- Pick high-quality protein: Grassfed beef is more nutritious and flavorful than conventional; the same is true of pastured turkey, chicken, and eggs. Choose wild salmon rather than farmed (or “Atlantic”). (For more on selecting healthy and sustainable meat, eggs, and fish, see “The Conscientious Carnivore.”)
- Rightsize your patty: Half-pound burgers are common in many restaurants, but they’ll likely leave you feeling bloated. Aim to make your meat patties about 4 ounces, knowing that they’ll shrink to 3 ounces or so when cooked, which is about the size of a deck of cards. Make your veggie patties about 3 ounces; they won’t shrink.
- Consider your flavors: Meat and veggies need a little seasoning to really sing. Per pound of mix, start with a teaspoon of fine-grain sea salt or a tablespoon of a salty condiment like Worcestershire sauce, plus 2 teaspoons of dried herbs or spices (or 2 tablespoons fresh). Seasoning preferences are personal, so scale up or down to suit your tastes.
- Handle with care: Squeezing and compressing meat makes for a dry, chewy burger, so be delicate when shaping your patties and try not to overwork them. For a more evenly shaped result, use your thumb to make a shallow indentation in the center of each raw patty — this will keep them from swelling into round burger-balls once they’re on the grill.
- Master the grill: A few grilling guidelines can make a world of difference. Pour a bit of oil on a crumpled paper towel, then hold the towel with tongs to swab the grill grate before cooking.
Avoid pressing your patties with a spatula while they’re cooking — this squeezes out the juices, along with crucial moisture and flavor.
- Think outside the bun: Whether you’re avoiding white flour or just looking to add more variety to your diet, there are plenty of alternatives to the traditional sesameseed bun. Consider serving your patty between romaine lettuce leaves or on a bed of mixed greens, or try a coconut wrap or whole-grain pita.
- Know your doneness preferences: The USDA recommends an internal temperature of 165 degrees F for turkey and chicken, 160 degrees F for beef and bison, and 145 degrees F for fish. Adjust these guidelines to suit your personal tastes. We prefer to cook beef, bison, and fish burgers until browned and crisp on the outside, and poultry until the juices run clear.
- Supplement with veggies: Serve your patty with a side of roasted broccoli or sautéed spinach. You can also experiment with mixing some chopped veggies right into your ground meat for added moisture, flavor, and color (see “The Better Burger” for recipes).
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