, chicken, or bacon fat for each pound of meat for a more tender and tasty burger.

Incorporating a binder into the mixture will also help ensure the patties maintain their shape. Try adding soft breadcrumbs, which will work to absorb any excess moisture, along with an egg to help "glue" it all together. This will help to keep the turkey patties intact if they're more wet in consistency, as well as hold the meat together if you've included any extra ingredients, such as onions, scallions, or other chopped vegetables into the mix.

More tips to stop turkey burgers from crumbling

If you're still concerned about turkey burgers falling apart on the grill, there are several other tips and techniques you can use to minimize this risk. One simple method is to chill the patties in the refrigerator before you cook them. Just an hour in the fridge will help them to firm up nicely before they hit the heat of the grill, so that they hold their shape better.

If you're cooking the burgers on a flat-top grill, rather than on grates, you could also try lightly coating each side in flour before you start to cook the burgers. This will help all the juices to remain within the patties as they cook and keep the meat intact, as well as develop a good crust. Use a seasoned flour if you want to add more flavor.

When it comes to grilling turkey burgers, go for a medium heat rather than high so the meat has time to cook through without drying out. This means you'll get a more even result, with less likelihood of overcooking. And while you might usually flip beef burgers several times during cooking, only flip once when grilling turkey burgers. This will give them the best chance to remain whole, rather than falling apart due to too much handling or being moved about.