By contributing writer Mary Cressler
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – grill season!
In my house, we like to grill almost everything, but like many Americans we have a strong affinity for burgers. Being the health conscious one in the family, I’m constantly buying ground turkey for burger night. My husband on the other hand, tends to think turkey burgers are boring. The primary reason is this lean protein dries out easily because of the lack of fat, so where do we compromise? Introducing bacon in a unique way.
I discovered a few years ago a concept that transformed my turkey meatballs; by incorporating bacon paste into the mix. So, we thought, why not try this technique on the turkey burger? Add flavor and moisture at the same time.
What is bacon paste you ask? It’s not a product you need to seek out at the grocery store (though I’m sure you can find some bizarre store-bought versions). You can make it yourself. All you need is bacon and a food processor. That’s it, you take uncooked bacon (cold preferred) and grind it into a paste in your processor and add to your burger mixture.
Many recipes for bacon turkey burgers will recommend using cooked bacon crumbles. Adding cooked bacon will certainly give your burgers texture and flavor. However, adding the paste instead of the bacon bits adds a dimension that is incorporated into every bite, which is why we think it’s the perfect way to jazz up that boring turkey burger.
And the best part is that the amount of bacon added is so minimal that these burgers remain healthy and low in calories compared to their beef counterparts.
- 1 pound ground turkey (85-93% lean)
- 2 slices cold (but not frozen) bacon
- ½ medium sized onion, diced
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 4 slices smoked cheddar cheese (*make sure the cheese is “smoked” – this is a key ingredient to the overall flavor of these burgers)
- 4 buns (we love brioche for flavor and texture)
- Optional Toppings
- sliced avocado
- sliced tomatoes
- Pre-heat your grill to a medium heat.
- Place the bacon in a food processor and pulse several times until it turns into a paste. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Add the ground meat, onion, panko bread crumbs, Worcestershire, and seasonings. Gently combine together being careful to not overwork the meat.
- Divide into four parts and form into patties. We like the patties to be fairly even and flat to avoid undercooking the center and overcooking the exterior.
- Cook burgers on grill for approx 5-6 minutes on the first side, then flip. Place a slice of smoked cheddar cheese on top while the other side cooks through (another 5-6 minutes). Ideally you want to cook the burgers until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
- Toast the buns on grill.
- Remove and add desired toppings.
There are two key ingredients to take into consideration when choosing a wine – the bacon paste and smoked cheddar cheese. In general, poultry pairs well with mild reds and bolder white wines, but the smoky flavor of these burgers allows for more flexibility, including wines with bigger and bolder flavors.
For a big, more powerful wine, look to New World Syrah (California and Washington make excellent examples). For something medium bodied, try Côtes du Rhône (Syrah and Grenache based blends from France). For a refreshing lighter bodied alternative, Spanish Rosé is a nice choice with its bright fresh flavors and strong acidity.
Syrah: Hogue Cellars Genesis Syrah (Columbia Valley, Washington) ~ $15
This is a bold Syrah that has rich dark berry fruit along with some espresso, spice, and vanilla oak. There is a little savory meatiness to the wine that is an excellent match to the bacon paste found in the burgers.
Rhone Blend: E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône (Côtes du Rhône, France) ~ $13
A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre, this is a full-bodied wine with bold flavors and aromatics. It has lots of dark berry fruit, currant, espresso, and spice aromas and is concentrated in the mouth with lingering spice. This is a good choice if you want a richer and a little more full-bodied wine to really compliment the smoky tones of the meat, especially if you have any of those great charred pieces of the burgers.
Rosé: Muga Rosado (Rioja, Spain) ~ $12
This rosé has a mix of crisp red apple, fresh red berry fruit (cherry and strawberry), and some bright citrusy fruit (lemons, pineapple). It is bright, clean, refreshing, and light bodied with loads of fresh acidity but has enough fruit strength to stand up to the burgers and melted cheese. This is a versatile wine that is good if you prefer something lighter but still strong enough to hold its own with these bold-flavored burgers.
With grilling season under way, try out this easy but amazing technique combined with some exquisite wine pairings. And hey, it is bacon after all. And maybe you’ll be inspired to add the paste into other great dishes of your own. If you do please let me know!
We hope you enjoy our wine pairing choices. If you want to know which wines YOU will like best, download the FREE iPhone app Wine4.Me. Tell it what wines you know you like and get your own personalized rankings of best-selling, widely available wines in the US.
Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners. She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.